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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury


I've reached an interesting point in my development as a martial artist and an Arnis player.

I'm now the person most responsible for what comes next.

Make no mistake, I've always been the person ultimately responsible for what comes next.

Back in 2008 when my first teacher handed me a stick and told me to copy him and I did (being introduced to single sinawali), it was on me. I was responsible for picking up that stick, and doing what he told me to do.

What I mean is, I'm at the point now where my teachers really don't have my path laid out in front of me in a clear, organized way any more.

I'm the one who has to choose my path - my teacher can't really do it for me.

Let me explain what I mean.

When you're a newbie, and throughout a large chuck of your early journey, you depend very much on your teachers to know where you're going, what you're doing, and why.

Your part in it is to do what you're told, basically. Practice the skills and techniques you're supposed to acquire using the method(s) that your teacher wants you to use, when they want you to do that.

That doesn't mean don't think hard about it, don't try to own what you're doing, and don't question it. It just means that your teacher has a far better idea of what to do, how to do it, and why, than you have, so you trust their guidance and basically do what they want.

Your teacher is your guide, your navigator, your coach, and the one who decides what come next and why. Put another way, they're kind of like your boss in the martial arts, deciding what happens and when it happens, and because you don't know any better, you go along and trust that they know best.

This is another reason why teaching yourself at home using YouTube videos and other cheap/free resources is basically a fool's game - you don't have a map and have no idea where you're doing or where you're going.

If you train long enough... that relationship changes and the responsibility shifts.

Your teacher becomes more like an beloved elder relative guiding you with their perspective versus your boss. You become less like an employee doing the work your boss tells you to do to more like a small business owner that has to call all the shots themselves.

Don't take this analogy too far. I don't mean you don't still want or need your teacher, or that you don't have plenty more to learn and perfect, or that you reach a certain black belt rank and don't have to listen or respect your teacher(s).

Far from it - we still need our teachers and we still need people further along the path to help us along the way.

What I mean is that there comes a point where you are the one deciding what comes next. You're the one picking your path. You're the one who has to own it.

That's where I am now. I'm deciding what kind of Arnis player I really want to be and how I'm going to get there.

I've decided, for now, that there's a specific skill set I want to be really, really good at because I think it'll be my best strategy in a conflict. It's on me to figure out how I'm going to do what I have in mind, given what my teachers and elders have shown me and what resources I can tap into.

I have ownership of my martial arts journey in a way I didn't before. It's a little scary, but it's also a really empowering point to reach.

We'll see how I do, because nobody else can make that happen.

Have you had to take a greater share in the ownership of your martial arts training? What was that like? How do you feel about it? How did your relationships with your teacher(s) change? Let us know in the comments!

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