All martial arts students should train for reality. Sensei and Masters can teach some of the competitive aspects of the arts, but keep in mind it is a martial art.
A real parent is secure in his position and his relationship with his children. He feels no need to compete with them. He doesn’t envy them their youth. It is his wish to see his children do better than he did; to be more successful, accomplish more and to be better. Each generation should be a step upward.
When my biological children were young I had formal schools. They were raised in the dojo for all practical purposes. I didn’t insist that they make the martial arts central in their lives or that they reach black belt level but I did insist that they would be able to defend themselves in the streets. They had to have a secure grasp of the basics and be proficient at self defense. I insisted on that level of knowledge and ability.
Unfortunately only one of my children stayed with the arts long enough to reach Black Belt. I am now teaching my grandchildren and the hand full of protégés that follow my vision. They are my children in the arts. I have trained quite a number of students in the various arts that I’ve taught over the years but only a handful have been allowed into my inner circle. Those are my ushi dashi(s), my close door students. They are the ones that will carry the art after I am gone. I am approaching sixty seven years of age and I’m in my fifty seventh year of involvement in the martial arts. I teach the occasional class or seminar and instruct my private students but I no longer have a school. At this hallowed age I am more involved in ministry than the teaching of the arts. What I do in the arts involves research and writing, managing the organizations I head, and advising and serving as a council member on a few others. I do more teaching through articles than through hands on instruction. At this late date I live vicariously through the accomplishment and advancement of my children; my personal students in the arts.
A martial artist is measured by his own knowledge and ability but an instructor is measured by the quality of his students. I was never big on tournaments. I fought only what was required to make rank. I was more interested in the application of the arts and how their teaching translated to self defense or combat than with competition. When I was coming up there was no MMA. We fought full contact in the old World Karate Federation and in the early BDFS. There was no safety equipment allowed or available. We trained for combat. I followed a handful of the hardcore instructors and students and fought in some of the illegal pit matches that were held during the day. I was more interested in real world combatives than the esoteric aspects of the martial arts. Even till this day that is still somewhat the case. My focus is on the martial aspects of the martial arts. I don’t deny the spiritual or character building aspects of the art but it has never been my primary function. I teach spirituality through mentoring and ministry.
I was pretty combative when I was young. That was common place in the neighborhoods I grew up in. The inner city of any major city is a rough place and Chicago is rougher than most. Even in that environment I was more aggressive and confrontational than most of my peers. I wasn’t shy about scrapping. I would and did fight. Over the years I’ve mellowed out. That had to do with my spiritual awakening but much of it was because of my involvement in the arts.
I had occasion to prove my martial art training both in the streets and in combat while in the military. I know that what I teach is effective in combat. Teaching the type of students that I teach it has to. When it comes down to the wire that is the acid test of any martial art or of a martial artist. Take the martial out of the martial art and you have nothing more than ballet. Nice to look at but ineffective where it matters most. Since I got out of the military I can count the physical altercations I’ve had on the thumbs of one hand. Actually there were more instances than that but I work hard to avoid any kind of physical altercation. I now measure the effectiveness of my art by my students.
Many of my students work in high risk professions. I have taught more than a few law enforcement officers, prison guards, personal security specialists and mental health techs. The training that they have received has served them well and on occasional has made the difference between safety and serious injury or death. I can’t count the heartfelt acknowledgement and appreciation that I have gotten from students who used their training in threatening situations. The thanks that I get from those students give me validation of my efforts. They are my mark of success.
I have turned out a couple of fighting champions in my lengthy career. However there were never enough of those to mark me as a trainer of competition champions. Their success probably had more to do with their own innate ability than my training in that area. I train martial arts students for reality, for combat, but they were able to translate their training into competition. As proud of them as I am I can’t take credit for their success. If on the other hand they deal effectively with a violent confrontation on the streets I will take some credit for that. I trained them and they were trained for that type of thing.
These days I am the Head of Family of the IFAA Black Dragon Fighting Society, the senior Grandmaster of the Black Lotus Martial Art Association and the pastor and senior advisor of Kenpo Karate Family International. I also sit on the board or the masters councils of several other organizations. I am a chaplain through the Shinja Martial Art University, I’m a licensed and ordained minister and pastor and I’m an adjunct professor at a major university in the Chicago area. Obviously my focus has changed. The martial arts are still a major part of my life but I live much of that life vicariously through my students and membership. Their success is my success. They are my living legacy.
I admonish the sensei and masters out there to train their students for reality. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t teach some of the competitive aspects of the arts, but keep in mind it is a martial art.
God bless you, my brethren. Train hard and go with God.
Rev. Dr. Donald Miskel Head of Family, IFAA BDFS Sr. Grandmaster, BLMAA