Another older paper I wrote.  This one was only 5 years ago, and was meant to be an introduction to people in the Mental Health field while I was attempting to lay the groundwork for a Martial Arts based therapy program.  It chronicles my own benefit from Martial Arts as a “Troubled Youth,” as well as briefly mentioning a few of my success stories.  While I have not yet achieved getting a full program running, I continue to have successes on an individual basis, and the students mentioned have grown to adulthood and achieved greatness in one fashion or another, and continue to make me proud to claim them to this day.

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Greetings,

Despite the fact that I spend my days climbing towers and installing wireless networking devices, if I were asked to define myself, I am first and foremost a Martial Artist.  At the time of this writing, I am less than a month from my thirty second birthday, and I can say with complete honesty that I have spent over two thirds of my life practicing and teaching Martial Arts.

Mental Health has progressed exponentially in the last three decades.  When I was a child, I was one of the first to be labeled as an ‘ADD Kid’.  I struggled with this disorder even before it was named.  In my early twenties, I discovered I was bi-polar.  Currently, through my own research into certain conditions of my own daughter, I suspect I might even have a mild case of asperger’s syndrome.

I was constantly labeled throughout school as ‘brilliant, but unmotivated,’ and fit many of the classic scenarios for troubled teens.  Now, as an adult, I hold gainful employment and am regarded as a ‘miracle worker’ in my field.  I am a devoted father, husband, and mentor.  I run two separate businesses, and while I am a horrible business man, I am very good at what I do.  I am not rich, but I am happy, and as such, I consider myself successful.  I attribute my success to two major factors:  First, my parents, who endured my many flaws and held to their disciplinary guns, and provided me with solid role models to pattern my life after.  And second, the Martial Arts, which I began when I was eight.

Not every child is blessed with parents like mine, or a home life like mine.   Not every child is blessed by the ability to take Martial Arts like I was.  While nothing I can do will ever correct the first problem, I’ve dedicated my life to correcting the second.  I honestly believe that had my parents not enrolled me in Martial Arts as a child, I would likely be in prison or dead today, despite my parents best efforts.

Martial Arts are not about combat or fighting, they are about self improvement.  Yes, as a result of my training I have become a formidable fighter, but if I were to list the benefits I have received from the Art, my fighting ability would be at the very bottom of that list.  I learned to control my anger.  I learned to focus myself.  I learned to treat others as they should be treated.  I learned respect.  Above all, I learned an enigmatic concept called Honor.

I consider myself to be morally ambiguous.  I do not have a personal definition of good and evil believing the two to be ambiguous and interchangeable.  However, the very first night of Taekwondo classes, I was taught an oath and list of tenants that I would repeat at least twice a night every night I attended classes for the next twenty plus years.  This oath and these tenants became my own personal code of honor that I eventually began to weigh every decision in my life against.  The tenants are as follows: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Indomitable Spirit, and Victory.  These six concepts are my morals, my religion, my code.  In turn, these are values I pass on to my students, regardless of their own personal morals or faith.  For example, a student of mine was involved in a fight in school in the not so distant past.  This is something I take very seriously.  Fighting without just cause is strictly forbidden and punishable by expulsion, which is my most extreme form of punishment.  After listening to the story as told by the student, his mother, and his principle, I deemed the fight to be justified, and did not punish the student for it.  In fact, I praised his judgment and restraint, for several reasons, including but not limited to the facts that the person he fought had tormented my student for years without retaliation, and when my student finally did retaliate, it was in defense of a friend unable to protect himself.  Also, he used the force necessary to stop his opponent, and refrained from seriously injuring him when he had the opportunity.  However, in the course of my little investigation, my student admitted that he hadn’t been honest with his principle about the particulars of the incident.  I pointed out to him that this directly violated the tenant of Integrity, and for this, he was punished.  I remember the most bittersweet moment amongst the process of his punishment when I told him that I was disappointed by his action.  The expression on his face told me that simple declaration was the most severe punishment I could have dealt.

The student I speak of is one of my success stories.  He was originally brought to me by HRA in Batesville as the first student in an experimental process using Martial Arts as therapy.  He was being raised by a single mom with virtually no income.  While his mother is a strong and good woman, she had faced her share of hardship and sacrifice, and could not control her son.  He had anger issues and a total lack of respect.  With no discipline and no male role model in his life, it was surmised that Martial Arts might help him.   To be honest, this was one of the better days of my life, though I didn’t realize it at the time.  That was nearly  five years ago.  Despite the fact that I was forced to close my Batesville school due to lack of time and rising gas prices, he still continues to train under me, with his mother driving him from Cave City to Judsonia every Friday night.  He turned fourteen last month, and is now only months away from earning his Black Belt.  He regards me as a father figure, and my assistants as uncles, and often refers to us as such. He has become a quiet, controlled, and respectful teen that I am proud to claim as one of my own.  His principle at school has commented on how respectful he has become, and despite his growing abilities, he is humble and not at all violent.

(Update:  Now eighteen, he is an undefeated cage fighter with four wins under his belt and about to go pro.  He graduated High School, and was to attend college, though I hear he had to put that on hold due to family tragedies, yet still fully intends to continue his education.  He earned his Black Belt in my style of Taekwondo, and on the very few occasions I have heard of him having to defend himself on the street, he was devastating to his attacker, yet controlled to the point of only inflicting as much injury as needed to force the other party to stop.  In one such case, the attacker blindsided him.  He responded with a single blow that left said attacker on the ground, possibly with a fractured jaw.  He looked down at his assailant, said simply and calmly, “Don’t make me hurt you,” then turned and walked away, as he was attempting to do before being attacked in the first place.  I love this story so much, because while I advocate avoiding violence at all costs, I also want my students to be able to defend themselves by whatever means necessary.  The restraint my student showed by not pressing the attack further than necessary to defend himself is one of the defining factors in the process of earning a Black Belt.)

I have many stories of students I have helped in way that transcend the mat.  Teachers and parents have commented that their children have started to respond with ‘Yes Sir/Ma’am” instead of ‘Yeah, whatever.’  Their grades have improved.  Their physical performance in school activities have improved.  Their social standings have improved.

Two of my favorite stories, aside from the one cited above, come from my now defunct Batesville School.  One student was six when he began classes, though he looked four.  His father told me that he had been born without motor control, and the doctors had told him that he would never be able to tie his own shoelaces.  Six months after he began classes, his father came in practically dancing on air when he told me that his son had tied his own shoes that morning.  When last we talked, years later, he was doing well for himself on the school football team.

My next story was of a student with a serious case of autism.  I had never witnessed autism first hand before, and this was a great challenge for me.  He had a very akward control of his body, he was stoic to the point of nearly unresponsive, and could not meet my gaze.  My wife in particular went out of her way to speak to him every time he came to class.  He trained with us for several years, holding the rank of Red Belt, just below Black, when I was forced to close theBatesvilleSchool.  To this day, I hope to someday return to Batesville so that I can see him earn his Black Belt.  By the time the school closed, he could look me in the eyes without flinching.  He could perform any physical action any other student could, and he had no problem socializing with the other students.  Once he had attained high enough rank, I often put him in charge of the class for periods of time, and he shined in the role.  I think if he wanted to, he could make an accomplished Martial Arts Instructor.  Whenever a student tests for rank, we usually bring in Judges from outside the school, so that people unfamiliar with my students can give unbiased opinions.  I made a point never to tell my guests of his autism, and they never caught on.  Those that knew about it were impressed at his improvement from one test to the next.  My wife and I still keep in touch with his father at least every coupled of months, and he has gone on to become quite the prodigy musician.

These stories are of the extreme successes I have witnessed.  I believe that those with disabilities have to accept them, (by ‘them,’ I mean their ‘disabilities’) even embrace them, in order to succeed.  In each case, I refused to ‘give’ the student anything.  I taught, they learned, they practiced, and they succeeded.  Special treatment would only hold them back.  I taught them that nothing should hold them back.  If they have a disability, ten they just needed to find a different way to do things.  For example, a student with only one arm could not be expected to punch with one arm, then the other.  Instead, they would have to punch with their one arm twice and twice as fast.  When I was a teen in the tournament circuit, I once faced such a person. His right arm ended at the elbow.  Despite this, or perhaps because of this, he thoroughly trounced me anyway.    One of the most respected Instructors of the organization I was with, now a Grandmaster of his own organization and someone I hold with reverence, had a childhood bout with polio that left his right arm useless.  In the years that I’ve known him he has never once let that slow him down.  There is even a video on You Tube showing his prowess with a bow that he has learned to fire one handed.  Not a crossbow, but a compound bow.  He holds the bow in one hand, and draws it with his teeth.  I daresay he’s the best shot I’ve witnessed.

This is what inspires me.  I was uncoordinated, unfocused, and undisciplined.  As such, it took me longer and I had to work harder to earn what came easier to many others.  I’ve learned that the harder you have to work for something, the more you respect it.  These are the qualities I look for in a student.  All I require is the desire to learn and the heart to see it through.  Everything else I can teach them.

As for credentials?  I hold a Fifth Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo, Second Degree Black Belts in Combat Hapkido and Kenjukido, both of which I will soon test for my Third.  I have trained either formally or informally in virtually every art that is offered in the State, I have traveled hundreds of miles for countless seminars under the best in their styles.  I have been formally recognized as a Master of Taekwondo and have developed my own style.  I have sat on the Master’s Council of an International Taekwondo Organization, and have served as State Representative for two different Martial Arts Organizations before founding my own Organization.  This year I have been nominated for the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame.  I have ran two full scale Martial Arts Schools simultaneously while running two separate volunteer programs.  Some of my students have gone on to open their own schools in other states.  All this while holding down a day job.  With the growth of my family, I have had to restrain my activities in the Martial Arts realm, but I still run my home office school that I have taught out of for over a decade, though I still dream of the day I will be able to teach full time.

 

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