When I was a kid growing up on the farm in the early to mid- sixties, the community families met once a month in an old one-room schoolhouse to discuss projects and civic events. Grange was the organization that most all area farmers belonged to, so it became a traditional gathering place for everyone to get "caught up", especially if they weren't avid church congregants.
As the old folks (our parents) would sit in the larger part of the building and discuss whatever it was that old folks discussed, one parental volunteer would be scheduled each month to keep all of us kids occupied. If it was too cold to go outside, we'd meet in an extended classroom, have our refreshments and be told to be quiet.
If we could go outside, the games were limitless. The brave ones would usually wind up running and hiding in the ditches or see how far they could go till the parent yelled at them to get back while the little ones would stay in the glow of the yard light and play on the old rusty playground equipment.
I'll never forget the night it was announced we'd have special entertainment and we'd all have to stay on the porch, sit and be still. After getting us all rounded up and seated, Dick and Don got out of their parked car and came to the concrete slab where we were all sitting, dressed in the strangest garb I had ever seen.
Dick and Don were two teenage brothers who lived directly across the cow pasture from my house, about half a mile as the crow flies. (How country is THAT?) Their folks at the time were the directors of the local Grange so they pretty much had to be there, but this time was different than all the many meetings before. They came walking up to their soon-to-be audience wearing these strange white pajamas, each one carrying an armload of boards and bricks.
In 1964, we'd never heard the word "karate". We'd never seen a gi, let alone anyone wearing one and we'd certainly never seen the superhuman feats we were about to witness. But for the next twenty minutes or so, we saw splinters flying, boards snapping, bricks being pulverized, and these funny yells and screams that scared the hell out of every wide-eyed kid watching this stuff. I was totally mesmerized, and the rest is history.
That was over half a century ago, and the legacy those two eccentric teenage farmboys left in my mind will be with me for the rest of my life. The night I watched those two, something clicked in me like nothing I'd ever experienced before and admittedly, it's still clicking. There's a lot of water under that bridge, but the ripple effects of that one mysterious night has been felt not only across that community, but across the state, the nation, and humbly, to a degree, internationally.
What's my point?
The point is we never know the full extent of impact we have in the hearts and minds of the people we interact with, let alone our students and peers. Too often, the ones most highly regarded are those natural athletes who make US look good with their gymnastic-style abilities and their Hollywood- like prowess and showmanship. No doubt, they've worked hard for their endeavors, but I've been in this too long and know that many of those models of perfection would still get their butts kicked in a real-world altercation.
In the meantime, the ones who are easily disregarded, the ones whose talents aren't so obvious, will ultimately be, in my estimation, the ones who will be impacted the most and will garner the most benefit from their martial arts training if they stick with it.
If you're an instructor, you're not only being mimicked, you're being studied. If you're a student, let life around you be better because of the disciplines you're hopefully learning.
You never know who's watching you wide-eyed.
Shihan Ellis Weber
Founder and Senior instructor
Eaglewings Kyokushin karate