Sunday, September 25, 2016

bow to being badass or don't bow

When you bow in to a martial arts class, who or what are you bowing to?

If you are teaching, who are your students bowing to? Do you think they are bowing to you? If you do - that's a problem. Bowing is a ritual and with it come a series of artifacts. And yes, as an instructor, you have put in hours, days, years of training to reach this place in life. Teaching other people is not a right of your training; however, it is a responsibility.

With all the different things you are teaching your students, the most important one is to teach them they can - and maybe should - be training to become better than you.

I could stop writing here. It is that simple. When you and your students bow into a training session everyone should be bowing in respect to this imperative: you (the students) are expected to be better than me (the instructor).

At our training center, this is a thing - a big thing. Yesterday, a group of us presented two intro to self-defense sessions at the Silver Eagle Group in Ashburn, VA. They've been running an open house this weekend, bringing in members of the community and providing free courses to their membership as a  "thanks" for being part of one of the biggest range and training center's in Northern Virginia. The director of training invited Kore Krav Maga to present the unarmed self-defense intro classes. 

Working with brand new people is a lot of fun. The discoveries and "ah-ha" moments are frequent and that's really rewarding as an instructor. 

One of the sessions was a women's only. Packed. That's fun too. 

Because intro classes are different than regular training, we highlight that point in a variety of ways during the intro course/class. When the session's over, we bow out Krav style - it helps say "we're done". With the women's group, we talked about why we do this in a circle.  You bow to each other, not to an instructor  - we're all equal - and...the circle helps us say that ... on our mat, you're training goal should be to become better than me.

It's a simple statement meant as an endcap - I was surprised by the reaction. Murmurs and statements about how cool that is and from a veteran BJJ practitioner - wow, that's really important, I never thought about that.

I'm thinking about it today, because her response spoke volumes. Sure, it feels good to be acknowledged for all the hard work we put into our training and our instructor certifications. But if you are training, your instructor is no god. If you are an instructor, be damn certain your students know this. They are not bowing to you. They are bowing to their own future. To the practitioner they are choosing to become. 

It's fine to think of this ritual as a means of demonstrated respect to everyone else on the mat, that's cool. But if that moment in your head is are better than they are or, they are better than's Not Okay..tell that internal dialogue to just shut the fuck up.

If you are training, please - please, check your internal dialogue and make damn sure when you bow into class, the only thing you are "bowing" to is your own potential (and if you have to bow to people in your thinking...then bow to their potential to be equally badass).