Sunday, April 25, 2010

In my Element

A college art professor of mine told me one time. "All you need to worry about is who you sleep with, who you drink with and who you show your art with." Although there is a lot of truth in that statement, I'd like to add it also matters who you train with.

The karate school where I train is 72 miles from my home. I have been training there for the past three and a half years. I traveled a bumpy road to get to that school but it has been more than worth the effort to get there. The school where I began training a was only a few short blocks and well within walking distance of my home. When I trained at that first school the idea of traveling so far to train seemed out of the question. Impossible.

There is no shortage of karate schools in my area and many people will ask me why do I train all the way out there. Why do I? I believe I have found my tribe.

When I am at that school I am in my "element". It is the first place I have been in a very long time where I feel like I truly belong. Much of it has to do with the people that I train with and my instructor who runs the school. I initially started martial arts because of my kids but when I tried it, I was hooked. Up until that point, my life's passion, my life's work was my art. When my art business took a turn and sort of grounded itself, It was while I was preparing for my black belt test so it seemed natural transition to let go of the art and throw myself into my training. Everything I could put into my art I could transfer just as easily into martial art. My strong work ethic, self discipline, passion. It was all there. So imagine how disappointed I was when my little neighborhood karate school locked it's doors and closed the week after I passed my test. I was left without my tribe. I had found I nice little safe haven for myself at that school. I had people, instructors who encouraged me to try to do things I imagined that I could never do. I had happy fun people to train with. I could work hard and no one was threatened by that. I could do my best and people would encourage me to do better.

What happened next seemed like a good idea at the time but I was naive and lets just leave it at that. I was approached by another student from the school and I was also approached by the landlord who owned the space where the school was located about opening a new school in it's place, which we did. And, like I said, it seemed like a good idea at the time and it wasn't all bad but it did make my life a difficult struggle for the next two years. Many times I ponder why did I do that and devote two very solid years of my life to that project but I am convinced that I would not be where I am today had I not gone through all of that. People who cared about me the most and who knew me best could see that I wasn't happy. It was my weekly weight group who pointed out that when I was preparing for my black belt I was happy, healthy and in control of my life. They said, "Karate used to make you happy, you need to find a way to make it fun for you again." And they were right. I left that meeting knowing I had to make a change.
As things unraveled at my school shortly after that it was "suggested" that I leave. My ego could have taken that very badly but to be honest I felt a flash of relief and so I went with my gut, packed up my office and never went back.

Luckily I had a place to go. I had seen my new instructor at a seminar performing one of our forms, Long Form 4. I liked his body mechanics and I liked how confident he was when he did his form. I liked how he interacted with his instructor and treated him with respect. I knew I wanted to train with him. The first time I went to his school for a private lesson, I was impressed with how respectfully people treated one another. It was clean and organized and the children in the kids classes behaved respectfully as well. He invited me to attend the adult classes because he thought it would be good for me to work with is black belts.
They could do so much more than I had seen anyone do with their karate. They were knowledgeable and spontaneous. I wanted to be more like them. I had found my element. Training was fun and interesting and the people were great too.

In a book by Ken Robinson, Ph D. "The Element how finding your passion changes everything" he talks about finding your tribe. And he says that when you find your tribe you find yourself with a group of people who see the world the way you do, who allow you to feel your most natural, who affirm your talents, who inspire you, influence you, and drive you to be your best. You are close to your true self when you find these people.

This is what I have found in the school where I train. This is why I drive 72 miles one way to train 2-3 time a week. A few weeks after I left my old school I said to my instructor, "I still don't know how my business partner ended up with the school because I felt I had more passion for the art. And he said to me, " You simply wanted to be here more, You're better off and you fit in better out here anyway." I'm glad he thinks so too.

I'd like to end with this quote from Goethe, "If I accept you as you are, I will make you worse; However, if I treat you as though you are what you are capable of becoming, I help you become that."

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