Traveling Black Belt

People from the Korean Martial Arts School in ...

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Traveling Black Belt by John Dunham


Life, as we all know, has its “ups and downs”. One’s life, responsibilities, emotions, and physical health should have no impact on the choice of studying Martial Arts. Often times we say that life is too busy to participate or continue studying in the present, but we will continue or start class in the future. When this practice is assumed, it can impact one’s well being and make life more of a burden. For when a student decides that life is too busy to continue studying there is a good chance that they will loose self esteem, confidence, respect and courtesy. It is my experience that students that participate in Martial Arts will have more “ups” than “downs” in life, both in the present and future.


I have been observing and participating in several different schools over the past couple of months. The experiences that I have encountered have enlightened me about the different styles available to students. I have seen schools where students are only half  motivated and look like they do not want to participate, much less be there. The students in these schools are a direct reflection of the instructors. Forms, basics, techniques, and even meditation are so disorganized that it is an embarrassment to all involved. Lack of discipline was also a major factor.

There was one school that I found that matched up to MAMA. You could sense that the students, instructor, and environment were all in unison. The instructor had the full attention of the students and the students wanted to be there. From the very warm welcome that I received to the question and answer session after class, I was very impressed. Forms were top notch, techniques were perfect, and there was no question that this school was very disciplined. I wanted to participate in this school and learn an additional form for my 2nd degree black belt. Unfortunately, the instructor demanded attendance be near perfect to study under him (3 days per week). He only wanted serious students and stated that 90% of his new students drop out after 3 months. If the school was closer to my home and I could have participated one to two times per week, I would have participated. I really admired the instructor’s discipline and dedication to the art and his students were some of the best that I had seen during my travels.

The major difference between the school above and MAMA is the quantity of instructors. At MAMA we have many dedicated instructors that are at the top of their class. If an instructor needs a vacation or time off to study elsewhere to gain rank, they can. In doing so, the students will continue to gain knowledge and improve themselves under a different instructor. All of the instructors in MAMA are dedicated to their students and their success. MAMA will be around for many years to come. While we may not be as disciplined as the above class, we are far above and beyond any other school that I visited.

I never realized how much of a mix of martial arts (not MMA) we are. We have many similarities to Karate, Aikido, Hapkido, Taekwondo, Kung Fu, and even Jiujitsu. I have been studying for 6 years under Grand Master John W. Rankin, his instructors, and have become an instructor myself. Part of my ongoing study of Martial Arts is to investigate other schools and bring knowledge back to MAMA. Through my travels and observations I understand even more how privileged and honored I am to be a part of the Mountain Academy of Martial Arts.

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