We think of martial arts as physical defense against an attacker. However, one of the primary attributes of martial arts is character development, hence the term arts of martial arts. Ancient I Asian martial artists were held to a higher moral level than the general public.
Character development today is taught by martial arts instructors who act as role models for students and the public.
Unfortunately, there is a side of modern martial arts that plagues many schools and can even lead to expensive law suits, marring the school’s reputation in many different ways. Today we are all extremely, and rightfully so, sensitive to sexual harassment in the workplace. It is no different in the martial arts school.
Sexual harassment is an important issue that should concern all martial arts schools. Since one of the goals of a school is to improve the physical health and well-being of its students through martial arts, steps should be taken to ensure that safety, respect, and fair treatment are foremost in the policies of the school.
Sexual harassment occurs when a student is approached by an instructor using unwanted advancements, inappropriate touching or comments, threats, leering, pinching, patting, repeated comments, subtle-suggestions of a sexual nature, and pressure for dates. It can be as simple as asking a student for a date. Sexual harassment can occur in any situation where someone has power over someone else.
One of the statements in the student creed of my studio is, As a student of the Doc-Fai Wong Martial Arts Center, I intend to develop self- discipline and respect to bring out the best in myself and others. Everybody has heard about studios whose owners or instructors use their position as wise teacher to date their students. Some instructors and studio owners do this repeatedly for years. And, it may even become a part of their regular operations. While nobody is perfect, the basic tenets of self-discipline and respect should be followed within any martial arts school.
Self-discipline means more than just training for two hours a day, eating right, and meditating. It also means knowing when something is inappropriate or inadvisable. It means not taking advantage of the pedestal on which students may put you. You must remember to be humble and recognize that your students have lessons to teach you as well. Someone once said that in teaching, a wise teacher allows himself to be taught. It’s easy, and sometimes tempting, to let a feeling of power and importance overtake you and let students’ compliments feed your ego.
Self-discipline also means keeping relationships berween your students and you strictly professional. When instructors date students, or harass them in inappropriate ways, it will ultimately affect the studio, as well as the student’s learning. Sexual harassment is illegal and can result in lawsuits, or at the very least, a severe drop in student attendance and/or enrollment. Therefore, if you and all your instructors exercise self-discipline, relations between students and instructors will be harmonious and long-standing.
Being afraid of climbing a fence to step into a lions lair is a good fear. This type of fear keeps us from dying an awful and premature death. Most fears, however, are the product of our own imaginations. These are the ones we must first be strong enough to acknowledge, then work to overcome if we want to be the best we can be in martial arts and life. If you are sparring with a world-champion kick-boxer, you may be afraid to step into range and throw a combination. If the champ is known for sparring very hard, and you don’t have much experience, this may be a good fear! However, to get anything out of the sparring experience, you must overcome that real fear and allow yourself to apply your training.
Lets take the same situation, but now you are about to spar someone you don’t know. You may respond the same way as you did with the champ, being tentative with your attacks. Why? Because your imagination is working against you. You are imagining that the opponent may be more skillful than you are, and so you are afraid to throw. Even worse is when you don’t spar at all because you let your fears take hold of you. You don’t even have a chance to get some good experience because fear kept you from even trying. The truth is that the other guy might be a complete beginner who is afraid of you! The champ might have helped you with your attacks, if you had just thrown some. Using the popular acronym F.E.A.R. Can sum up the root of this problem. In this case, F.E.A.R. Stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. You look at something and create false evidence in your own mind.
You imagine that the opponent is better or that you aren’t up to the task. You become frozen with fear, you don’t take action, and you don’t get anything done. This happens everyday to almost everyone. Can you see how fear works against you, me, and everyone else? We must realize the quality of our lives is shaped by the way we handle those fears, We often learn how to handle fear by absorbing traits from the environment in which we live. If you grew up in a pessimistic household, you will tend to be pessimistic until you make a concerted effort to change your way of thinking. If your martial arts gym is full of people who are afraid to tiy new things, you will tend to develop in that same direction.
We have to step back out of our environment and see which negative traits we have absorbed, then resolve to change them for the better. One of the worst environments to be around is one in which is negative and abounds with criticism.
If you are taught to look at the bleak side of life, and are criticized constantly, you will grow up pessimistic, resentful, and have very low self-esteem. The good news is that you can change that. Just like your martial arts training, you have to decide what you want to become good at and then consistently spend time working on improving that area. To overcome being fearful, you need to practice having the opposite characteristic.
The opposite of fear is courage.