Sunday, March 02, 2008

Tom Callos on Courage, The Teacher, and Martial Arts Business

I have a view on what martial arts teachers should teach; that is, what they should teach beyond the physical aspects of the martial arts.

Perhaps you share this viewpoint with me?

I think a martial arts teacher needs to teach his or her students to use courage when it is needed. On a very base level, it takes courage to stand toe-to-toe with an opponent of equal or greater skill. However, summing up the courage it takes to fight or compete in a contest is just a drop in the bucket of what courage is really needed for in today's world.

If a martial arts teacher only manages to impart the idea of courage as it relates to kicking, punching, and grappling, well...what an injustice it is to the student! It takes courage to go against the flow of popular opinion. It takes courage to try a new business venture when most fail within their first five years. It takes courage to live with integrity, to be a good parent, to be a good mate, to accept our blunders, to open our hearts to other people.

It takes courage to do what is right, when the powers-that-be disagree.

The kind of courage we practice on the mat or in the ring is the drip coming from the kitchen faucet. The kind of courage we need to be fully aware and alive in the moment, in our lives, and in the lives of those around us, is the Colorado River in spring. How shallow is the thinking of a martial arts teacher whose lessons only involve the technical aspects of fighting?

To teach courage in a way that is powerful and lasting, one must take a look at courage on a global scale; as there is courage –and then there is Rosa Parks courage, Wangari Maathai courage, Martin Luther King courage, Aung San Suu Kyi courage.

Why is it that martial arts teachers embrace the most extreme forms of hand to hand combat without much thought, yet don't approach the idea of teaching courage from a big-picture (global) perspective? I think it's simply a matter of improper focus -and inadequate influences. We become so insulated in our schools that we begin to think the mat and the ring is the world –and out of the desire to teach people the skills of the martial arts, we have forgotten how unimportant they are, unless applied, courageously, to the world outside of the dojo.

It takes courage to look at injustice –and more courage to do something about it. The courage it takes to be a warrior is wasted, if the battles aren't worth fighting. In the Ultimate Black Belt Test, each participant is required to profile 10 living heroes. The reason for this is to expose the instructor to a level of courage-in-the-world that puts the subject of what courage is in proper perspective.

My 10 Living heroes are The Dalai Lama; Thich Nhat Hahn; Wangari Maathai; Aung San Suu Kyi; Julia Hill; Muhammad Yunus; Nelson Mandela; Shirin Ebadi; Pamela Dorr; and Sarah Chayes. These are (some of) the masters of courage --like Kano, Ueshiba, and Funakoshi were the masters of their respective disciplines. When you look at courage from their perspective, you get a much better grip on what courage is –and how it might be used in the world.

The kind of courage it takes to practice and compete in the martial arts is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 to $250 a month. The kind of courage it takes to make change in the world cannot be measured in dollars, but it is exactly the kind of teaching that a martial arts instructor has the opportunity to address --and, if he or she is wise enough, this is the kind of teaching that takes a martial arts school from a business --to an institution.

If you (Mr. and Ms. Martial Arts Teacher) want your lessons to hold a higher value, then get out of your school and get into the world --and then get the world to come onto your mat.

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