• Sara F. Hathaway

My Martial Arts Family

When you first sign up for a martial arts class, it is like being born into a new family. You enter a new environment, unsure of the rules. As you navigate this environment you learn who is a part of your new family. Some individuals act as parents actively guiding your development as you learn to crawl. Fellow classmates become siblings, sharing your successes and at times challenging your patience. You begin to learn the movements and practice them until you become proficient. Then you are ready to walk.

Standing up on your feet can be intimidating at first. You begin to test your new found skills against your siblings (other students) in a controlled environment where your parents (instructors) watch over you carefully making sure no one falters too badly. You learn that challenges are essential if you intend on growing in this new environment and begin to seek them out. As your body becomes leaner, stronger and faster, you watch other individuals being born into your family. You find out that you have the skills to help them learn to crawl. Now that you are feeling very comfortable with your immediate family, you find out that there is an extended family that you knew nothing about. Family reunions in the form of tournaments offer a great opportunity to test your new skills outside of your immediate family. Plus, you find out that there is a much bigger group all working together to grow your family to the best that it could possibly be.

Finally the day comes when you can demonstrate your proficiency in the basics of the art that your parents have been teaching you. Earning your black-belt is similar to graduating from high school. You are honored amongst your extended family and celebrated for your achievements. For some of your siblings the journey ends and they leave the family, ready to take on other adventures. However for some of your siblings the journey has just begun. Eager to become a parent themselves, they continue training and pushing themselves to become the very best mentor they could be. Welcoming in the newborns, they offer a sense of comfort and understanding so these individuals can learn to crawl even faster than before.

As you become an advanced parent or instructor, you may leave your family that you started with to create your own. You start extending the extended family even further and meeting up with them at the family reunions. You take pride in testing the abilities of your children up against your siblings children and unite in the common martial arts message. You begin to organize your own family reunions, inviting more and more families to attend. As you progress to this stage, your love and passion for the martial arts is exuded in everything you do. Self-discipline is no longer difficult to achieve but a normalcy of the family you helped to create. You have now graduated to grandparent. The joy you feel in watching your children raise their own children is priceless and you know that the art will live on forever.

Any martial arts family will experience the pains and joys of any other family. People will come and go. Friendships will be made, some will be lost but others will last a lifetime. Mentors will help you grow and challenge you to be a better version of yourself. Family lasts forever and if you take the time to become a valued part of your martial arts family, it will too.

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