(Thanks again for the inspiration KN)
My dialog with my old friend and fellow martial artist KN continues and it is too important not to share.
His next question: "what made you choose to teach?"
Hmmm...a good one. I know plenty of martial artists who choose not to teach. They simply train for themselves or are "professional students" travelling from one style to the next in an endless journey, collecting ranks but never really satisfied; never really willing to share what they know.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it is not my way. For me this always felt a bit empty.
When I was younger, I would have said my life was a challenge; a struggle. Born into a broken family, placed into State care, raised in a foster family, bullied throughout school, consistently unpopular. It seemed like every inch of progress required a battle. Every step of my life felt like it was a test of my willpower to not just give up and accept my fate as a loser and an outcast. Many times I wanted to, but I never did. Martial arts came to me when I was 14 years old and began to show me a way I could excel. It helped me create positive goals for a change and to recognize that my only real opponent would be myself; my only limitations would be the ones I chose to set.
Through my training I developed knowledge and confidence as well as skill. For every hour I spent on the mats training, at least another hour of study was required. My teachers forced me to read military history and strategy, philosophy and religion. I was expected to do well in school if I was to remain a part of the dojo, which I did. My training made me want to achieve, rather than just survive or endure. Over the years, my teachers have appeared just when I needed them, always providing me the next set of keys to open the next set of doors in front of me.
From the discipline of my training, I began to set higher and higher goals. I dreamed of one day going to Japan. Realizing this dream took me 10 years and I failed the first three attempts, falling into a life-threatening depression and despair after the third failure. Somehow, I got back up and tried again and on the fourth attempt I made it. I have never looked back. Without martial arts I would have never been able to persevere.
In the end, Kali Majapahit and Punong Guro Fred Evrard are the reason I became a teacher. I have 4 black belts including Kadua Guro rank in Kali Majapahit, but I have never formally taught the others and likely never will. I encapsulate what I know into my expression of Kali Majapahit, and that is more than enough for me. Guro Fred has an endless drive to discover new ways of delivering his message and content. He is always evolving to find new methods of teaching, and looking for easier ways to help the students master the material. This has been a huge influence on me. Kali Majapahit helped me understand martial arts as a vehicle for personal development and as a platform for taking control of our lives and changing to become who we want to be. This knowledge helped empower me to believe in myself. I will always be grateful to Guro Fred, and to Guro Lila, for the chance to realize a dream I did not even know I would have. Becoming a teacher has been one of the proudest achievements of my life.
I have been leading and teaching the Japan group of Kali Majapahit for more than 3 years. In that time we have grown. I have grown. My students have helped sharpen me, and have given me a reason to keep training and keep teaching. Their passion for Kali Majapahit validates what I do, and fuels my own fire. In the times when I felt I had nothing to depend on, I could always depend on our Friday nights at class. That rhythm kept me going. It still does. Every new achievement makes me proud, and the fact that they love our class so much reminds me how valuable our training is. Step by step they develop the confidence to challenge their own limits and change their lives for the better. It is unbelievably inspiring and motivating. I could not live without it.
As a teacher, my fellowship with the other instructors has become a deep source of pride. We have suffered together, we fought and trained together, making each other stronger, supporting each other. They all love teaching as much as I do. We are truly brothers and sisters. Being part of such an elite group makes me feel very special indeed. I try hard to remain worthy of such an honor.
I no longer view my life as a struggle. I have come to understand my life for what it really is: A GIFT.
It is my privilege to be in this form in this time, and to have such a chance to share with others.
My life has never been easy, but my hardship can inspire other people who face similar challenges.
I can help them find the courage to fulfill their destiny as I have mine. I never aspired to be a CEO or a movie star or anyone famous. I have become exactly what I always hoped I would become: a husband; a father; a friend; a teacher. I have tried to be a positive catalyst in the lives of others so they can achieve their own definition of happiness just as I have found mine.
Like all gifts, they should be given with love and received with gratitude.
I hope I answered your question.