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The Solitary Path

by Kyo Sa Nim Windom

Martial arts training is a fraternal order, like a host of others around the country and the world. The students and instructors in a school share a connection with one another, much like the kind that exists among family members. The school becomes like a home, where the students are able to interact with one another. We become accustomed to the people we see multiple times per week. I have developed a great sense of community with the students at Chi Institute, and my time here has fostered a number of true friendships.

Friendships among students can be a great aid to training. It is an excellent motivator to have someone else who always comes to class on the same days as oneself, because it creates a sense of accountability if even one day is missed. A friendly inquiry of, "Why weren't you in class yesterday? Is everything okay?" coming from a fellow student makes, "I didn't feel like it," seem a fairly poor excuse for not attending. This, in turn, makes it more likely to be able to work through the ever-present lure of the couch after a day at work and come to class.

This very friendship and connection, however, can work against a student when things go wrong. When a friend decides to quit training, this often removes a portion of one's motivation for coming to class on a regular basis. I have seen a number of people who have lost interest in classes because a person with whom they often came to class decided to quit. This descends into an unfortunate situation for both students, but especially for the one who decided to stop training due to the seeming lack of companionship. Quitting becomes an eventual necessity for some, due to moving, a new job, or other circumstances beyond the student's control. If there were ever a good reason to quit, though, this is not it.

During the time I have been training in Tang Soo Do, I have become quite attached to my art. Over the years, I have seen people start and seen people quit. When I began training, I was one of six White Belts. When I received my promotion to Green Belt, mine was the only Green Belt ordered that testing. I still remember the last remaining one of my starting group, other than myself, whom I never saw in class again after the day he received a stripe on his Orange Belt. This is living proof that, of people who begin training, only one percent make it to Black Belt. I sometimes wonder what happened to my former fellow White Belts after they quit training, and I even ran into one of them about a year ago. I was saddeded by my loss of my frequent training partners, but this did not dampen my spirit or my interest in my own training.

It is important for us to remember that, though we are members of a fraternal order, we follow a solitary path. We all train and follow Do, or the way, but while we live in the same world, we all have unique circumstances which partially determine what we do. While having a friend or training partner quit training can have a negative effect on one's interest in attending class frequently, there comes a time to put that effect in the past and continue training. If enough people do this, perhaps we can reverse the trend and have students come back to begin training again, because they see in their friends what they have been missing.

If the time comes that you must put your martial arts skills to use, either in combat or elsewhere in life, you will likely be alone, or in a group of people with few martial artists. Your fellow students will not be there to bring their expertise to your aid. Your ability to perform in that situation will depend on how well you have trained, and not on the actions of anyone else. Now is the time to focus on your own training, and your own improvement. Now is the time to choose to be a leader, not a follower, in your own life.

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