Each individual martial art instructor has their own way of teaching, although the mechanics of the style taught should remain intact. In Taekwondo as example, one instructor may emphasize using the ridge of the foot as the main striking area in a side kick, while another may focus primarily on using the heel; although both will teach each technique within the overall curriculum. For a roundhouse kick, the ball of the foot may be emphasized by one, while the instep is accentuated by the other as again, both approaches are directed to the student in training.
Great martial art instructors will provide the student with the training needed to perfect the art in learning, regardless of their own “style” of teaching. This personal style can include variations of the techniques, as well as their own personal reflections of the philosophical aspects of the art, but at the same time, remaining true to the historical foundation.
These various styles of instructions are signs of individual growth and maturity, not only within the particular martial art, but also in the instructors’ own personal lives. They were presented to me, years ago, as the “Four A’s of Martial Arts.
- Accountability – As individuals, we must all be accountable for the choices, decisions and path in life that we have chosen. In self defense, one must be accountable for choosing to take responsibility in learning personal protection for themselves, their family, their loved-ones. Although what may be difficult for many, one must look in the mirror and face the one person who is accountable for all of their successes and failures. Each of us must understand that complete accountability comes through those decisions that we ourselves have chosen.
- Awareness – As martial artists, we should constantly remain aware of our surroundings at all times. We must never become careless or neglectful in that which is around us or around our fellow man: our brothers and sisters. We must be aware of our own weaknesses and strive to turn these into strengths; understanding that awareness is most often the difference between being a survivor or becoming the victim.
- Adaptation – One must be able to adapt to any situation; the ability to “change” their offense or defense in order to attain victory; be it in martial arts, in business or in any of life’s situations. In facing a stronger opponent for example, one’s behavior of style and technique must change; one’s psychological mechanisms must find a way to adapt to the surrounding and use this adaptation in turning the opponent’s own strengths against them.
- Action – Once we face the truth of accountability, the sense of awareness and the ability of adaptation, one must take action toward the development and improvement of their own existence. One must commit to absolute dedication to reach the developmental transition in becoming the best they can be in the martial arts, as well as in life; action in training, learning and teaching. It is the action in becoming a greater human being and passing these fundamentals on to future generations.
The four A’s of martial arts are a cultivation of discipline and independent development which can be utilized in many aspects of one’s life. They are a tool, a fundamental guideline for one’s future life improvements shared with me nearly 40 years ago in the spirit of Taekwondo.