Most martial arts students, on some level or other, are ‘true believers’. They believe that their chosen art or instructor is ‘IT’ whatever ‘it’ means to them. It must be the best, of course… otherwise, they would be doing something else.
Sometimes it is naïve—can a six-year-old in a “Little Tigers” class really evaluate how good his training is?
The question of best can never be objective anyway. Best for what? There are world champions teaching MMA, or people with deep ties to ancient schools who are available in the west, or people who have survived extensive levels of violence. There are also people with incredible fitness training regimens or philosophies or spiritual awareness. And there are teachers who just make you feel great to be training. Which of those is ‘best’?
There is a qualitative difference I’m trying to narrow down, because it seems that there are two different groups of ‘true believers’. By True Believer, I mean people with at least a little of the fanatic in them, the ones who don’t see it as just a hobby but part of their identity. Cross that with the belief that whatever they do is the ‘best’. That’s what I mean.
Most of the time when I see this I’m not impressed. It seems tribal and close-minded. When (what I consider) dysfunctional TBs get presented with something new, something outside their experience, they close their eyes and stick fingers in their ears. They put extensive effort into explaining why they don’t need to listen to that source.
That’s a big clue there—if you ever find yourself discounting the source instead of the arguments, you are in your emotional brain. That is primate tribal thinking.
Dysfunctional TB’s get defensive.
There are some extraordinarily cool schools that also are pure True Believers. Emerald City Judo up Seattle way comes to mind. Bob Wittauer runs a good dojo. They work hard and they play hard and it feels like a big family. When you are invited in as an outsider, it is with open arms. Even if what you do is not what they do, even if what you teach contradicts things that they believe in.
The last weekend spent with Fit and Fearless Krav Maga in Austin felt the same way. They train hard. Bruises are daily, bleeding is pretty common too, and my god they sweat. (Blood, sweat and tears makes for a perfect training session, IMO). They are unabashed that what they have is the best… and they can simultaneously work, with open minds and hearts, to make it better.
F&F had the same family feel as Emerald City, or that Mark Moy and Scott Dinger bring to their training. They all produce loyal students—who are fierce.
I made a comment about “lions that leave rabbit tracks” in an earlier post. I can think of some excellent practitioners who seem to be thoughtful and intelligent teachers, but who have never produced students that excelled them. And I can think of some who only produced people who were afraid to win, more timid than when they started.
Family feeling with hard work? Instructors who are not merely competent and demanding but also loving? An expectation that the next generation will be the evolution, that they are not only expected to carry the torch but to carry it higher and farther? Is that all the difference? Is there more? What?