This past holiday weekend I had the pleasure of being invited to sit in the panel for a blackbelt exam. I havent done this in some years. And if I am being honest, its mostly been for selfish reasons. I dont like to travel, scheduling excuses, kids, any number of reasons I could come up with to not leave my sleepy little town of Dolores. I personally dont like interrupttions to my routine because of the chaos I feel that it creates. But this time I didnt have much of a choice. This exam aligned with a holiday that I usually spend with my family and so it seemed serenidipitous to go. And man what a great time I had! I got to see my favorite mentor Mr.J, and I got to see how some of the young students I taught many years ago have grown into such pleasant young men and women. It really forced me to reflect on my obsentancy to leaving town.
Now for those of you that have never been to a blackbelt exam unles you are invested in the person testing they are a brutal slog of a day. Most exams taking 8-9 hours to complete. So you really have to want to be there. This particular exam was for two young men one of whom I've never met, but the other was a student from a fromer life. My life before kids and marriage, a time when martial arts and Mr. J were the only two things keeping me from sprialing into a life of lonliness, toxic relationships, and deadend jobs. And while I didn't want to take anything from these young men on their special day I got the pleasure of tying the man I was becoming, to the man I am , to the man I want to be, with the through line of martial arts and Mr. J. His guidence and belief in me when no one else seemed to care will always hold a special place in my development as a coach and a man. There is something to be said about men who don't need to care for anyone else but their own and yet find ways to connect and guide young people who aren't theirs. And that is , the world is a better place for these selfless individuals. And I hope to be considered one of them one day.
But I cant end this post with out talking about previous students who have blossomed into great young men and women. I not only sat on the panel with Mr. J but his son Mr. Gabe, who I have coached most of his life, but two other young black belts. Who were teenagers when I started a new chapter of my life, but are now young people of such high caliber, I found it hard to not feel just a little out of place. The pride I felt seeing the individuals they have all become makes me tear up and question if it was really me who coached them all those years ago.
All that to say thank you to Echo Martial Arts for the invitation and the honor of getting to stand next to you, and for the privilege of getting to help coach the young men and women whom you are molding into people of high character and consequence