Unsung Heroes

Everyone was to be a Black belt and everyone wants to be at the head of the class, but what about the people at the front of the class; what got them there and what do they take on when they get there..?
I remember training when I was much younger (no laughing) as a white belt thinking any grade above me was the best place to be not thinking as you go through the grades you have more to learn not less. But at that time break falls and strikes was about my max to worry about, don’t land on your head and relax hand until impact!!
I was teaching at the tender age of 18 due to the lack of instructors in Ninjutsu. We started training groups where we would be taught by the senior kyu grade in that area due to black belts being few and far between. This made me grow up and take on responsibilities way beyond my age for the sake of the training to continue in my area.
I love the art of Ninjutsu, I would train anywhere to help me learn the Art, many a time I would take the overnight crippler bus to London (was called the Rapide but when you got off you felt crippled due to the lack of leg room) train on a course and then get back on the next one back giving the feeling of jetlag without leaving the country, just to learn something new.
As you progress in the Arts people start to associate you with your chosen art, for example I am Ninja john to some people, these people don’t seem to mind that it may be seen as offensive. Then a strange thing happens, somewhere between a kata and a kick you become a role model, agony aunt, referee, logistic organiser, chief cook and bottle washer; everything rolled into one.
Over my time as a martial arts instructor I have seen relationships form to love marriage and divorce, kids used as pawns in tit for tat games from ex-partners (this breaks my heart) couples that split up and want you as their friend only (don’t talk to him!!) wife beating/ husband beating, fraud, babies born and deaths. When you become this role model you have to listen like a priest and try not to judge, I am not saying it is easy, I have many a sleepless night thinking of what people have told me in confidence, hoping you have given the right advice to help the situation, your back belt does not prepare you for the tide wave of social responsibility.
How many times have you taken orders for gis, belts or hoodies and the supplier have let you down? Little Jonny comes in to find no gi!!!! The little sad face wear a tracksuit while everyone else is wearing a gi, the look of disapproval from their parents and the long drawn-out explanation about stock levels and six weeks waiting, falling on deaf ears.
Gradings are always the high and lows of the martial world, resulting in a witch trial type of court of who should have passed and who was better than them and did they deserve to get that belt with you being the middleman bringing out your inner politician, trying to find ways of building up spirits that have been downtrodden, keeping the ego in check for those that passed well and mopping up the middle ground that passed but need work in areas of weakness!
Teaching technique has become harder now, as there is so much information out here to judge you on; one lad trains then shows me the technique on YouTube to see if I do the same as the instructor on the web. If you are injured or unwell but make it to training but are unable to hold the pads due to your broken hand , the ‘what can I do instead’ look from the overly keen puncher that you are letting down due to your injury. 
Going on holiday has to be my favorite “”what will I do when you are not here” or when you painstakingly get cover for your classes with lesson plans and no-one comes because you are not there! 
Like sparring if they hit you hard or knock you out or submit you they will dine out on that for weeks and months but if you knock them out you are a bully (even when they are going 100pc to kill you!) and they will be leaving and you will be hearing from their ambulance chasers!!
Who would be a Martial Arts Instructor…? Me I would not miss it for the world
Until next time spare a thought for your coach!!

To find out more about The Advanced Fighting Centre visit: http://www.advancedfighting.co.uk/ or e-mail John Atkin at johnatkin24@btinternet.com

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