Monday, November 23, 2015

Giving Thanks: My Teachers

Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the United States.  This week, I am going to write about all the things I'm grateful for in the martial arts.

Today I want to write about my teachers - the people who shaped me, one-on-one, into the martial artist I am today.

I have studied with many people in my relatively short martial arts life.  I've moved a lot, and it was sometimes hard to settle into an art or school when that was going on.  Every school and teacher I spent time with gave me something important, but I want to focus on my primary teachers, the ones I studied with for more than a month or two.  This will be in chronological order.

My first teacher, in the art of PaSaRyu Tae Kwon Do, was John Wade in Southaven, MS.  Mr. Wade is one of those upbeat, enthusiastic people that you typically like immediately.  It was at his school that I reluctantly first stepped on a mat and discovered, to my chagrin, that I'd finally found my life's calling at the age of 39.  I am grateful he provided me with that opportunity and the support to get going in the martial arts.

At John's school, the primary teacher is Darrell Kellner.  Darrell is really the one who taught me PaSaRyu, and it was under him that I learned how a class should be run, especially keeping physical fitness front and center. Darrell is a kind, generous and supportive teacher, and while I don't get to see him very often, I'm grateful when I do.  He's definitely a huge influence on me and someone we consider a friend.

It was also at John's school that I met David Jones, the man who changed my martial arts life.  It was David who introduced us to Modern Arnis (as well as Ryukyu Kempo and Kyusho).  David is a highly accomplished martial artist, and continues to act as a mentor and teacher to us to this day.

We moved away from Memphis, otherwise we'd still be studying with David and Darrell.

I only spent a few months in his school, but I am grateful for Christopher Folmar of American Defensive Arts Academy in Keller, TX (as well as his instructor, Oliver Martinez).  Sensei Folmar is an excellent martial artist and taught me how a well-run martial arts school operates.  He possibly has the single most successful rec center martial arts program in the world (it's huge) and he opened my eyes as to how it can be done, and done well.

When you see me refer to "my teacher" here on this blog, I am taking about Mark Lynn.  Mark took us under his wing and made us the martial artists we are today.  Mark is the consummate student, always approaching things with an open mind, always learning, always growing.  He has always helped us grow in any direction we wanted to, including supporting our getting Mid-Cities Arnis off the ground.  I was incredibly lucky when we met Mark (by chance!) and I'm very grateful we get to study with him every week.  If you ever get a chance to study with Mark, take it.

Finally, I want to express gratitude for my Kobudo teachers - my primary instructor has been Sensei Vivica McNeil, but also Sensei Michael Proctor and Sensei Keith Yates.  I'm really enjoying what I'm learning there, and I appreciate the perspective I'm getting from more traditional martial artists.

So now, dear readers, I want to know about the teachers YOU are grateful for.  Who in your martial arts life has made you who you are?   Tell us all about it!