(Side note: for those wondering, yes, I've thought about doing a Mother's Day post too, but neither my mother nor my stepmother had the same influence on my martial arts career as my father did. So yeah, in this case, he gets first dibs. Sorry moms.)
I'm not sure I ever would have done the martial arts if it wasn't for my father. He had been a wrestler and Judo player in college (and a bit after, I think). Like all little boys, I wrestled with my dad, but I had the (somewhat) unique experience of getting choked and armbarred occasionally. My father was the first person who I ever saw do the armbar that the Gracie's made famous in their UFC matches years later.
Speaking of the Gracies and the UFC; there was no Judo school in Syracuse (I desperately wanted to, and still desperately want to, study that art). The first thing I found was a Tae Kwon Do class at the local fitness center. I remember, at twelve years old, my father looking at what I was learning and saying "I don't know. It looks pretty, but what would you do if some just grabbed your leg and wrestled you to the ground?"
My dad was a bit ahead of his time, apparently.
My dad supported me throughout the various phases of my martial arts training. He encouraged me, even though I know that at times, he thought I was going a bit far with this stuff. He supported me when I decided to move home to Syracuse after college to train with a man who turned out to be a fraud and an immoral human being. He supported me when I decided to go check out Tony Blauer and his work. He even made a trip to New York City for my one amateur Muay Thai fight. I'm not sure I would have made it to where I am in the arts without his support. In fact, I'm quite sure I wouldn't have.
But beyond that, my dad imparted a lot of wisdom that guided, and continues to guide my training. My dad's habit of, and insistence on, critical thinking forced a lot of the introspection that allowed me to evolve and move forward. His belief that "if you are going to do something, do it right" was the guiding principle that kept me going back to training, that prevented me from being satisfied with being "good enough." There isn't "good enough."
Of course, as he also reminded me, the perfect is the enemy of the good.
As a new father, I find myself appreciating his support and guidance in a new way. Because now, I think, I begin to understand how hard that support must have been sometimes. I know that some of the choices that I made with my career are outside the societal norm (to say the least). Even the choice to say home with my son, and work my business around him for the next few years is one that defies convention. I'm sure there are families where some or none of this seems odd, but, well, nice Jewish boys don't usually grow up to be martial arts coaches. I know that there are choices I made that my father probably doesn't, or didn't agree with. He supported me anyway, and I'm just starting to understand what a wonderful and possibly difficult thing he did by doing that. Hell, I question the choices myself sometimes.
Of course, the other funny thing about being a father; I look at my son now, and I no longer question the choices. Had I done anything else, I would not have him, and he is perfect. Whatever mistakes I have made, I have my son. How wrong could I have been?
Before I go, let me share a few of the pieces of wisdom I've gotten from my father that guided my training. Some of them I already shared. Some I've heard in other places, but I got them from my dad first.
- If you're going to do something, do it right.
- The perfect is the enemy of the good.
- Grappling works :-)
- If something doesn't make sense, figure it out. Question.
- Learn more.
- Know when to walk away.
- And when not to.