So you Study the Martial Arts?

The question then becomes are you a Student of the Martial Arts or a Martial Artist? Is there a difference, what is it if there is one and why does it matter anyway?

Well actually there a lot of differences between the two and in this case we will call one person a Student and the other a Martial Artist. Let me break down some of the principles or ideas that differentiate between the two and you can then take a look at your training and decide which one you are.

We all start training in one of the Martial Way’s for our own reasons and that in some ways can affect straight away whether you are heading towards being a Student or Martial Artist. Some schools are focused on attracting students, whilst others are on creating Martial Artists. This is not style dependant but more a focus that the Instructor or School wants to follow.

So what is the difference? Well most if not all of us start as Students and becoming a Martial Artist is a time based change as we progress through our training. Lets start with breaking down what makes each unique.

A student is someone who makes an average commitment to training 2 or 3 days a week and they will tend to allow other events to come in the way of their attendance. They put in the effort required or demanded of them during class, follow instructions and work towards attaining their next technique, belt, sash or level. They enjoy the atmosphere as a whole and are relatively easy to teach. The school becomes a service provider in that they pay their fees and expect classes, a relatively normal type of existence for today’s society.

This is not a bad thing and in most cases it is the standard. In fact having students is something that larger schools need, in able to support themselves. In some situations it is the number of Student members that help support a schools desire to maintain a program based purely on Martial Artists. It is symbiotic in that without students there would not be the progression for most into becoming a martial Artist.

A Martial Artist is someone who decides that their training is important and attendance at class 3 or more days a week is the norm, they are more likely to be at the training hall before class and are almost always around after class talking about different aspects of training. They are more interested in the history of the art, the progression of the art and show these traits by participating in more outside martial arts type events. In class they are more focused on achieving excellence within a technique over achieving a belt, they are a harsher personal critic in most cases than the instructor and are willing to put in more work before or after class to achieve. When it comes time to help the School they are always first to volunteer and enjoy being able to help ‘their’ school. With this added effort there becomes a feeling of being apart of the school, they are proud to train here and they want the school to succeed, whether this is by keeping the school clean, promoting the school to friends or working towards representing the school in tournaments or events. The school is no longer a place they go to train it becomes a place where they feel like they are a part of the family. Training and the related activities become something that they are passionate about; it is this passion that can be the major difference between them and a Student.

The other changes within a school that has a clear path for students to become Martial Artists, is that not only does the level of respect shown increase but the energy and focus on the training floor does as well.

Historically when someone walked into a school they were pretty much give a choice of adopting a Martial Artist type mentality to survive training or quit. However these days marketing has created more of a focus on attracting Students first and in too many occasions the school loses its ability to create Martial Artists. If we look back 15 years or more a Black Belt was someone of status and regardless of style or Dan rank someone who was respected. These days the belt has to a large extent lost its credibility and I credit this to schools that award Black Belts to Students, whereas our focus should be to maintain the tradition of making Martial Artists earn them. The secret of course is a simple one and that is to educate students why they should put in the extra effort.

For some examples from my Dojang (Dojo/Kwoon/Training Hall) I decided that I would not allow shoes inside the Dojang this included parents/friends/etc. All it took was to explain how it was a way of showing respect for the Dojang and now our students take pride in telling their friends to take their shoes off when bringing them along. At the same time we also implemented a system where our students are responsible for cleaning the Dojang which started with me cleaning the Dojang and asking for anyone who wanted to help, and over the following weeks it became a standard for everyone to give the school a clean after class, we have even implemented a process were testing candidates have to clean the Dojang before their physical test to show their humility and respect for the School.

Again I am not against the idea of Students I firmly believe that it is our job as Instructors to be able to show them the path to becoming Martial Artists, to be the guide and to be the support they need to choose to follow the same path we have. After all it is good to be passionate about something, but to be able to share that passion with others is even better. Are you a Student or a Martial Artist?

Grandmaster Geoff J. Booth