MUTUAL RESPECT AND HUMILITY IN THE MARTIAL ARTS
This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Action Radio Network & World Martial Arts Magazine’s Hall of Fame Awards gala event in Clearwater Beach, Florida. Merely sitting in the same room with over a hundred and fifty of the greatest martial arts grandmasters in the world was truly an amazing experience. Never was the expression “Be there or Be square” more true.
I wish I could report that I was there to be honored with a plaque, a standing ovation or something equally impressive, but the truth is that after almost forty years in and out of the martial arts I am now known simply as Andrea Stone’s father. Although I went home empty handed I guess you could say that in effect I was honored, but it was to watch my beautiful 16 year old daughter receive the Female Role Model of the Year Award.
I could brag about my triple martial arts black belt teenager all day and night (just as I can about her sister) but that isn’t the point of this article. What I would like to point out is the consistent level of humility and mutual respect I witnessed that night from the most revered men and women in the martial arts industry. Not one of the recipients accepted their award without somehow paying respect to another martial arts instructor, friend, mentor or role model. Some were even humble enough to realize that we all need to be reminded occasionally that we are nothing without God’s good graces.
Several things occurred that night that I feel are worthy of mention. The first was that many of the grandmasters, like Kim Kahana, who have a lifetime of achievement in the arts seemed truly honored. The smiles on their faces when they received their awards indicated to me that this was not just another day at the dojo. After thirty, forty, and even fifty years in the martial arts an outsider might suppose that such things would become commonplace, but I suspect that these men and women feel like they are just getting started. To become a grandmaster in the first place one has to be either a flaming type A personality, a supreme overachiever or the most stubborn no-quitter on the planet. Such people are never complacent. Such artists will never rest on their laurels. Believe me, you could do worse than to spend a evening interacting with such people.
Earlier, on the way to the event, I commented to my daughter Andrea that she would probably meet some other kids her age. One teenager I mentioned was Dominique Zaino, a member of Team America. Dominique is a pretty and talented young lady who hosts her own martial arts radio show on the Action Radio Network. When my daughter mentioned her apprehension at meeting her I was surprised and asked what the problem was. “Girls that pretty and talented are usually stuck up and stand offish,” was her caustic reply. For reasons I can’t fathom my daughter didn’t see herself in that same “pretty and talented” category.
On the drive home Andrea couldn’t stop raving about what a nice girl Dominque turned out to be and how “Down to Earth” she was. “I didn’t think I’d like her but she sure fooled me,” was repeated several times. After meeting the Zaino family I’m sure Dominque went home saying the same thing about Andrea. You see those who grow up in the martial arts quickly learn to set aside pride and self importance. The first thing you learn in any martial arts style is that no matter how good you are there is always someone out there who is better. An exaggerated sense of self importance quickly goes out the door. One only has to remember the basic Tenents of Tae Kwon Do to realize that their mutual experience was a classic example of that:
Couresy (Ye Ul)
Integrity (Yom Chi)
Perseverance (In Nae)
Self Control (Guk Gi)
Indomitable Spirit (Baekjul Boolgool)
Finally, along these same lines was a comment made to me by Hapkido Grandmaster Gary Pointer. He was relating some of his philosophy and he too constantly made reference to friends and former martial arts and Hapkido instructors. One point I was impressed with was his concept that each of us are inter related with respect to our training and abilities. In other words, “one man does not a martial art make”. The strength of a martial art comes with the constant interaction of students and teacher. The strength of the martial arts community comes not with the separation of styles but with mutual respect and recognition. In the paraphrased words of Jet Li from the movie Fearless, competition is not about beating each other but about learning from each other what works and what doesn’t.
When I mentioned to Hapkido Grandmaster Pointer that I felt a little out of place since I was only a second dan in Hapkido his reply was classic. “That is not what or who you are. Your rank is just what you were awarded or achieved so far. You have learned far more from your life’s experiences than your rank Hapkido indicates.” With all this man’s achievements and rank he could have very easily been dismissive or condescending, yet I found him to be considerate and polite. That’s what I love about the martial arts. Where else could you spend years learning to be more and more dangerous while at the same time turning into someone polite, kind and considerate.
Now my goal is to go to one of these history making martial arts events and have people comment.
“Wow I didn’t expect someone so handsome and talented to be so down to earth.”
Hope to see you at next year’s event.