Our Future

It is often said that “children are our future”.

I work with youth, almost exclusively. The organization I work for teaches martial arts to at-risk youth as an alternative elective, or PE credit. We are a part of their regular daily class schedule. They see us as often as their math teacher.

I ran, and still run a commercial martial arts school. Granted, my current school is located in my garage, but it is no less a school for the location.

But my work with the at-risk youth is different. Nearly to a one, my students would not be able to afford martial arts training. Some are not even able to afford a karate uniform (one is still given).

The sad part to me is that these are the people who need the character building values which are instilled through the martial arts. All martial artists know that through the training, one develops discipline, strength of mind, confidence, a physically strong body, and so much more.

Most of the youth that I work with are living in very difficult situations. I recall one student coming into class one day, and he just out of the blue tells me, “Man, you don’t know how much you use electricity until it gets turned off.”

That was a very powerful, difficult moment for me. We run an after school class as well, and that student, on the day he said that told me he had to leave early, so he could finish his homework before it got too dark to see. Things like this really get to me.

If a martial arts instructor is any good, he will always tend to think of his younger students as his or her own children. This thought/feeling really does a lot to keep me awake at night. Students will tell their martial arts instructor things that they would not tell anyone else. I never would have guessed this to be the case prior to my current work situation, but over the nearly four years that I have been here, I have seen that this really is the case.

So, every day, I set out to make as much of a positive difference in the life of every child that I see. Some days this is harder than it is on other days, but it is truly the point of every day. Some days, I have no visible results for my efforts. But on other days…WOW.

I’ll be honest; there have been days where I would show up wishing I was an accountant. But the strangest thing about those days is that they are invariably the days when a student will go out of their way to point out to me that I am the one who has made a difference in their life! It is eerie sometime the way that will happen. Just when I feel most sure that I am making no headway at all, that is when someone, without prompting, will let me know that I am getting through. That I AM making a difference.

And there are, of course, those who will say that the difference has nothing whatsoever to do with the martial arts. I cannot fathom the logic of the statement. I have not only seen the difference, I have lived it. I know for a fact that without martial arts training, I would still be the same shy, introverted wreck that I was prior to my training. I could not look people in the eye, I was afraid of public speaking, totally frightened of the people typically identified as “a menace”. Now, through my years of training in the martial arts, I am turned 180° from that former self. I went from being non-athletic (pronounced fat and lazy) to being a National Taekwondo Champion. I have given speeches in front of hundreds of people at a time, and no longer fear much, if anything, at all.

Martial arts did this for me.

Martial arts taught me to believe that I can do something right. This is precisely what I try to pass on to my students every day. The thing about martial arts, and I am living proof of this, is that anyone can learn to do it well. I had everything working against my success that one could imagine. I was lazy, out of shape, uncoordinated, you name it, and I had it working against my potential success. I had to keep reaching inside, and unless it is a journey that you have taken for yourself, you will have no real clue as to what I am talking about here, I had to reach inside over and over. And at times, I was training out of habit, but this habit really carried me through some rough times. For my students, it is different. They are here every day, but it is a requirement. Still, we get into the classes. There are days, it is true, where it is a more difficult journey to get things rolling than on other days, but we get through it. I truly admire my students. As I watch them in class, moving powerfully, and deliberately, I see students who are honestly focused on what they are doing. They talk about their goals, and they chart out how to get there from here, and then set off on their journey.

Words cannot really express the admiration and respect I have for these great kids that I work with. I know when I was their age, I never dreamed that I would be where I am now and doing what I am doing – a job that feels a lot more like a dream at times. I am blessed that I have a job which allows me to make such a positive impact on the live of so many wonderful kids. I hope that, for all of them, their life turns out exactly as they would have it be in their most perfect dreams. They are the future