Friday, June 3, 2011

Finding your passion

I have always been drawn to Martial Arts from the time I was very little. I asked my parents to put me in Karate when I was in elementary school. I made it to yellow belt, but then due to some bad business practices the school was closed down. We didn't really have the money to transfer me somewhere else, so I had to quit until I was old enough to get a job and pay for my own training. I trained with Nick Guinn at Guinn Martial Arts while I was in high school, and I enjoyed his class immensely. At the time, I had no idea how lucky I was to be studying with him. Since high school I have studied at a few different dojos and under different instructors. It was never the same. I know all places are different, but I always had the feeling there was something fundamental missing from the instruction.

Once I graduated college I really wanted to get back to Martial Arts seriously, not just take a class here or there for a few weeks at a time. Since I was no longer in the same state as Guinn Martial Arts, I couldn't go back to that, and I hadn't been happy with the dojos I had selected thus far. (Don't get me wrong, Nippon-kan was actually really cool and very very traditional, which I LOVED, but I think I struggled to fit into an Aikido environment after having studied Aikijutsu the way I did in high school.) So, I turned to the one person I knew who actually knew what they were talking about and who I also trusted: Mr. Guinn. He gave me some excellent advice on selecting a school, (which, now that I think about it, I may write up in another post), and some style suggestions, etc. (If you're interested, you can find his blog here)

We'd been in touch off and on over the years, but started talking regularly... 8 months ago or more. In addition to advice for picking a school, he offered some good book titles if I was interested. I started reading and I was hooked. Not that I wasn't before, but it really added fuel to the fire.

I have had doubts about my choice of profession for a while now. Its not that I don't LIKE Graphic Design, but it doesn't make me want to jump out bed in the morning either. Since I started working out with a personal trainer in January, I have been strongly considering trying to take evening classes and get a certification to do that.

Through some very lucky timing of events, namely my brother's college orientation which I tagged along for, I was able to spend last weekend training with Nick back in Oklahoma. We're not talking like, an hour or two, or just a private lesson. It was 20+ hours of sparring, training, exercises, note taking, and really good discussions over the course of part of a Friday, a Saturday, and part of a Sunday.

It was... AMAZING.

If ever there was one in my life, I feel like I have found my calling. This is my passion. My bliss. I feel like I've always wanted to help others, and I have a ton of energy, and this is how I can wrap everything I love together. I can now say with a degree of certainty that I want to make a life out of martial arts and fitness. I have always returned to Martial Arts as often as possible throughout my life, I just never considered the fact that I could actually make a living out of it. Now, thats all I want to figure out how to do.

I cannot even put into words how excited I get when I get to learn something new, or its time to head to the dojo, or I go to the park to practice on my own. I want to share my passion with anyone and everyone! I want to help people feel good about themselves, I want to help them gain confidence, I want to help them learn to defend themselves and their loved ones, I want to help them get in shape, etc. I want to make a life out of being active, excited, getting other excited, teaching, learning, all of it!

People settle for what is safe, what is familiar or what is comfortable, safe, even if they are unhappy. The thought of that scares the shit out of me. I don't want to look around in 10 years, or 20 years and think "Where the hell has my life gone? What have I accomplished? Why am I unhappy?" Even if I am poor and living in a tiny studio apartment somewhere with only three sets of clothes and my martial arts Gi, I'd pick that over settling for the mundane and misery, any day.

At my college graduation the president of our school said, quoting from some author (I can't remember his name) "Follow your Bliss." That has stuck with me. The author was saying As long as you follow your bliss you will be happy and successful, because you're the only one who measures your success. And if you are happy and positive, the trend sticks and doors will open for you. So even if its difficult at first, or even the whole time, I'm pretty sure this is the life I want to choose.

I have no idea where to start, or how I'm going to make it happen, but I will find a way.

Since you have to at least have SOME *coughBLACKBELTcough* experience in the martial arts before you can teach, I think I will work towards things like getting certified to be a personal trainer, learning about anatomy, kinesiology, nutrition, leadership skills, etc while I am working towards becoming proficient enough in the Martial Arts to be able to teach.

That way, not only will I have a good grasp on whatever martial art I am teaching, but I will be able to understand how the human body works and supply my students with vital health/fitness and nutrition information as well. I don't see a lot of dojos working to supply their kind of students with that sort of information. It seems like martial arts is something you do in the dojo and forget about when you leave, you go home, eat pizza, drink some beer, kick back and play video games. And there is nothing wrong with that, but its not my life style. I want to be the very best martial artist that I can be. And I want my students to be the best that they can and want to be. So any way that I can help them with that is good news for me.

Its a start. Right now its more a dream than anything. But I will make it happen.


Get out there and find your bliss people. Make it yours. Do what you love. Don't settle. 

~ a very ecstatic Samurai Girl Sahara 


  1. Interestingly, the origin of that phrase ("follow your bliss") is one of my favorite theorists, Joseph Campbell.

    Good on you, though, for making this decision.

  2. OH MY GOSH! Thank you! I've actually had him recommended to me by one of my humanities teachers, now I REALLY want to read his stuff. Thank you very, very much! :D

  3. This is the quote that was spoken at my graduation:

    "If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are—if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time."

    That is EXACTLY how I feel, like this path has been there all along, just quietly waiting for me to stumble upon it and realize that this is the way I ought to be going, this is where I SHOULD be.

  4. Once martial arts training gets hold of you, it's like gravity: you can get away from it for a while, but it always draws you back.

  5. That is great. I will be happy to advise you every step of the way, if I can. As I am not running the most successful martial arts school in the world perhaps you will one day become my teacher. I look forward to that...

    I know I have given you a ton of material to go over but another one from Mr. Miller and some others. Learn how to sell. Sounds bad in some light but it is a valuable skill to know, no matter that line of work we are in...

    I look forward to hearing more about your progress.

  6. You said, "I have no idea where to start, or how I'm going to make it happen, but I will find a way."

    In follow up paragraphs you give some examples of a good start.

    There are some excellent books on martial arts teaching too.

    One book in particular is "The Book of Martial Power." by Steven J. Perlman. Don't be fooled by the title as it provides principles that transcend any style etc. which I find critical in explaining martial arts.

    Good luck, you have the best attitude for this process. One more piece of advice, do all the ground work and training long before you try to teach then use this Guinn Sensei as your source for mentoring, you have a great relationship for it from what you posted.

  7. Book authors to look into:

    Rory Miller, Marc MacYoung, Kris Wilder, Lawrence Kane, Stephen J. Pearlman ...

  8. Ops, forgot, Dave Lowry who has a great book about karate as well as many other "koryu" systems, etc.

  9. Rick - I couldn't agree with you more.

    Nick - Plans. They are in motion.

    Charles - I am making plans to move back and study with Sensei Nick. I have no intention of teaching for at least another two years or more. I have read some of those authors already, Meditations on Violence, Way to Black Belt, Way of Kata. I think most of them are on a list that Sensei Nick sent me back in January. I am working my way through the list. Thank you for the advice/support/feedback!

  10. Awesome, you will do well ... I will wait to hear on your blog when you open your first training facility :-)

  11. Haha, Thanks! It'll be a couple years. In the mean time I will be sure to post about my experiences as an uchideshi and all the neat things I learn along the way.

  12. I am SO proud of you for realizing your dream and taking the steps necessary for chasing it. (After is a person supposed to 'chase' their dream if they never take 'steps' to do so?) I think you are about to embark on a journey that will not always be easy, but will make your soul happy, and that's the best kind of journey to be on. Your eagerness to grab ahold of your dream just gives me more inspiration to continue the journey I've begun to grab ahold of mine. May we both be successful in what we seek!

  13. On to practical matters: making a living. Being a martial arts instructor is a tough way to make a living.

    I know one aikido teacher who came up with a pretty cleaver idea. He became a fireman. He works maybe 7 to 10 days a month (but he’s on for 24 hours when he works) and has the rest of his time for himself. He gets paid a decent salary, has great benefits and a pension.

    Because he’s secure financially, the bar is set much lower for what his school has to produce in order to keep it open. As long as his students tuition can cover the rent and utilities, he’s in the black.

    When he’s working, one of his senior students supervises the classes where they concentrate on their upcoming testing techniques.

  14. Mer Melody - Thanks! We'll keep each other inspired!

    Rick - Good advice. Thank you. Sensei Nick has told me that it is very difficult to make a living as an instructor as well. I am planning on getting/maintaining a job while I'm learning and while I teach. I have several skills that I can fall back on. Even if I am able to move into teaching full time, I can do freelance Graphic Design and other things like that to supplement my income. I have been doing my best to think about the whole picture and the long term. Thank you again for the advice. ^.^ Its always welcome!