When I began my pursuit towards a career in stunts, I knew that I had the acro and aerial abilities. I also knew that I did not yet have the fighting abilities required to be a versatile stunt performer. Fight, flip and fall equals the triple threat (and then there’s the driving, water safety, fire burns and any of the multitude of other special skills required to be a top professional, but that’s for another post).
I knew that learning how to punch, kick, evade, and strike with a weapon would be a painful experience. Both figuratively and physically. It can take a Sifu or a Guru between 10-25 years to become a master in one discipline and here I am hoping I can condense it into a weekend course. Ba! This was going to take time. Lots of time, discipline and humility.
It is quite easy for me to show up to a gym and jump, flip, or contort my body with great confidence. The first time I showed up to a martial arts class, I felt so incredibly awkward and out-of-place. Holding a small stick in one hand and drawing an “x” in the air with it sounds simple right? I had forgotten how many thousands of cartwheels I have done in my life to be able to produce one flawlessly acro trick. Well that stick did not want to go in a straight line. It hit me in the side of the face, it fell out of my hand if I was holding it too tight or not tight enough, or I’d forget to swing that damn stick altogether as soon as the instructor asked us to move our feet at the same time. I was a hot, embarrassed mess. Out of my element.
I believe that many of us experience being the least knowledgeable or capable participant in a room. It’s not a great feeling. One tends to desperately jump to the part of learning where we are considered good or competent. That feeling of vulnerability, of needing guidance, patience and assistance to learn is far to uncomfortable to bear. Or is it? Perhaps it could be one of the most liberating experiences instead. In the words of Bruce Lee:
I continued to show up, to be the least knowledgeable student in the space, to fill my cup with a new knowledge and a new set of skills. I have spent so many years of my life being a teacher of other sports, it became refreshing to submit my ego to the humble truth that a teacher can and should always remain a student. To truly learn something, one has to check their ego at the door. I have infinite examples of students I have taught in the past who spend the entire class interrupting me in order to demonstrate their knowledge and prowess. They get in their own way of learning.
I started taking martial arts class because I thought I had to, for my career. I have continued to study various martial arts because that ‘filling up of one’s cup’ every single class has become such a welcomed experience in my life. My wooden sword “x’s” continue to get sharper and less awkward. I may never become a master at any of the martial arts I’m studying, nor is that my goal, but damn the journey is pretty sweet.