Thursday, 31 March 2011

What They Don't Know

“Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”

Sometimes we may not know we have received a gift until much later on!

A short while ago, Lou and I were enjoying a wonderful meal with a couple of friends, and for some reason we got round to a lovely, heart warming subject.


We were talking about going out as teenagers, the things we used to get up to and the times we would come home a little later than promised. Our friend said she never realised it at the time but whenever she arrived home in the early ours of the morning, her father would just ‘happen to be up’, and in the kitchen, making himself a drink.


You know how it is in the middle of the night, when you wake up with a thirst and you can’t wait until the morning so you take yourself downstairs to the kitchen for a glass of water or something a little warmer.


And just by pure coincidence, this would happen whenever his daughter was arriving home, so that he would just happen to be in the kitchen when she came through the door. Nothing particularly would be said, just a “Hi Dad, I’m home” “Hi hun, did you have a nice time?” And then off to bed.


Obviously, looking back on this as we chatted, it was clear to see that her father was just making sure his precious daughter was ok and home safe and sound, but without all the fuss of “where have you been until this time”, or “how did you get home”. The usual, and understandable, worried parent questions.


It was a lovely story that made you feel warm inside that our friend had never realised during her teenage years that this is what her father was doing. Almost a secret act that his daughter never realised, but one day would and when she did, she too felt warm inside and very loved. So we sat there and I’m sure we all started to think at the other things our parents had done for us, consciously or without thought, that would only become apparent many years later. A kind of secret treasure that we would unearth as our own knowledge and wisdom grew to give us the right tools to dig up this bounty.


Now, this isn’t an article on parenting, and so I won’t end the article here by asking you to look at what you are doing now that you can leave as pure gold for your offspring to find in later years. I am a martial arts instructor and so for me, this lesson draws a huge parallel with my job and role as an instructor to my own students and those I train with.


When I look back on my early years in the world of martial arts, I trained in a fiercely tough Karate club run by the legendary Geoff Thompson. As a young and impressionable 12 year old I had no idea that this was anything different to your run of the mill clubs, and so the hard sparring, the broken bones, the nose bleeds, the blistered feet and the continual ache in your gut from fear and anxiety of the next session, just seemed par for the course. However, as the first few years passed by, the toughness of the training I was undergoing didn’t cease. In fact it grew more and more as the years passed up to the age of 15/16, the training, quite literally, became brutal. We would fight for hours and most sessions wouldn’t pass without someone being knocked out, and usually that was me and often at the hands of my instructor. Sometimes it felt like I was being bullied or that I had done something wrong, but only partially. There was always something deep inside that kept the trust with my mentor and my guide, and the faith that this would all be worthwhile. The hard sparring, the punishing rounds, the leg crumbling workouts, all seemed like “extra special treatment”.


And then, without actually realising it, there became a shift in my training. A step change that saw me going from the one being knocked out continually, to the one holding his own with grown men, far stronger than me. I became hardy, robust and battle hardened. Handling my fears became a fun challenge and no longer something that crippled me and held me back. I became confident and self-aware, an understanding of myself that allowed me to take on anything. I was starting to unearth the treasure!


It was years later, working as a nightclub doorman on the troublesome doors of Coventry City pubs and clubs that several punches in the head from an 18 stone, 400lb bench-pressing goliath finally brought to the surface my beautiful bounty. The fact that I remained on my feet, weathered the storm and turned the altercation around to a victorious conclusion, unlocked the box to my sparkling secret treasure that had been carefully, intelligently and lovingly imparted and hidden away those years before. What I didn’t know at the time, my instructor knew completely.


What I struggled to accept and questioned at the time, my instructor proceeded regardless, confident and certain of the value of the gold he was offering and with faith that one day I would unearth it. Unearth it I certainly did, and so I continue to do so, almost every day. A secret gift that has carried me through many situations, both physical and mental and a bottomless well of treasure that I trust will be there whenever I have to dip my pale to draw out some more “tough” currency.


So now, as an instructor myself, it is my turn to hand over some secret treasure. Something that my students may not appreciate or grasp until they are further down their own path. As I’ve mentioned in many articles before. It is no accident that I teach classes early on Saturday and Sunday mornings and it is no accident that I don’t divulge everything we are going to be doing on an approaching grading. Nor is it an oversight that I only ask my students to do what I’ve done and can do and it should be no shock that I am always honest with my own beliefs and opinions on what I teach, the arts and self defence. It would however, be wrong of me, and perhaps a “Marty McFly” moment, in danger of altering the future, if I was to highlight all of the things I now do for my own students What They, perhaps, Don’t Know. But rest assured, I am doing them and they will become apparent in years to come and I hope they remember to look back on this article then!


Stay Safe and Have Fun


Al x

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