Friday, July 29, 2011

Knowing When Not to Persevere

My students have really taken a liking to our “Don’t Quit” motto—even the Tiny Texans.

Case in point:

Yesterday, 5-year-old Zephyr had a gnarly stomach virus. He felt awful, but at the same time, he was sad about having to miss Taekwondo class.

So he shored up all the indomitable fighting spirit he had and declared to his mother: “I’m in control of my body and won’t throw up in class.”

Poor little thing! I was so touched that he was trying to practice the Taekwondo tenets of perseverance—and self-control.

Mean Mommy made him stay home anyway. (Smart mommy, if you asked me.)

For his willingness to come to class even though he didn’t feel well, though, Zephyr will get a special “self-care” stripe when he returns on Tuesday.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Point of Gratitude

During the summer, most martial arts schools struggle to make ends meet because enrollment dips. Students and their families go on grand Grand Canyon vacations and set their GPS destinations for Disney World and a dozen other theme parks. Today, I’m astounded when I see the enrollment numbers for the East Communities YMCA’s Taekwondo classes. We are not dipping in enrollment. On the contrary. There are waiting lists for two of the four classes I teach.

Chalk up one gratitude point.

Last year, I struggled to attract a diverse crowd to my dojang. Today, I’m grateful for the opportunity to inspire and empower students of all races, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds. I’m using what little Spanish I know every day. Funny, all I had to do was move my program a few miles east of IH-35.

Chalk up another gratitude point.

For five years, I struggled to find enough time to do all the things—besides teaching—necessary to keep a martial arts school running. Today, I’m grateful that someone else collects tuition; enrolls new students; sets up bank draft payments; pays the rent and utility bills; handles all the marketing and advertising; cleans the bathrooms, dressing rooms, and lobbies; cleans oily fingerprint smudges off the wall-to-wall mirrors; keeps the restroom stocked with toilet paper; replaces empty water dispensers; opens and locks up the building; cuts the lawn; sprays for mosquitoes; takes care of any minor flooding issues; and makes coffee for visitors.

Chalk up another big, bad gratitude point there, buddy.

But today, I’m exceptionally grateful for a little thing that’s made a big difference in everyone’s training. Tao of Texas Martial Arts Institute's original location was an open-air dojang. (Yes, I know. Crazy.) Every summer, I allowed students to wear school T-shirts from Memorial Day to Labor Day (or the first cold front). But let’s face it, people: no matter how many ceiling and oscillating fans you have going, between May and September in Texas, it’s incredibly, unmercifully, diabolically HOT. I had to constantly remind students to drink plenty of water. I had to disclose not-so-pleasant examples of whether their bodies were hydrated. ("If your pee is yellow, you're not drinking enough water. If it's clear, you're good to go.") I had to always be on the lookout for faces that turned dull and ashen. We never had anyone become ill because of the heat, but it took a physical and mental toll. For example, during black belt tests, candidates not only were concerned about performing well, but they also worried about hydrating enough the day before and day of the test. The joke was that if you had a "Barbie bladder" and woke up every hour the night before the test to go pee, then you were going to be O.K.

So today, I’m grateful for one big advantage of moving to the YMCA: They have AIR CONDITIONING.

Now, I know that one day very soon one of my longtime students will come up to me and complain that it’s hot and they’re sweating (even though perspiration is obviously one of the things you can expect to happen when you exercise). And on that day, I’ll be nice. Very nice. I’ll just look at them with all the seriousness of Yoda and say, “Take our class outside like at the old dojang, should we?”

To which they’ll say with a flat, ashen face, “Oh, uh ... no, ma'am,” and get back in line with a new perspective.