I’ve hesitated writing on this particular subject for a long, long time. But today my oldest student shook me as no other person can. He reminded me of why I teach.

An open letter to my students.

Too many, far too many lose sight of why I continue to train in the martial arts. Especially after reading the ending of my book “Stepping Off the Mat.” So what do I get from all this training and practicing?

It’s simply this:I’m teaching you, my student, how to live. The traditional educational institution is structured and designed to do one thing and one thing only; to teach you how to make a living! Not how to think and not how to be a good citizen. Just how to make a living.

I’ve been working out how to shape your minds, teaching you how to think properly and how to reason by giving you examples of strategic thinking under the guise of martial arts and self-defense strategies. If you remember, I’ve said it’s not so important what you think as how you think. Small minds get bent out of shape over small problems. Mitch Gilbert once said, “small minds talk about people, average minds talk about events and great minds talk about ideas.”

Some have commented on my style of dress and the way I always keep my shoes highly shined and the way I conduct myself. Well, it’s a way of living. I’m making a statement without saying a word. My actions and appearance speak volumes for me. I just go about my business.

And while I on that thought of dress, consider this: Do you ever wonder why the youth of this country dresses the way they do? Do you wonder why they have little or no respect for each other or for that matter none for you either? (when I say you, I mean adults) It may be because of this: We have lost respect around the world because of the decisions we’ve made. Look at the politicians we’ve picked to run the local, state and federal governments for the past twenty or thirty years. All they seem to care about is getting reelected and nothing about doing what’s right. The young have picked up on this and solve their problems the same way they see adults and governments do. By simply taking, fighting or stealing for it. There is another way. A much better way. I practice Martial discipline! It’s really not about fighting.

I make every effort to demonstrate the capacity of reason and civility by how I live my life. And some examples are (1) Do no harm. (2) Whenever possible, give advantage to the other guy. (3) Clean up after yourself by leaving no track. (4) Smile whenever possible. (5) Correct a child when you see him or her operating incorrectly. (6) Allow all children to see you in a positive light while doing the things you do. (7) Don’t cheat. (8) When you make a mistake, admit it. (9) Have the courage to say I’m sorry. (10) No matter your religion, practice the golden rule, treat others the way you wish to be treated.

Do you have other ideas or concepts? If so please share them.

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4 thoughts on “living”

  1. It’s interesting to think about how this cycle began. The cycle of parents teaching children, children becoming parents and teaching their children what they learned from their parents. How did it begin that this country began to favor such things as productiveness and competetiveness over kindness and humility?

    I believe another important rule is to not act out of insecurity. I see many people, including myself, acting on false beliefs because of insecurities. Especially at 19 when I have only begun to attempt to understand myself and where I would like to go. When I see adults acting towards others in a foul manner because of their own inner turmoils, it makes me wonder what kind of principles they held close to their heart when they had learned to act this way. I believe since we are responsible for ourselves, we are responsible for how we act towards others and that acting in a negative way because of any kind of inner turmoil is irresponsible.

    It’d be great to have your opinion on this as well.

  2. I think that over time, people have equated discipline with rigidity and lack of empathy and (com)passion, and those qualities are not mutually exclusive. I’ve seen too many people who either don’t control themselves or don’t wish to– saying whatever comes to mind and doing anything without considering how it affects people surrounding them. I forget who it was that told me that it is easier to start from structure and become flexible afterwards than the other way around, but I find this to be true concerning building moral character.

  3. Nick,

    Acting in a negative way because of inner turmoil is not usually considered irresponsible. That person is simply out of his mind and is operating on emotion or impulse. There’s no thinking, it’s reacting. Which is what most do out of a lack of understanding of how life works. Consider what Lisa has to say about discipline. Very few can practice it if it’s not being taught. And properly explained! It is “The art of discipline.”

    All the great books throughout history mention this art but do not focus on it because the awakened student is the one who gains the insight for him/herself.

  4. From an article I wrote recently about this subject, entitled “Pity is to Anger as Love is to Hate”

    I find cultural norms to be a very interesting subject. What do people think is abhorrant or necessary? I often struggle to understand how one is supposed to act. It is impossible to take all the themes of “how to fit in” and create behavior that fits into all of them. It’s a lot like trying to please all the gods in Gilgamesh at the same time. You can’t please one without pissing off another.

    Recently, Sensei Berry of wrote about his beliefs about how to live your life. It seemed to me to reflect a more passive nature than what I see most of the time. Most of all, what really struck me, was the rule “Do no harm”. I’ve been thinking about this for days. And days. And days. I think about this when I go to sleep. Granted, I think a lot, but rarely is there such focus on understanding one deceptively simple phrase such as this. How does one “Do no harm”? To Harm means to me “To cause pain” yet how do we understand what hurts whom? I suppose it is easy to see whether you’ve made someone angry or upset, but what if they later realize you were right? What if by giving someone a compliment you inadvertently harm them because they end up becoming arrogant? I suppose this is something that is learned as one comes of age and better understands the intricacies of such matters. To “Do no harm” involves much more than it’s simplicity implies. It must also mean to be able to discern when you are causing harm indirectly.

    I’ve also come to understand that if you yourself are unhealthy, your unhealthiness will spread to others (in differing amounts). If you are in a bad mood around people, your bad mood spreads just like a happy mood would. So to be unhappy is to cause harm as well? This seems to be true. This would also apply to other states of negativity. So to not do harm you must also have peace within yourself and your actions. To attain that peace, I would suppose, is really the challenge.

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