Welcome to the blog for Family Martial Arts. This blog is designed to serve as a place where martial arts and training can be seen in a larger context within the world and to show how martial arts can impact our lives as instructors, students, and parents. All entries, unless otherwise specified are written by Master Marmo.
September 11th, 2017:
I had not planned on writing a blog entry about September 11th, but I feel that I would be remiss in not doing so. Not only would it fail to acknowledge a seminal day in our country’s history but to not use my freedom of speech, my education, and my liberty to appreciate what my country stands for would be a grievous oversight.
When I stop and think about my country and our values I am reminded that at the core of martial arts training are the same values upon which our country was founded. Both sets of ideals emphasize the same ideas: Responsibility for one’s actions, discipline to reach higher goals, respect for our elders and for each other despite any differences, integrity to uphold what is right and to stand against adversity, honoring those who would share their knowledge with us, and the indomitable spirit that allows us to persevere at all costs.
These integral pieces of our training are the same values that we, as citizens seek to protect for future generations. On September 11th 2001, our part of the world stopped. We were united against those who would seek to destroy all that we hold dear, and all that we seek to promote in our lives. We watched in disbelief as the moments dragged on, and as our city’s bravest and finest rushed in as so many of us longed to rush out. As a New Yorker, I watched as icons of my childhood were destroyed, and as beacons of what was my city fell. I remember my parents telling me that they had the moment of Kennedy’s assassination burned into their memory moment for moment. For so many of us, this morning, 16 years ago is the same.
Like all moments that singular experienced passed, leaving us wounded and apprehensive. What martial arts teaches us is that when we feel at our weakest, this is when we dig deepest within ourselves. When we struggle, this is when we show our strength. This lesson is no small thing. Whether we are a student taking a test, a child facing a bully, or an adult working hard for our family, this lesson rings true. On September 11th, 2001 we were faced with a tremendous trial, and we answered. We found within the deepest parts of ourselves our strength. We committed to each other and to our goals.
In all our days, whether they be painful as this one is, or wonderful as so many others are, we use many of our martial arts principles to guide us. We find within ourselves, honor, integrity, indomitable spirit, and strength. Whether we stand together as a nation to remember or we stand alone against a challenge in our daily lives , these ideals are that upon which we can build our foundation.
September 6th, 2017:
As an instructor one of my favourite things is to read the responses to the questions that are asked on our belt testing forms. They range from the hilarious, “Tae Kwon Do, means doing what Master Marmo says,” or another gem- “The meaning of Tae Kwon Do, is ‘kick, punch, and run away.’” To the very deep and meaningful that give me pause and that stick with me for hours or sometimes days to come.
Recently, while reading through a testing form for an adult student I was struck by an answer that was given to one of our standard testing questions. The question is: “What has been the most important thing that you have learned on your martial arts journey so far?” Her response was simply: “I am doing things that I never thought that I could do.” For an instructor there is nothing more powerful that this statement. For children the world is full of endless potential and possibilities. Young children, often, don’t even realise that what they are doing is difficult because they lack the self doubt that inevitably comes with adulthood. While they may believe that something is hard, they do not usually believe that it is hard due to a perceived personal failing, but simply because, “jumping jacks are tiring,” or some such idea. We, as adults, often have this idea that as we age our ability to try new things and to push our boundaries is decreased. We are either content or apathetic about trying new activities for fear that we will be awkward, embarrassed, or look silly. We don’t believe that we can shake up our world or our self concept in a new way and so instead we move from day to day within the comfortable confines we have put on ourselves.
Martial arts is a constant challenge to that self concept. No matter how long we have been training or how many times we have practiced basic techniques the need for re-assessment is there. We are not only challenged by our instructors but by our own innate need to see what else we can accomplish. “If I can learn to do a side kick the right way, maybe I can also learn a back kick?” “If I was able to improve my balance and stamina, maybe I can work on my flexibility next?” It is this curiosity about our own abilities that we lose as we age. Without even realising it we fall into a groove in which we work, parent, and if we are lucky, have hobbies that we enjoy besides planning playdates, birthday parties, and grocery shopping. To allow ourselves to be challenged in new ways is to allow ourselves to continue to grow and to take time for ourselves.
I am tremendously proud of my adult students. To begin martial arts as an adult is to begin a wonderful journey that will reward and challenge you. You will feel uncoordinated, silly, and self conscious. You will also feel empowered, powerful, and confident. To remember that even as adults we can grow and learn is to remember how to live.