Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fostering Friendships Through Training: The Legacy Left by Tim & Jo

Recently, Tim and Joanne two of my students moved away from Canada to set up a new life for themselves in Australia. They had only been training at my dojo for 5 months, having achieved the rank of yellow belt, but in that time, they left their mark and created strong bonds through the training they did with our students and teachers.

The kind of bonds Tim and Jo created are great for development in the martial arts. They help motivate you in your training and make it easier to come to class more often, even on days when you're feeling lazy. They enhance your technical development because you feel more comfortable trying new, potentially more dangerous moves due to the high level of trust. And overall, training is just more fun when you're on the same page as the students you work with and everyone supports and encourages each others' development.

Bonds like these are often created over much longer periods of time, but Tim and Jo managed to create them in the short time they were with us. It is well worth it for anyone training in the martial arts to develop these kinds of bonds. And for dojo owners, it's great for the health of your club to encourage your students to do so.

Here's how they did it:

Friendly, Approachable Demeanor.

Whenever there were new students coming in to the dojo, Tim and Jo always introduced themselves, not necessarily waiting until they were partnered up with them to do so. They would offer words of encouragement, telling their own stories of how difficult it seemed for them when they first started, but how it gets easier. They also took an honest interest in getting to know the people they trained with.

Open Training.
Tim and Jo were regular participants during open mat time at our dojo. We offer open training 30 minutes before every class and every other Sunday for 1.5 hours. They trained hard during those periods, eager to learn a variety of skills. But, because of the casual nature of open training, they were able to get to know the people they trained with more easily than they could have during regular classes.

Free Grappling/Sparring (with the right attitude).
Free grappling and sparring require a high level of trust to get the most out of it. When you and your partner trust each other, you are more easily able to push yourselves without risking injury. This is as opposed to when there is too much ego and free grappling/sparring becomes little more than a pissing contest in which neither partner really learns much because they're too busy trying not to lose to "the other guy." Tim and Jo, on the other hand, always took a developmental approach to free grappling/sparring. They would try to work on their technique as they grappled and sparred and supported their partners' attempts to do so as well. It wasn't about winning or losing but learning. You could tell by the broad smiles on their faces, even after being tapped out.

On Tim and Jo's last day, we all went out to a pub after class to give them a send-off party. We all wished them well before they flew off to go down under. The next class after they were gone, a few students commented to me how it seemed like there was a hole left by their absence. And there is. But even more noticeable is the legacy that they left behind. Because of their dedication to doing early, and even sometimes late, training I now see more students on the mat during open training times, grappling, and laughing, and growing.

Tim and Jo: WE MISS YOU!

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