When Students Leave for Good

I am facing the truth that a couple of my long-term students are about to go off to college, and I am facing the fact that there is no telling when I will see them again. This is a post based on the random thoughts that I tried to bring into something resembling a blog post.

For anyone who has taught martial arts for any serious length of time, there is an understanding that most students are going to be here for only a little while, and then they will disappear forever. This happens so often that after a certain number of years, it becomes impossible to even recall faces and match them to names.

Even excluding my years of teaching before working for KickStart Kids, in the last fifteen years alone I have had about 2,000 student walk into my class. I have a terrible time matching names and faces, especially among those students who were in class for a short period of time a very long time ago.

But there are others, students who were around longer, or had exceptional work ethic, or both. I remember them. Many of these kids became like family to me. Some are still in touch with me, and this makes me feel blessed. Some students contact me from out of the blue, and it always makes me smile.

I am a creature of habit. I make a lot of plans, especially when it comes to teaching, that are designed for the long-term goals. Sometimes, my definition of long-term is more time than what the students can commit to giving.

As a martial arts instructor, we have to understand this. Life happens and people move on. It is our job to make the impact that we can, in the time that we have. We think we have forever, but we are wrong.

It is never easy to see the long-term student walk out for the last time. When we know that it is the last time we are likely to see them, it can feel terrible. But, if we have done our job, we must set aside our personal regrets and sadness and hope that what we taught will be carried forward by these students – even if they are not ever going to be a lifelong martial artist. We have to trust that we did everything we could to equip the students with the knowledge and skills to stay safe. We must trust that the values carried within the martial arts will be lived out. And there is nothing wrong with the hope to be remembered.

To all of my former students who read this, know that it does my heart good every single time that I find out about something that you are doing now, every contribution to society, every educational goal achieved, every job promotion or success. Everything. I find great joy in your success. And I am thankful to every one of you for allowing me to share part of your journey, and especially when you let me know about your successes as you move forward beyond anything I have to offer help with.

To my long-term students who are about to head out into the world, please know that I am very proud of your accomplishments, and will still be right here if I can be of any help at all.

Some work of noble note may yet be done,