To want to belong to a group or organization, or even a community, is one of the basic human tendencies. As much as we want to train alone or do our own thing, there is always going to be a time or place we want to connect to another person or group to share our art with. So, the question comes up about how to choose our associations within our art and training.
On an immedate level, this would be our school. On a larger level, this would include attending seminars, competing in tournaments (if that is something that you like to do), and what umbrella organization you want to affiliate yourself with. In my case, I am removed from my home school by a 3.5 hour drive, and I do not want to start my training all over with any other school. The question comes up about how do I approach this? For me, I have chosen to train alone and take lessons, when I can, at my school of origin, as I have done for the last 20 years. What has been the result? Unfortunately, I have done a lot of spinning of my wheels in the last 10+ years.
Be that as it may, I will get back to it. I want to continue on with the main point here, which is how we choose our associations. The school is important. It becomes a reflection of you, and you become a reflection of it. What does it give to you? You have to determine what you will get out of it if you attend another school and is it worth the time and effort you are putting in at the school? Tournaments and umbrella organizations are the same way. What do they have to offer to you and are they an accurate reflection of you?
How did I come to this line of thinking today? Well, I was doing some research about Kenpo. I have been at a cross-roads as to what to do with my training. I want to have access to a school nearby, but I do not want to give up the time and comfort and bonds that I have created by training with my original school, even though it is 3.5 hours away. How do I come to terms with my situation? We all have to ask, "What can this school, teacher, or training do for me?" I ask the same question. It is a very important question because it is time and money you put into what you are doing. In today's economy, we do not have time to make choices lightly.
In my research, I found that there is A LOT of organizations out there that associate themselves with Kenpo. You might ask yourself, "What is the difference?" There are many, but you have to be willing to look at them, and look at them objectively, to see what they can and cannot offer. For me, I have come to a conclusion that it is time for me to start integrating myself into some kind of community more, and I need to figure how and where I want to do that. In my research, I found at least seven Kenpo umbrello organizations trying to convince Kenpoists, and others, out there that there is a benefit to joining the group they had put together. Through my years of taking lessons and instruction, I have learned there are a lot of politics that go on in martial arts. I try to not get caught up in it all and look at things objectively. It has made for an interesting process of figuring out what I want to do. As an informed martial artist who has studied for 20+ years, I have some background in how to make a decision about these things. But, if you are new to the scene, you might want to ask yourself a series of questions to get started.
1. What type of teacher do I want?
2. What type of classes do I want and what do I want to learn?
3. How many classes can I take each week?
4. How much time can I put into my training?
5. Why do I want to study martial arts?
These are some questions to get you started. I find myself asking similar questions about what I want to do and understanding what I want out of an organization. What can the offer me and what can I put into it so I can get something out of it? It is a process of self exploration.
Take some time to understand the choices you make by understanding yourself more first. I think this is true in whatever we do. We need to understand outselves as we make important choices, whether it be in martial arts or in life.