Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Value of a Karate Lesson


 Value is something an individual assigns to something that has a personal meaning.
An automobile moves one from place to place.
I am dating myself, but my first new car was under $2,000.
However one person will find $15,000 reasonable for a car. The next will spend $50,000, another even more. Just to be able to move from place to place.
We do not hear about the cost of karate lessons in the past. The students had to be members of the right tier of society, know the right people, have the right family, but no one discusses what those lessons cost. From a variety of stories, in those distant days you got the idea the instructor did so from an obligation to their class to provide instruction. Not that everyone qualified. The instructor seemed to have their own qualifying standards.
Then time passes, karate moved into the worlds, which appears to have been waiting for it, and new traditions sprang forth.
I was much younger and working construction at the time I began. The Isshinryu Karate Club charged a modest club fee, and I paid it, however before long I learned they were looking for someone to clean the dojo, and the club fee would be waived. I accepted the responsibility, and gained something else, another day to train there. Win- Win for me.
Then moving to Scranton, the only option was to train in a commercial TSD program. There were collection envelopes from a billing service, and the fee was greater but I was working at a Bank and had more funds. I found the fee reasonable; there were also quarterly testing fee. And I paid them too. Value received.
Then one of my Isshinryu instructors moved to Scranton, and I returned to my passion, Isshinryu. There was no fee, but my being in constant foot and mouth disease. LOL Again I found value and paid the non fee.
After obtaining my Dan, finding myself without an instructor, I began my wandering days, training with many I met at tournaments, there was no fee, and I was the recipient of many nice individuals who were willing to share.
I began my program at the Scranton Boys Club, and never asked for a fee, having that program did allow me to keep doing Isshinryu, and that was enough.  I foresaw what was to come, that any program to grow into the future would have to offer training for the youth. Many did not believe me, but time proved I was right.
Along my meandering ways I desired some specific training, solely for my own purposes.
The only instructor in the area offering such was a commercial program, and I found value in what I received, and paid for many lessons. In fact at times the fee was thousands of dollars per form, paid class by class. I found incredible value for myself and gladly paid it.
In return I received instruction that very few would have within the karate world. I never had a problem with paying. Value gained.
I understood what commercial programs could be, saw many that were not, and saw some that were superior. Both for the highest fees and for free. There was no constant point of view. Each instructor followed their traditions.
I remember one day I was at a Christmas party with my wife, held in an upscale neighborhood outside Scranton. One parent there took the time to congratulate me for my service to the Boys Club, saying he heard I was doing a good job there. Then he mentioned, “of course I would not send my kids there, for if your program had more value, you would be charging for it.” My purpose was not to attempt to drum up new students, so I just let the remark slide off.
Of course what I felt was something else, For I was the only individual offering Okinawan karate in the area, and realized that father just knew nothing about what was happening. I was not in the impossible task of enlightening the ignorant after all.
Another time something else occurred.
One evening training the kids at the Boy’s Club, two individuals showed up and addressed me after the class. The conversation went something like this “Mr. Smith, you are the only person in the area doing kobudo, and we want you to teach us some.”
Now this was likely true. But I did not have an adult program at that time, nor was I thinking of starting one, The fact was I was already training at many places throughout the week. But eternally polite this was my reply (also what I really felt).
“I appreciate your request, but I am not teaching a kobudo program, what I am teaching in Isshinryu. I would be glad to share kobudo studies with you, however my fee is that first you have to learn Isshinryu from the ground up. Then in a few years when you have acquired the empty hand side of the training, you can begin toe kobudo side of the training. I only teach one way.”
On hearing that they quickly left.
I moved for work to Derry, NH, and began again at the Derry Boys and Girls Club. Over time I realized that what I was doing was sharing with the youth of the town the same way many adults shared with the kids of my own town when I was young. The same thing they did running team sports, programs at the town park, youth fellowships, choirs. Just what responsible adults did for their town. And as time passed I realized that was the real tradition I was keeping. Not as a way to generate an income, but a service to my community.
I also began an adult program, also for free. I would tell the adults who began, I don’t have a fee, I you reach your Sho Dan, then and only then have repaid me. Value received.
Of course not everyone stayed. One sorts through the beginning students to find the karate-ka. Then again those who made the first step of the journey stayed on the average of at least 17 years, Allowing me to continue to share in their own journey,
There were other commercial programs in the area. Some very, very good, and others less so. Personally I never  saw myself in competition with them. If someone approached me and wanted to study XYZ, I would gladly tell them where to find such programs and show them how to get there. The size of my program would never cause them to loose money. For I kept the size small, and we had a waiting list years long at the Club for new students. We strived for a constant sice, many years accepting students only once a year.
Certainly not viable by commercial standards.
What I find interesting is how often I am challenged to accept the idea that only solid commercial programs lead to good karate. 
Something I have not experienced. Whether a program is commercial or not, value is established by other things.
Commercial location has little to do with that.
Inside a great studio, outside amidst the forest, on a sidewalk, in a church basement, for considerable fee, for modest fee, for little fee or for no fee, excellence still exists in all those places.

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