Friday at my group’s morning status meeting we spent a lot more time talking about the odds and ends of life than about actual work. One of the topics: what sports my boss’s newborn son would participate in. The Official Boss of Muddled Ramblings and Half-Baked Ideas believes her son’s reckless and pain-oblivious behavior makes him a good candidate for hockey. That gladdened my heart.
I don’t think I brought up martial arts, but I did have something to contribute on the subject.
Before I get to the specific advice I dispensed (at no charge), I’d like to point out that martial arts are an excellent choice for a kid. Way better than gymnastics, especially for girls. Why get them started on something they will have to abandon when they weigh more than 100 pounds? Better to get them into a good dojo and learn confidence and skills they can take to the grave. I think black belts would look fantastic on grandmas and grandpas alike.
But the phrase ‘good dojo’ brings me to my specific advice. On my Wednesday morning route I pass a fitness/martial art studio. Jiu Jitsu is mentioned in one of their signs. In the gray light of early dawn the lights of the studio spill out into the street. This week as I passed I looked in and saw a collection of young students doing exercises on the floor, all clad in their white robe-thingies. Seated next to the mat on a folding chair was the instructor. He was slouched down, his arms folded across his nearly-horizontal chest.
Wow. My first thought was how disrespectful this was to his students, then I thought about how disrespectful it was to his dojo, and to his discipline. Martial arts have a strong spiritual element; training is focussed on the mind as much as it is on the body. At least when it’s done right. Thinking about it now, I think an instructor has two options: Stand over the students, attentive and engaged, and correct their form, or do the exercises with them. The dude may as well have been smoking crack in front of his impressionable charges.
So my concrete advice to my boss was simply, “don’t let a dude like that teach your kid.” I think that message can be applied in a much wider context.