Saturday, February 23, 2013

They Aren't Called Attitude Suggestions (Part 1 of ?)

          For the past ten plus years, I have had the honor and privilege of running a martial arts school alongside my wife, who has always put nothing less than the utmost effort into making sure that our school, our instructors, and our students strive for improvement, regardless of how long that improvement might take.  Recently, she has initiated a plan that will take over a year to reach its ultimate fruition, but one that is nonetheless both necessary and overdue.  Many of our younger students will not, at present, be able to understand the full scope of this plan, nor will they immediately comprehend its benefits.  To them, the final results will not be realized for what they perceive as "a long time."  
          Before I discuss the plan itself, I remind you that I am, at my core, little more than a geek, and as such, my view is always skewed toward geek culture when making connections to the world beyond the martial arts, if such a world actually exists for those of us who choose to walk the path of the martial arts instructor.  That said, the best way I can relate this plan to others may be through referencing a work many still believe to be the greatest work of  Fantasy Literature ever produced: J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of The Rings.  In particular, I would like to make note of one of Tolkien's most interesting characters.  No, I'm not referring to any of the Hobbits, Dwarves, Elves, Goblins, or Wizards.  The character in question is the Ent, Treebeard.  I realize that at this point many readers will have no idea what an Ent is, or who Treebeard is, but trust me, even if you have never read the novels or seen the films, Treebeard is cool.

Trust me: Treebeard is cool.

          In The Two Towers, Treebeard is encountered by the hobbits Merry and Pippin.  In the film version, he tells them (eventually) after taking several hours to say "Good Morning" to the other Ents that, "it takes a long time to say anything in Old Entish, and we never say anything unless it is worth taking a long time to say."  Interestingly enough, the novel actually casts a slightly different light on this speech. In the novel, Treebeard says, "It is a lovely language, but it takes a very long time saying anything in it, because we do not say anything IN IT, unless it is worth taking a long time to say, AND TO LISTEN TO." (Emphasis added)
          Wait, wasn't I supposed to be talking about the martial arts, and my wife's plan?  I am, of course- weren't you paying attention?  If we replace a few of the verbs, and the language of Old Entish with the words "martial arts", we begin to see the point, that being:

We don't say or do anything in the martial arts unless it is worth 
taking a long time to say or do, and to pay attention to.   

I do realize that I ended the above point with a preposition, but so did Tolkien, so you'll just have to forgive me.  Now, go back and read it again, and take your time.  It wasn't a suggestion; I actually want you to do it.  Really.  Why are you still reading this part?  I said go back and read it again. Done? Okay, then I suppose we can proceed with the plan.
         The plan, simply put, is to have our classes, and in particular our youth advanced classes, learn, understand, and put into practice each of the 14 Attitude Requirements of Tang Soo Do.  Why then should this take such "a long time?"  The answer is because the plan requires us to spend at least one month working on each one of the 14 requirements. Our students must not only learn the words, but must also make a solid attempt each month to understand what those words actually mean, and must show the instructors a genuine attempt to put them into practice.  Oh, did I forget to mention?  This is also cumulative.  For example, by Month 3, students must still be able to recite and explain Attitude Requirements One and Two.  By Month 14, our goal is that each student who has made an effort will be able to recite all 14 Attitude Requirements, explain to the instructors' satisfaction what each means, and give concrete examples of what they have done to actively fulfill each requirement, all of which can be found listed here.  Does this all sound like a bit too much to ask of a child?  I'll be painfully blunt: If you really think so, your child doesn't belong in my class.
          They aren't called the 14 Attitude Suggestions.  They are requirements.  If you don't meet the minimum requirements, you don't move forward.  It's really that simple, but what the heck?  Let's go ahead and make it complicated anyway.  What, exactly, is a requirement? defines the word requirement  as:

a thing demanded or obligatory

and also as:
a need or necessity

If we accept these 14 Attitude Requirements at face value, we begin to understand that:

1. We must demand that our students learn, understand, and fulfill each requirement.

2. We must convince our students that they are obligated to do so.

3. We must help our students identify the specific need associated with and fulfilled by each requirement.
Notice that I used the word must in each of the above statements.  Remember: they're not suggestions.  Not only must we do all of the above, but we must also insist on doing the same for ourselves.  Children understand hypocrisy, and they hate it.  Demand no more of them than you demand of yourself.
          When I am able to put Part 2 of this post series into coherent words, I will begin to discuss the Attitude Requirements themselves.  Let's look at Attitude Requirement Number One just to see how big the plan really is:

Purpose of training should be enhancement of mental and physical betterment. 

Throw that one at your class of youth students, pre-teens, teenagers, or even adults, and watch their eyes bug out of their heads. Then try to explain it, and proceed to scratch your own head.  Each word in this requirement is carefully chosen and carefully placed, though, and it all makes sense.  At the risk of making yet another somewhat obscure reference, I'll leave you with a quote from a somewhat underrated film starring Danny DeVito: Renaissance Man:
Jamaal: Are you gonna come translate this for us?

Bill: Why? It's in English.

Kick. Punch. Easy Stuff.