A while ago before the pandemic hit I had a great weekend teaching alongside my friends Rick Young and Terry Barnett In Edinburgh. Each of these great teachers has their own strength.
Terry is one of my original Karate students and we’ve shared the path for about nearly years together. He is an incredibly warm individual, caring and full of love but one of the best JKD strikers of the last thirty years. He’s gently beaten up many of the leading JKD instructors where they’ve barely laid a glove one him so dominant has he been. Despite this he’s incredibly humble.
With Rick it’s his constant quest to be the best he can be and where appropriate to check his progress through competition success. He’s a great champion, with if I'm right five World title in BJJ under his belt. As usual when seeing Rick you think that you’re a lightweight and just not doing anything. He’s largely unbreakable, whereas my own training history is littered with huge highs and corresponding lows when my body hasn’t wanted to go where my mind has decided to go. I’m sure this is the same for many people.
What you’ve got to do is know the difference between being a lightweight, sitting in watching the television, and knowing when your body or mind has had enough training and needs rest or a change. Only then can you start working on who you are. What are your strengths, what are your aims and do your aims and your capabilities match. In a way you’ve got to play the cards life has dealt you, and play them well.
Of course aim high but reflect on your experience along the way. You’ve got to work out what your particular strengths are. Each of us is unique and has something to bring to the mix. Not all of us can be champions and in truth many of us aren’t that bothered. I can remember turning up for competitions and just wanting to fight and fight well. I was never driven to be the champion it was more a struggle with myself. Others are built differently.
When I ran the old academy in Hoxton square an old friend Thai coach Gordon McAdam and I were talking about this and likened it to a platoon. Someone who’s big and strong carries the machine gun, someone else with good eyes and ears is the scout. Someone else who has a cool head under pressure is on communications.
I can remember in team competitions that there would be those of us who fought first or last because we handled pressure well. This was always my position. Others were our trouble shooters, hard hitters who could sort people out if they were getting naughty. They could stop the rot. One of my closest friend was the motivator, another the strategist. We all fought well but some fought better under different conditions.
Whomever you are, don’t beat yourself up because you’re not as good as a renowned champion. Find out what you can do well and concentrate on that to the point where others look to you in that area. Chasing others be it Rick Young, Roger Gracie or Dan Inosanto is the way to madness. Use these great martial artists as beacons or aim points but the clever person charts their own path. What was apparent in Edinburgh was that all three of us Terry, Rick and I had distinct teaching styles, content and emphasis. The students could take what they wanted for themselves from this mix and make it their own. You’re unique in the universe, enjoy the path laid out for you.
Photo at top of three of us along with Miad Najafi, Bob Breen Academy JKD Kali black belt, BJJ blackbelt and one of the pioneers of BJJ in the UK.