I have come to believe that what happens in a dojo, on the mats, and in the ring are good, wonderful even –and that the training makes one strong, able, capable, and confident. But I have also come to believe that my martial arts training is not only about being fit, mobile, self-aware, and having the capability to defend myself and/or others; personal development, while unquestionably important –is, for me, not enough, not the end product, not the primary benefit of the teachings or the practice.
 
Not until my efforts in the dojo and on the mats result in action(s) in the world, in my own community and beyond, can I begin to feel like I am fulfilling the potential of the work.
 
Black Belts take it out of the dojo and into the world with engaged budo-ismMartial arts teachers, it is not enough to cultivate warriors on the mats and/or in the ring –when your potential is so much greater than that. It is not enough to “make a good living” from your school, so that you may buy, consume, own, and collect wealth –when your potential is so much greater than that.
 
When you find yourself in a position of leadership, be it with a group of 5 people or 500 or 5000, when you have worked yourself into a place where people respect, listen to, and study from you –it is not enough to teach them to fight, win, compete, and show up for the next class —when your potential is to take the respect you’ve earned and tackle the big fights we face as a people, be it locally or globally.
 
We, as martial arts teachers, can spend a lot of time guiding people to move, to believe in themselves, to keep polishing, regardless of their current level of skill, to keep at the work, to learn to protect and fight for personal dignity, autonomy, freedom, and the right to live without being bullied or victimized, or oppressed.
 
But what shortsightedness it is to not take this out of the dojo and into the world –when it’s not just people who need strength and confidence and empowerment, but entire communities; we must take our work to the NEXT level –to the level where we become a force for good OUTSIDE of our practice halls. We have the potential to role model dignity, compassion, honor, strength, and empowerment —we have the opportunity to show that the martial arts that we love so much and dedicate so much of our lives to –IS NOT just about “martial” –but also about the art of life.
 
That’s the kind of martial arts I have come to know an teach. While I respect the athletes in the martial arts who go after world titles –I have come to believe that there is something far more important in our work: The World.
 
I advocate for a kind of martial arts teaching that doesn’t rely so heavily on the perfect website, the perfect ad or pitch or lead box or “lead generator,” or Facebook ad campaign —but that sells the quality of its work thru human interaction, through community engagement, thru problem solving and projects and for putting a community in a position where it cannot say “no” when invited to participate in the training.
 
I’m all for empowerment thru martial arts training, but it’s what kind of empowerment I’m seeking that reflects what kind of martial arts I teach. I am not satisfied with high level performance on the mats or in the arena; I’m looking to cultivate engagement in our society –engagement beyond the minimum expected.
 
This, I believe, is our best “advertising.” We must show people what we are learning –and in a way that shows that we might start with building strong, mobile, empowered individuals….but that we are not fool enough to think that is the desired end result. We cultivate change-makers who tackle issues that are relevant and important, issues of helping people less fortunate than ourselves, issues of social justice, of community and care and compassion.
 
I seek to teach martial arts instructors about Engaged Budo-ism, which is their own power to make contribution to a better and more peaceful, cohesive, just, and inclusive community / world. I do this because we are perfectly suited for and capable of this kind of work –and I can see no finer, no better form of testimonial for the benefit of the study and practice of the martial arts than how we use our influence –when we have the chance (whether earned or gifted) to influence.