Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Who Would Have Thought?

There are some things we learn and take them as they are. Sometimes we don't see how it affects our everyday life and how it will shape our future. I have tried to teach myself how to spot these and be thankful for all I've learned, from school, family, martial arts, and my master.
I started to practice martial arts at the age of five. My inspiration was Bruce Lee himself. My dad started to show me his movies and i got a flyer from school and begged him to sign me up. Another inspiration is my master. I remember the first day i met him. It was also the first day of training. At first he seemed; intimidating, big, strong, yet wise and compassionate in his own way. I had a passion for my training and my master saw this, so he took me under his wing. I first noticed this the day he had me fight a blue belt when i was a yellow belt. I kept getting hurt and knocked down, but got up ever more ready to fight. I didn't have many skills at the time but showed heart and fighting spirit. That I would not be beaten, that i would not back down. My master called the fight naming the blue belt the victor. As i was getting ready to leave he stopped me and smiled, put his hand on my shoulder and broke out into a roaring laugh. I was young and didnt understand why he was laughing. He went to his own gear bag and pulled out a book. He walked over handed it to me and said "Keep it. Read it. Remember it." He smiled again and walked away.

I went home with the book. I didn't know what it said, only a few words and a picture of Bruce Lee on the cover. i tried reading it everyday, the words that were difficult for me to understand and read I asked my parents for help. Everyday I would read the book and train with my master. I began to understand why he gave me that book. It was Bruce Lee explaining his Philosophy in the martial art. I remembered the words and applied them to my training. At around ten my master saw that i was grasping these words of Bruce Lee and applying them to my training. He grew very proud of me and liked to have me fight with him or others in my class. I was a good fighter and couldn't be beaten by many at my own skill level. Around this time my master handed me another book. This one was smaller. It had an odd title with colorful characters on the cover looking like ninjas. I was puzzled but trusted him and read them. The Naruto comics he gave me I asked him for the next one every day till he had no more to give me.
Years passed, I am sixteen years old. One day after an all-day training session. The dojang was empty, sounds of training still echoing in my heart and mind. My master sat down next to me. We sat silently letting the sweat cool us off and remind us of a hard days work.
"Mijo," my master began to speak and I listened intently.
"No sir." I replied.
"I give you these things because they have lessons for the martial artist as well as the common person." I looked at him puzzled for I didn't understand howthe books applied to those who don't practice the martial arts.
"Every book tells a story but what the reader takes from it is different. What the reader takes can be vastly different or extremely similar." He takes a new book from his bag and posed to me a question.
"What have you learned from these Naruto comics I have given you?" I thought then spoke hesitantly.
"I have learned that even when times are bad or you are mad at people it is your duty to protect them. Whether that be emotionally, mentally or as a last resort physically. Some might say you are a fool for caring about those who mistreat you or don't know you exist but if a fool won't do it, who will? If protecting others is foolish then I am one of the biggest fools you will ever know." He sat quietly for a while. My confidence building in my answer. He then asked another question.
"What have you learned from me all these years?" Again I sat quietly thinking. in my mind i thought, he taught me to fight. I knew this was the answer he did not want and it wasn't right. To fight is to hurt others, so I kept thinking. then i had an epiphany. I told him calm and confidently.
"You taught me to defend. Defend others, family, friends, strangers, myself and the honor of our school." He stared at me his face cherry red. Looking at me a tear escaped his eye. He put his hand on my shoulder.
"I have taught you well mijo, but it seems it is time for you to make your own way. I am not saying I am no longer your master. I am saying that it is time for you to decide who you will be as my student, as a martial artist but most importantly, who you will be as a man." He stood up and gathered his things and walking away he tossed me another book. It was an encyclopedia of different martial arts. Looking through the book i never knew so many arts existed, I was in awe.
"Keep it. Read it. Remember it." He told me again like the same day he gave me the first book.
I credit my master with so much of who I am today. He helped me to be confident, outgoing, bold and courageous. He is like another father to me, always there and always willing to help me. He also helped me be a better student knowing self-discipline how to steady my mind and how to read difficult text very early in my academic career. Sometimes i look to my bookshelf and see the first book he gave me and I feel compelled to read it again. I reread that book often. It doesn't give me as much of a headache as when i was young but still a small one I'll admit.


  1. nice its awesome how your own master watched over and almost pretty much raised you. gave you the books the read and kept you in check. great sentence about how he taught you how to defend your family,friends,strangers and yourself and the honor of your school.

  2. Tom, you absolutely, positively must see the movie Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai if you haven't already. I think you'll relate strongly to one of the characters :-)

    This is really a great essay, Tom, and meets all the requirements of the assignment but one. You really need to proofread more carefully ;-)