by Dan Smith
I started my martial arts training at MAMA in the late 1980s, when the school was still located in Evergreen CO. My son, Josh, also became a student for a period of time. Both of us had been problem children of a sort. To the outside world martial arts seemed counter intuitive as a process whereby we might overcome our overly aggressive natures, and find some measure of peace. But to those of you who have trained here, you know that what the world thinks could fit on the head of a pin with room left over. There is a kind of karma that I recall Master Rankin describing. It was SOMETHING to the affect that, ‘the more we train to fight, the less likely it is that we will ever have to fight.’ As time and training have passed, I have come to learn that there is a deeper meaning to this concept, and it likewise applies to our everyday internal struggles. The “Do” is “Tang Soo Do” after all means the “way”. And the “way” always leads to peace of mind.
After I received my black belt in 1992, I stayed on until 1996 when the school up here first officially closed. I knew that to obtain a 2nd Dan meant I had to learn a new discipline of some sort, and bring something back to the school of real value. At first I was bit lost. My career was demanding and the idea of commuting to the new school without this gift in tow presented a challenge. Meanwhile I felt some calling to study meditation and explore the nature of my own existence – as it were. While that journey led me outside of martial arts for the next decade, it provided lessons learned and gifts of its own. However I would not have been able to appreciate that challenge without the platform of self discipline this school – and Master Rankin in specific – taught me. One lesson that stands out as it pertains to martial arts, is the following exchange I had with my teacher. I will attempt to paraphrase…
Teacher asked what would happen if a man came to my home and asked to use the phone. I said that I would probably let him in to do so. Then he asked me, what if you recognized him and remembered what had happened last time he came to your door and made a similar request. And pretend the last time he showed up, he had proceeded to trash your house. Imagine that he had overturned tables and smashed glass cabinets. After he used the bathroom, you discovered he spray painted rude messages on the wall, and had demonstrated a decided inability to urinate anywhere near the toilet! I won’t bore you with the additional details, but he continued to paint the most repulsive of outcomes.
Then he asked – “Would you let him back in?”
“Hell NO!” I said.
Then he explained that the thoughts I allowed to roll around in my head, always came knocking first in this manner. I was at choice to allow them into my home, to wreak the havoc they always had or not. When a thought comes that says, “You will never be able to…(fill in your own blank here),” why do you entertain it and feed it chocolate chip cookies? He asked.
“I have no idea,” I replied.
As part of my black belt test back in 1992, I needed to come up with an original break of some sort. I had seen a Japanese instructor; I believe his name was Ninomya(?), break a baseball bat with his shin at one of the early Sabaki tournaments. So I decided that is what I wanted to learn to do too. There is a paper on file with MAMA that I wrote, regarding the specific training methods needed to accomplish this break. However the lesson above applies. You can do whatever you believe you can, and set in motion to achieve. Competing thoughts will come and knock on your door. And other people may even express their grave concern for your mental health, as my family did back then – LOL. But to learn how to be true to yourself and your own aspirations, that is a real prize! Mastery of movement and forms will grow at an accelerated rate, when you recognize all evolution arises from the mastery of one’s mind!
May you all fare well, on your own personal journey…