Discovering Heroes


    Before we attempt to discover heroes we must define what a hero is. Various dictionaries describe a hero as, ‘a man who is admired for his brave or noble deeds. A person of courage and accomplishment. A man admired for his achievements and qualities’. Perhaps as pertaining to the martial arts, Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary describes it best as, ‘An illustrious warrior’. The word, ’illustrious’ is described in this same dictionary as ‘notably or brilliantly outstanding because of dignity or achievement or actions’. So the martial arts hero, or heroine can best be characterized as ‘ a noble warrior, who shines brilliantly, one who is outstanding above the average person, possesses honor and dignity, achieves much, and one who is a person of action’. This phrase alone should separate the dedicated martial arts teacher from the movie or rock star, who gain recognition only because their faces consistently appear before millions of their fans, but who contribute little to other’s personal development and improvement.


    I believe that this noble description fits perfectly well with most of our martial arts teachers who give constantly and consistently of their time. Who willingly share their skills and talents with whoever seeks their knowledge. These teachers of the arts are at class on dreary cold winter nights and hot, humid summer days. They leave their homes to go to work [ ‘yes, this is work, sometimes pleasant, and at other times very trying], not knowing if they will be teaching thirty people, or just one person at any given class. Your martial arts teacher should be one of your greatest heroes.


    Heroes are often people that we least expect, who, without thinking may risk their own lives to save another. What would we do without the fireman who bravely rushes into a burning house to rescue a trapped victim, or a police officer who come at our beck and call when we find ourselves in a troublesome or dangerous situation? There is the surgeon who may perform an operation that gives us another chance at life, the school teacher that provides us with the education needed to make a decent living, the pastor, priest or rabbi who meets our spiritual needs, and all the volunteer rescue workers who will do whatever is necessary to save others.


    Many times we are looking for the spectacular event that will produce our next hero, but most of the time our heroes go about their jobs everyday because they believe that it is the right thing to do.


    My son Michael is a Lieutenant in the Baltimore City Fire Department. One day as he was going to work he saw smoke coming out of a second story apartment. He leaped out of his truck, climbed up on the flat roof and kicked in the door and rescued two children. He did this with no breathing apparatus or turn out gear on. Michael is also a professional Black Belt. What makes this story even more spectacular is that this apartment is located right next door to my dojo, where my son had trained for many years. He does not consider him self as a hero, as he says that this is just part of his every day job and is routine business to him. Because of his long career in the fire department and the hundreds of house fires that he has entered his lungs are in bad shape. It just does not seem fair that for all the good deeds that he has done that he should have to suffer. My son Michael is my number one hero.


    In our martial arts schools we have trained many police officers and security personnel over the last four decades, both male and female. Sitting around and listening to their work day stories I sit in awe and wonder why they constantly go to a job that consistently puts them in danger. [See my CD, the Martial Arts Educator, chapter, ‘Police Officers on the Streets’.] I often ask, ‘Don’t you get a little nervous when you approach a car late at night, not knowing what danger may be lurking inside that vehicle?’ Their reply is always, ‘It’s my job and I am well trained to handle whatever happens’. Yes, we have produced some great Black Belts who are police officers, security personnel, and jail guards – these are also my heroes.


    One of my long time Black Belts and a senior police officer works in the K nine unit. He and his dogs have run through woods, swamps, brambles and thorns, into buildings, down dark alleyways, and in places that I would not travel to, and he has does this at very late night hours. He talks about his dogs as if they are part of his family. To be successful at his job he and his dogs must become as one – a working unit where each knows the others next move. David is also my hero.


    At one time we had seven officers working at the Baltimore County Lockup who were also teachers for MPKA. They received their instructors rank before being hired on as guards. Needless to say that I contribute their martial arts training as a means for them to have the skills and mind set to prepare them for such a job. These are my heroes.


    One of our young Black Belts has completed four years of college in three years and now is going into the seminary to become a pastor. He is my hero.


    I am a military man and served my country for six years in the Maryland Air National Guard in the Crash Rescue Squad. Our job was to go to any downed planes/jets and rescue the fighter pilots. I am also an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America, and was also an Elder in the Presbyterian Church. I only tell you this because I have based our entire martial arts training and philosophy on these three concepts. Military toughness, scout preparedness, Christian love for my fellow man. I believe that passing on these characteristics to our students is the reason that so many of our students have chosen to serve others, and many times in dangerous jobs.


    Two of our black Belts have served in the Marines in Iraq. A third instructor, as of this writing, is preparing to do the same. Four of our black Belts have served in the United States Air force, four in the United States Army, one in the United States Navy’s Submarine division, [ I am sure that I have missed a few others], and the majority of them have enlisted after they received their Black Belts. These are my heroes.


    We have had several of our black Belts establish their own businesses that have grown rather large and well known. They also did this after receiving their Black Belts. Because of their great success their schedules are very hectic and time consuming, and yet, decades later they are still teaching our art and are very dedicated to me, their students and to the art that we teach. These are my heroes.


    So many folks have contributed to the success of the art that we teach and the organizations that we have created, mentors, web masters, artists, program designers, contributors, teachers, students, parents, business folks, organizers, etc., that it would fill volumes to try to remember or even to list them. Without them our success would have never happened. These are my heroes.


    That is my story. I know that every instructor/teacher, school owner, master and grand master can contribute their success to the same type of individuals, and that their list would also be very long and detailed. They are your heroes.


    Look around and see if you can find one of these heroes in your midst. The late Mr. Rogers of the children’s television program would say to the little children watching his program, ‘You made this day a special day, just because you were here and you are you. I like you just the way you are’. Fred Rogers was one of my heroes.


    In searching for heroes we must let our students know who the real heroes are, what they do, and what they are made of. By teaching martial arts science and healthy living, eliminating old legends, myths and wives tales, by producing young leaders, operating an honest and fair and balanced studio dedicated to equality for all, motivating and taking interests in others, and by putting forth dynamic energy and fun in our classes, you may suddenly be surprised that the best hero that your students and community have is YOU.


Friendship that lasts a lifetime

Is one that will give and take

It’s built on truth and honesty

And offers a firm handshake


A friend will stand beside you

When others turn away

If distance separates for a season

In your heart they’ll forever stay


When burdens are heavy to carry

A friend will stretch out a hand

Obstacles that you couldn’t overcome

With a friend’s help you can


Friendship that lasts a lifetime

Can keep secrets that were told




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This page was last updated on 07/20/08    

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