It was 1996 when I first began training in the martial arts. At the age of 9 I wasn’t thinking about boosting my level of confidence, reinforcing self-discipline or developing my focus. Fortunately, my parents were; so while my goal was to kick butt and learn the flashy kicks I saw on TV during “Power Rangers,” their foresight allowed them to see the training I was undertaking as an investment.
Two years earlier, my parents had moved from St. Petersburg, Russia to New York City in hopes of a better life, less for themselves and more for me. These were not people who did things on a whim, who had resources that they could afford to waste.
What mattered to them was taking an active and conscious role in my development.
Because of that investment, I have spent the past 17 years inside of the martial arts (almost all of which were under the tutelage of Shihan Gene Dunn). There were thrills and defeats, mastery and monotony. It was almost never easy and at times verged on tedium – a handful of times I almost gave it up for good.
I went through different life stages: elementary school, middle school, and college. I went through all the reasons kids want to quit anything: wanting more time with my friends, feeling overwhelmed at school, being bored.
But through it all there was one constant: my parents urging me to continue, to learn a skill, to have something that could be my own. “What about being a black belt? How about second degree? How old will you be when you get to test for third degree? When can you get to fourth degree by?”
Sometimes it was a gentle nudge, other times a conversation and occasionally a full-blown, all-out fight. Regardless, they managed to keep me from going off track and losing the thread; even though there were times when it probably would have been easier (and definitely cheaper!) to have just let me give up.
What I couldn’t verbalize or comprehend at the time was that these feelings were the natural stages of any kind of experience – that these were the peaks, valleys and plateaus that we caution our own students and families about.
What I can say for certain is that it was my parents’ unwavering commitment that led me past many of the pitfalls that my peers could not avoid. I never quit. And it was worth it. So Mom, Dad, thank you for not being afraid of being parents, even when I didn’t make it easy.