I've operated my own Karate school now for three years and the lease is coming due again, but I will not be renewing it. Of course there are many factors for making this decision, including financial ones; however, after a month of contemplation, I have determined that those are not the primary ones.
My goal was to teach the "Path of the Warrior". Yet, no one seems to fully share my dream. It has woefully come to my attention that people are not interested in that.
More people are interested in popular things like MMA fighting, where folks wrap their hands and wail away on a bag for an hour or learn a few basic moves and wrestle around for an hour, build a sweat and move on. Mind you, I'm not opposed to hardcore MMA schools or those related cage-fights. The events are entertaining and a wonderful sport to watch. The fighters that compete are well conditioned and able competitors who, I'm sure, can defend themselves adequately on the street too. Here's the reality though, they are sport fighters, not true warriors. Please do not confuse the two as most people tend to do, there is a difference. A different philosophy.
Many people are still also interested in what I call "Cookie Cutter" Karate. Simply put, you sign them to a contract, hand them a check off sheet or list, run them through some drills, test them on a monthly basis, all at an additional cost of course, and in about a year or maybe two at the most.they've got a black belt!
Basically these folks want it all handed to them for an affordable price, it then becomes something they can add to their resume, not to supplement or improve their lives. Just another routine activity to check off their list at the end of each week. Sometimes these places are appropriately called "McDojo", to say the least.
There lies the hook, I just can't do that.Training must be hard, fundamental, even boring at times. Balance, posture, history, dedication, discipline, a strong foundation, all these and more is what is required and I cannot compromise that. That may make me an old "dinosaur" and most likely a bad business man in the Martial Arts marketplace, but it is who I am. That discovery is, as the commercial says, priceless. I cannot operate a "McDojo" for any amount of money.
One of the biggest things I've discovered is people will bring their kids in and expect me to teach them discipline and respect while I babysit for them. News flash "Parents", that's not my job, it's yours! It isn't something that can be delegated to a Martial Arts instructor for however many hours a week. Many parents don't get that though. In my opinion, most children today are "spoiled brats" being raised by "spoiled brats."The apparent idea is that these people are under the impression that I owe them something. I am certain that they are most likely under the same impression with the rest of the world. Here comes that old news flash again, "nobody owes you anything". You get what you earn in the Martial Arts and most especially in life. I believe that was never taught to them.
Perhaps this is a result of the "feel good" society we have created over the years by never allowing anyone to actually fail, or lose if you will.There's an old saying, "Second place is first loser."I think people need to start teaching this again. It's what I teach and it has definitely cost me students, but at least it's real.
I had a Mom come up to me, agitated of course, ranting on about how we're all winners and there are no losers and how I was a loser for saying that anyone was a loser, blah, blah, blah. It went on for quite some time and I let her go on about it. When she took a breath I pointed out that the soldier in Baghdad who comes in second is most likely in a body bag, not standing around with a six foot trophy claiming to be second winner.
I have no idea where this sense of entitlement has come from but it does truly run deep and will take quite awhile and a lot of work to root out. It's as if we decided somewhere along the way to just give up our competitive edge and demand that everyone just start wiping our noses for us. Believe me I cleaned that up a bit, and those of you that do know me know it to say the least. My question is, where did our sense of dignity go? How about our sense of honor? Who the hell have we become? My mother is 92 and a proud member of the greatest generation this wonderful country of ours has ever seen. I live with her, provide for her, and care for her now. I treasure her knowledge, integrity, honor and courage, and in her words, "If you didn't earn it, nuts to you! Who do you think you are?" I couldn't agree more.
Well, I couldn't do it. I decided I had to close my school. I can't just sell belts to pay the rent. I can't tell you you're something you're not. I can give you the same opportunity to learn the same things I did the same way I did. I can teach you that you're a winner for stepping up to compete when so many folks just talk about it and never do. I can teach you that you're a winner for going the extra mile when most fall out along the way. I can teach you that you're a winner for never, never, never, giving up, and for always moving toward your goals. I can teach you that you're a winner because you can hold yourself up tall and strong and walk away from a fight, I cannot; however, teach you that you're a winner just because you're breathing. It is not for sale. This is America damnit! The land of the free, the home of the brave. You know the place where you have the right to pursue happiness. Nowhere, by the way, and I do mean nowhere, does it guarantee the delivery of said happiness. So, I say stop expecting it to show up and start to earn it!
People of my mothers' generation are fading away quickly. There aren't that many of them left. Most people of that greatest generation came here with nothing but hopes and dreams and the willingness to work hard and they came here, not because America guaranteed them success, but because America simply offered them the chance to either succeed or fail equally. It is our duty to take back that right. The right to fail and the right to lose, then and only then will winning ever hold any meaning again. We are not all winners and we are all not losers or failures; we are all people who wish to merely, in many instances, just get through the day simply, nothing more, and nothing less.
For those who do wish for more, then seek a clear path.Risk more. Realize that failure is there for you to learn from as well as success is. Realize though that failure is only truly a failure if it's the last time you try. Never give up trying.
I will likey open another school someday, after all, this warrior is not done following his own path yet.
Train hard, live well, die with honor my friends.