Confidence…Who we present, and how we really feel

I recommend you read this remarkably honest post, which might not – at first glance – appear to have much to do with martial arts, but trust me, if you’re a teacher (right at the start of your career or well into it) you have almost certainly felt the same way at some point.
A terrific instructor, called Rick Fey, who studied and taught under the great Dan Inosanto, spoke about much the same thing at one of his seminars 20 years ago now. He was talking about how martial arts teachers often make references to how they (the ‘old-timers’) used to do it – it being anything at all the instructor was trying to get across to his audience. Rick confessed, “Of course, you know who this ‘they’ are, don’t you? They’re us, you and me.”
You see, credibility in the martial arts really derives from lineage – who was your teacher, who was your teacher’s teacher, and so on. Funnily enough I was talking about this (both the sense of ‘faking it’ and the underlying issue of confidence) to my very talented niece, Sarah just yesterday evening.  Having recently returned from the Wally Jay Memorial Convention – really a celebration of the great man’s life and work, much of which was the way in which he touched and empowered so many others, and having received much positive feedback from teaching there, I could feel myself falling back into old habits that kick in after the immediate post-seminar high.

Those habits lead you to conclude that when people seek you out afterwards just to compliment you on what or how you taught, that they must simply ‘being polite’. The truth is that many of the really talented and skilful teachers there probably feel the same way – sooner or later someone is bound to spot that they really shouldn’t have that 8th, 9th, 10th Dan belt on!
Martial arts training can – and generally does – raise self-esteem, but when you’re trying equally hard not to become arrogant, it can be hard to find a balance, and normal human insecurity kicks in.
The whole issue of rank complicates this in the arts – not that different from Faith’s experience of having to inhabit the role of the ‘Editor’ – and we sometimes spend so much time trying to fulfil others’ expectations of who that rank makes us, and indeed hallucinating those expectations in the first place, that we forget to be our own authentic, unique selves.
If we (I and you all out there reading this – assuming anyone is!) can just remember that, and present ourselves and our work openly, maybe then we can trust the sincerity of the feedback we receive.  Just a thought…

When I worked as a magazine editor, I had a great friendship with our publisher.  Her name was (and still is, actually) Brenda. She was in her mid-40s and one of those women who just oozes confidence.  She had a wicked sense of humor, a commanding presence, and a really, really nice shoe collection.  She’d done very well for herself –  an editor by 26 (like me), a decades-long career in journalism, with a knowledge of the industry that made me want to sit at her feet and soak up everything she knew.  She was one of those people who knows how to get what she wants by treating people well, but also has an ever-so-slightly intimidating edge – just the right amount to keep people from messing with her.

Anyway, I was sitting in Brenda’s office one day, having a discussion about an upcoming issue of the magazine, and…

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About themartialartsuniversity

In daily training in the martial arts for the last 53 years; teaching almost daily for 43 years. Hold teaching ranks in 27 martial arts, Master ranked in 4 arts, Headmaster of 3 systems, the Founder of 2 arts, and the co-Founder of 2 others. Has been the official Technical Advisor to Profs. Wally and Leon Jay of Small Circle Ju-jitsu since the 1990's. Assistant Headmaster of Small Circle Ju-jitsu and the co-founder and joint Headmaster of Small Circle Concepts with Prof. Leon Jay. Has three Bachelor degrees and a Masters Degree in History. Experienced writer - published or featured in all of the UK martial arts magazines and in Inside Kung Fu in US, as well as: Esquire; She; Elle; Woman's Journal; Health and Fitness; Zest; Marie Claire and The Independent (UK national daily newspaper). Has been featured on BBC and ITV news programmes as expert on weapons defence and usage in relation to law enforcement issues. Former CPO (Bodyguard), and still active as a Bodyguard trainer.
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