Where ever you may be in your life you have your knowledge, wisdom and past experience.
The word of God says that, “It’s better to give than to receive”. There are those who would argue that point. If they put forth effort they want to see some kind of return. If they sow it’s with the sole purpose of reaping at some future date. Unfortunately some of us feel that if an effort yields no benefit it is wasted.
I too am of this school of thought though once I explain my stance you may not think so. I am looking for benefits for my efforts but my rewards are less tangible. I teach martial arts and I do it with the purpose of making a profit. I don’t believe in shooting blanks. If I plant a seed I want to see it grow. If I make an investment I want to see returns. I demand success for my efforts. I want to see profit.
I have been teaching martial arts for a good portion of my life. It is one of my great passions. Only two things hold a higher priority in my life. Love is one. Love of God, family and country. Second is my passion for ministry. Still, in a sense, those several things are expressed in my art and the teaching of my art. Many of my family members are involved in the arts to some greater or lesser degree. I have and continue to teach men and women who serve our country through law enforcement and the military. My love of God and dedication to ministry finds expression through my martial arts since I use the martial arts as a means of ministering to those who won’t darken the doors of a church. I use it also to mentor young men and women. In that sense I can echo that old refrain that the martial arts are my life or at least a good portion of it.
When I teach a karate, kempo or aikijitsu class (more of a compilation of the three) I am attempting to teach more than a punch, kick, throw or joint lock. I am trying to instill life values that translate well beyond the battlefield and fulfill needs beyond the occasional self defense situation. I am trying to instill a sense of discipline, self worth, personal fulfillment, confidence and spirituality into my students. Self defense and combat effectiveness is a happy byproduct of those efforts. One may only have to face an enraged antagonist once or twice in a lifetime, if ever, but the need for those other afore mentioned traits are lifelong. You may be able to make it through life without knowing how to fight but it’s hard to make it without these other attributes.
Due to the lifelong affects of a work related accident and the subsequent surgeries that resulted I had pretty much considered myself retired from teaching. My inability to do many of the things that came so easy before made me feel inadequate as a teacher. I had pretty much resigned myself to an abbreviated life, watching from the sidelines as my fellow martial art brethren continued on. I had given up on training and teaching. In effect I had given up on life.
I had a couple of graduate degrees prior to my injuries and for something to do I took graduate courses online managing to obtain a couple of doctorate degrees in Biblical related subjects. My involvement in the arts at that juncture was relegated to philosophy, the occasional article and the pontificating of a supposed martial art grandmaster. Really, not so grand and not much of a master, whatever ranks and titles I carry. I felt pretty ineffectual. I had made self pity into an art form. If they gave black belt rank in woe is me-ism I would really had been a grandmaster. My story could have ended there. I could have withered away and dried up into an empty shell. God, however, had other plans for me.
I was lying around doing much of nothing accept simmering in my own juices. For the first time in my life I had allowed myself to get out of shape. A prolonged illness had taken me from a massive 230# (at 5’ 9”) to 157# of skin and bone. I was waiting to go home to my final reward. I was just wondering what was taking it so long. Patience has never been my strong suit. I’m into instant gratification. Long drawn out illnesses irritated the heck out of me and I had had about enough. Somehow my family talked me into leaving Tucson, my home of the past eight years, and returning to Chicago. I returned to the Windy City in the middle of a Chicago winter. That move probably saved my life. It definitely turned it around.
Somehow, after swearing that I would never darken the doors of a church again, I found myself involved in ministry again. I had pretty much burned out on church and church people but I found myself in a unique ministry in a troubled neighborhood. I was back with a passion. Eventually my ministerial involvement included teaching martial arts to disadvantaged children. I found myself volunteering my services in both the church and the dojo. I was preaching and teaching and wasn’t receiving a cent for either. Before I received a salary for pasturing and I was paid for teaching. Now I was doing both without pay and would you believe it? I’ve never felt richer in my life. Not only that but in my old age I’ve met the love of my life.
I am a full fledged minister and pastor and what was supposed to be a class of a hand full of students has exploded into a full sized class. On top of that I’m writing for one of the largest martial art periodicals and I have accrued several (paying) private students. Pretty good considering that I could hardly throw an effective punch and could barely kick above my knee a few months ago. I won’t be winning any master’s tournaments any time soon and my days of doing backwards, upside down, inside out flying kicks have come to an end but I’m a pretty convincing black belt again. More than that, I’m doing something positive with my years of experience.
I said earlier in this dissertation that I demanded returns for my investments. I still do but I never expected them to yield profits this rewarding. In my old age I’m a better instructor than I’ve ever been. My techniques aren’t as sharp and I’m not quite as graceful but I can probably still knock your hat around backwards. Look at me, still dangerous after all these years. After having given up on life I’m living life and loving it. In a word, life is good. God is good.
You may feel that you have little more to offer in your autumn years. Maybe you feel that you’ve given all you have to give. Age and time have rendered you null and void. Where ever you may be in your life you have your knowledge, wisdom and past experience. Yes we’re getting old. Heck, some of us have gotten there, but life isn’t over yet. If we are masters at all we are masters because of what we know, not because of what we can do. You have your knowledge. Ability wanes but no-one can take that away from you. Your knowledge is your legacy. Pass it on, my brethren.
God bless you, my martial art brethren. Train hard and go with God.
Rev. Dr. Donald Miskel