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From Superiority To Service

by George Mattson

Ray Hughes, Editor

The successful martial art schools of today look quite different from the schools of the 70’s.  The schools in those days were predominately managed by instructors who carried themselves with a high level of arrogance.   They felt a sense of superiority over their students.

 Today’s successful schools [those that have quality instruction, stability, quality students (both in character and skill), and have a student base of more than a handful of students] are managed differently.  Today’s successful instructors seem to lead from a position of service than superiority.

 I’m taking about the attitude of today’s successful owner or Chief Instructor.  These instructors have an attitude of giving to their clients without the need of being worshiped.   This is not done from positions of weakness or actions of subservience, but from a perspective of graciousness and humility while carrying themselves with confidence and strength.  They feel honored that people have chosen their school to enroll themselves or their child.  These instructors also want to give their students far more than karate knowledge.

 Back in the seventies most instructors were very egotistical, even boarding on narcissism.  They wanted students to be thankful they were even given the opportunity to train under them.  These instructors wanted to be treated like gods and not to be questioned.

 There were several reasons for this situation.  First was age.  The instructors of that time were very young.  Most were in their 20’s and 30’s. I don’t remember seeing an instructor over 40, though I’m sure there were a few.

 This alone caused many problems. The control of ego is just starting to be addressed by people in that age group. Put this with a clientele that places instructors on pedestals and you have a formula for disaster.

 On top of this, there were no older mentors working with these young (20 to 30 year old) instructors. They simply did not exist, at least in most places in the states. This contributed to the slower growth of ego maturity.  You have to also remember that a majority of the people who brought martial arts to the states were young themselves. These instructors were harsh from the military dojo environment they trained in.  Personal growth philosophy was not taught or even cared about, though it was superficially discussed.

Another contribution to this problem was the fact there were virtually no children and few women, just young men.  Social skills were not needed or displayed.

 Almost every successful school today has an older instructor of 50, 60 years of age or older.  These instructors also have many decades of martial arts instruction and have gone through the gantlet.  Age and experiences has helped these instructors

understand the human condition and the need to control “self”.  Many of these older instructors were those young instructors of the seventies. They have greatly grown from that time.

The successful schools today have so much less drama than their 1970’s counterparts. The older instructor can mentor their younger students with skills to control “self”. They are able to foresee problems and be proactive to solve them.  They also have more skills dealing with conflict. These instructors are truly better role models.

The combination of humility on the instructor’s part, wisdom from age and life experience, and social skills developed over time produces great instructors.

 We have more quality instructors than ever before, primarily because of the natural evolution of growth. Of course there is a lot of garbage out there, old instructors that don’t have a clue and young instructors that can manage a successful school; we all know this.

 In closing, there are many who believe that martial art’s quality is in decline.  I feel it is evolving like it always has.  And though there is an abundant of poor martial arts out there, I feel there is more quality for the public to choose from than at any time in history.  We just have to help the public find these quality schools.

 Until the next the thought, keep kicking and punching. Wisdom seems to come from it.

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