Everything I Know
About Martial Arts
I Learned From The Wizard of Oz
By Master Mike Bogdanski - 8th Dan
Quest Martial Arts, Putnam, CT
After having taught martial
arts for decades I always try to give the first class a fun, simple
and achievable lesson that teaches one punch, one block and one
kick. I believe our program is fundamental in teaching mental and
emotional skills too, tying in the mind, body and spirit concepts of
moo do (martial way).
In the movie "The Wizard Of Oz" (original) Dorothy lands in Oz and
of course wants to return home. She gets advice from the munchkins
to follow the yellow brick road and find the wizard who has all the
answers to her problem. Soon we find out it is the journey, not the
destination that helps her realizes the true answers.
Dorothy, along with her dog
Toto meets their first new friend, the scarecrow. He is in a
quandary and can't figure things out because he has no brain.
Dorothy convinces the scarecrow to join her on the trek to see the
wizard in hope of getting him a brain. The lacking of a brain in
turn teaches us that we need to find a good school and good teacher
because we are seeking knowledge. Some students want to look cool
and learn the kicks, some want the muscles, and many want the
powerful personality and demeanor of a Black Belt. Like Dorothy, the
martial arts student does not always realize yet what they really
need or want and look to the wisdom of the teachers in the path we
call "Do"- the way. New members truly come in as white belts, the "tabula
rasa" (blank slate). It is up to us to point out the attributes they
gain on the journey.
Down the yellow brick road
she travels and we meet friend number two, the tin man. He is frozen
with rust, totally immobile and barely able to make sound. With a
little lubrication he is able to tell us his story. He was
bewitched, rebuilt as a tin man but missing an essential piece, a
heart. He was unable to have any feelings and he needs a heart. In
the story he is the most tender and emotional of the trio. We as
teachers and seniors to our junior students must have a tender heart
to nurture students along. Great teachers communicate emotionally
and from the heart, and hope to instill a love of martial arts to
their students. It is always a sad day for me when a student tells
us they are quitting. One of my favorite stories of having a good
heart is about adoption. A teacher is talking about the concept of
adoption and then has the children explain what they thought it
meant. From one student to another they all had slightly different
versions of understanding and had many questions. Finally, one
little girl put it well. "Adoption is when a baby goes from the
tummy of one Mom, to the heart of another." If that one sentence
doesn't hit you directly in the heart, nothing will. We talk about
fighters having heart but I think teachers that have the patience
and love to teach any beginner has a special heart to help everyone
along with the many failures beginners experience. How many times do
we tell beginners, no - the other foot, no - the right hand, no -the
other right hand!
When I teach introductory
classes I like to teach the concept of courage to new students. Many
children, teens and adults come in with courage already. You need a
little courage and humility in starting a karate class. Many
students come in shy, apprehensive and doubtful that the experience
will be for them but they show up wondering, what can I learn?
Children especially come in wary to a room where there are dozens of
people training with intensity and lots of noise. It is easy to
forget what a new member sees when all you see is your "normal".
Yong Gi is the concept of courage. Courage is not the absence of
fear, it is being afraid and being able to take action anyway.
Although we get students in that are perfectly confident, we can all
use a little practice in building courage, especially in new
situations. I know I have! When I teach new students a high block, I
test their arm strength and then I tell them it is time for a test,
a courage test. I smack a focus paddle to my palm to show them how
hard I will be attacking. The big "thwack" sound makes a few eyes
bulge at the impact. Now the student wonders, what am I doing here?
My question to them, do you want me to attack you like a little tyke
(and I gently tap my hand) or a future Black Belt (and I give my
hand a big impact with the paddle)? Ninety nine percent of the time
the student asks for the Black Belt version. They are choosing a
path to test their inner courage and we know this is never easy.
The cowardly lion was the trifecta on the yellow brick road although
we can add advice and mentoring from the munchkins. Escaping the
wicked witch taught indomitable spirit, the end of the yellow brick
road to the see the wizard taught perseverance, and finally she
realizes at the end, there is no place like home. Martial arts
schools all over the country are like second families and second
homes to many. I know many of our Black Belts are as close to me as
any family member. Many I have spent substantial time with and we
have a strong bond.
These topics are the perfect summary of things needed to be a Black
Belt. Knowledge (a brain), a heart (compassion) and turning
cowardice into courage. Martial philosophy at its best from L. Frank
Baum, author of the Wizard of Oz.
And by the way, I am still afraid of flying monkeys.