I first began training in the martial arts over 30 years ago while in high school under the guidance of the late Master Michael Hemann. It had been my goal for years prior to that to find a good quality martial arts program and to learn as much as I possibly could from it. In those days, martial arts classes were far harder to find and often someone with limited experience could present themselves as Black Belt instructors when in fact they were not and students were poorly instructed. I was very fortunate to have one of the finest instructors I have ever known for my first instructor and to have him help set me on what would be a life time love for martial arts. Along with Master Hemann there have been several other equally fine instructors that have each had a profound influence on my personal development as a martial artist and instructor. They include Mr. Jon Bogaard, Master Dale Craig, Master Roger Terrell, and Master Alan Pepin. Each of these excellent instructors influenced me in their own way, but all of them had one common trait that carried over not only into their abilities as martial artists and instructors, but as people as well. That trait is the pursuit of excellence.
Every student that starts the study of martial arts does so for their own reasons. These can include wanting to learn to defend themselves, getting into shape, or any other number of reasons. As instructors, it is our responsibility to encourage all of our students to be the best they can be and to be supportive of them for whatever goal they have chosen to start their instruction. This not only includes our students that display natural abilities, but especially those students that are not so gifted and that have to work harder in their training. All students, and instructors, need to keep in mind that skills can usually be taught fairly quickly. The challenge is in perfecting these skills through regular and dedicated practice. This means the student must have the self discipline to practice using good form at all times whether they are in class or practicing on their own. It's easy to fall into the trap of practicing technique 5 or 6 times correctly and then slacking off once one thinks they have it. To properly master a technique it must be practiced correctly and properly thousands of times to commit it to muscle memory. If this is not done then bad habits can develop and this slows progress. The late Bruce Lee once said, "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." This type of dedication is the difference between being mediocre and having excellence in ones practice of the martial arts, in one's life, and is what we as students, martial artists, and instructors should always strive for. It is this lesson, as well and many others, that has helped to shape my personal attitude as a martial artist, and instructor, and one that I try to pass onto my students.
There is a favorite quote that I often refer to when faced with a challenge. The philosopher Aristotle once said "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is not an act, but a habit." These are very appropriate words for all martial students and instructors to keep in mind. Work hard, practice smart, and remember excellence is always a worthy and important goal in the study of the martial arts and life.