Sharpening the saw

The world of martial arts is complex, the scheer number of systems and styles make learning every aspect of Bushido impossible in one lifetime. I guess that is why it amzes me when high ranking black belts close thier minds to new techniques or concepts simply because they don't fit into the system they were taught. These high ranking instructors often times believe that they have learned all there is to know about the arts. I would challenge this idea, most of the individuals who feel this way haven't even learned all there is to know about thier particular martial art let alone the many styles out there. For example, I have met many, many, high ranking Taekwondo Instructors who can't name the eight different "Kwans" of Taekwondo, they sadly may not even understand the term. They may admit that they don't have a good grasp of the history or philosophy of their art but will proudly proclaim to have "Mastered" the physical techinques of the art, I bet not. Even if this is true that is mastery of fighting, not martial arts.

I think that this attitude is prevelant among higher ranking instructors either because of fear or of laziness. The fear is the fear of feeling like a white belt again, you know what I am talking about, you are learning the new technique and feeling like you will never get it. I know I felt that way when as a Third degree in Taekwondo I tied on a white belt and began studying Judo or when as a fourth degree in Taekwondo and 2nd degree in Judo I tied on a white belt and began studying weeping style jujitsu. I have come to understand that there is nothing to fear, it's all part of that wonderful journey we call the martial arts. Now with that said, we can address the fear, the laziness not so much so!

I don't mean to suggest that every high ranking instructor needs to tie on a white belt and study a new martial art after all it is difficult enough to "master" one. However, there is a way to "Sharpen the saw" as Stephan Covey says in his book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you are willing to invest in yourself there are alot of opportunties to train with highly skilled martial artist who offer seminars all over this country. The great thing is that often times nobody there will know who you are so you don't need to worry about your student's seeing you struggle learning new techniques. A great benefit of traveling to attend a seminar even with your own students is that you are also a student again and that means there is someone else there to help them when they have trouble, freeing you up to really learn. I personnaly try to attend at least two seminars per year often times with the same instructor's the second or third time I pick up things I missed the first time.

Let me give you another reason to sharpen your saw, it's a financially sound practice. Have you ever known one of those instructors who start out with a good number of students in their club or school and then after a year or two have hardly any students? I believe this is because after awhile the students realize that their instructor has nothing new to teach them and they are probably right. Sure you can teach them their new form, new one step's, etc. but it's the same old kick and punch or same old escape from a hold down, nothing new. I know that if you are teaching a traditional martial art you have to continue to teach these things, after all you got to get them ready for next testing, next testing is money and money keeps the doors open. This does not however mean that you can't mix it up with some new, fun, non-testable material or drills. It's amazing to see the excitment return to your classes when you introduce some new drill or technique to your class that you just learned and shared with them just for fun . I can pretty much guarantee you that you will see increased student retention if you do this.  

If you truely want to become a "Master", learn, have fun, increase and keep your student base, open your closed mind and "Sharpen the Saw".