Back in December of 2012, my instructor moved home to Pittsburgh. Evan Ringle and I had spent nearly three years training together. We traveled from Tennessee to Kansas to Springfield, MO for seminars with Master Zach Whitson. I was only a few months into this blog and had one student approach me about classes. To say I was nervous about the future would be an understatement. My goal of becoming a black belt in Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS) seemed to be in jeopardy. CTS is an instructor led art that requires training partners. So, I was without a weekly teacher. Master Whitson invited me to begin private lessons with him that year, and I saw him four other times throughout the year. But I was stuck making my own way in St. Louis.
Except that I wasn’t, over the three years of training with Evan, I had built a support network in the CTS family. Mike Miller, of Springfield FMA, and I had built a friendship through all the traveling and training. Mike and Evan were on the same curriculum path in CTS; so, they sharpened their skills on and tested each other. It was a partnership that luckily built into a friendship. After Evan left, Mike did not hesitate to offer his home to me for training. I saw him about once every other month. Not only did he keep me on the path, but he got his brother-in-law to come visit for training. This help buoyed me during the struggle of finding my own way. It was a transition between weekly instructor led training to long distance study with Master Whitson. The support system of Mike and his guys at Springfield FMA kept me on track to achieve my goal of earning a CTS black belt.
Part of goal setting is creating a support system. While you are the one working towards the goal line, your support group will keep you motivated. Help and support are integral parts of all accomplishments. Teachers and other students are motivators’ built directly into martial arts, but you should include non-martial artists as well. Seek out positive, inspirational friends, colleagues, or family members. Don’t expect one person to fulfill the supporting role. Cobble together a group of individuals. Your support system will sustain you during the low times and celebrate with you during your successes.
While I was stressed during the solo training transition, my girlfriend Sue listened to me. She talked with me about ways of finding students, how to structure a lesson, and ways to make reviewing previous lessons more effective. Once while visiting some of my friends who were in town for the weekend, we lost track of time. Sue drove me to meet a prospective student and then picked me up when the lesson was done. She is in no way interested in the martial arts, but she knows that I am. We have discussed my goals. Because I made clear what I’m trying to accomplish, she was able to help me in her own way. Sue is a generous person; so, these examples are commonplace for her. The key to all of this was making known to her my goals. She provided encouragement along the way; she helped when she was able. If I had never told her what I hoped to accomplish, I would have lost valuable support.
Not everyone who you will consider to be part of your system helps as much as she did. That’s okay. When looking for people to be part of your system, understand that there is no requirement that they actually contribute. Talk about your goals in addition to writing them down. Find a diverse group of supporters. Most people are encouraging; so, it should be easy to find a group. Not everyone needs to be or should be a mentor to you. Some people will contribute simply by cheering you on.
In my experience, Counterpoint Tactical System is one giant support system. The advanced practitioners, club/school owners, and students have helped me advance towards a black belt. Whether through training time, words of encouragement, or instruction, the CTS family has made a huge contribution to me. Many have shared links to this blog, helped me with articles, passed along lesson plans, or, even, shared business advice. The generosity of the CTS practitioners inspires me while asking nothing of me. I repay these wonderful people by supporting their goals in whatever way I can. (Please, see my links page for CTS locations around the country.)
People who are passionate about their own goals are the best inspiration. Include passionate people in your support system. Even if they can’t or won’t help you like the example above, their passion is an example for your own. Seek out passionate people who are working on similar goals as you. Your passion will carry you through the hard parts of your journey. Find individuals who enjoy sharing their expertise. Learning from their errors is like a shortcut to your own goal.
As you build your support system, include someone – or, even, multiple people – that you can assist without expecting anything in return. Find someone with a passion that could use help without any strings attached. I try to do this when I can either advertising on Facebook for someone or featuring them on my blog. Now that I’m an intermediate practitioner of CTS, I’m able to help others inside the art itself. At the very least, helping someone else will give you a feeling of satisfaction. If you’re lucky, you’ll find deeper insight into your obstacles. Also, being kind is a fantastic stress reliever. Be kind even if no one appreciates it.
Finally, say thank you to your support system. If you can reciprocate and help them, that’s even better. At the very least, acknowledge their contribution to your life. The martial arts have a history of appreciation and loyalty. It is one of the best qualities of learning a martial art, and as practitioners, we should strive to keep that tradition alive and extend it to all aspects of our lives.
Sue, Evan, Mike, Master Zach Whitson, my training partners, the Counterpoint Tactical System, Team Kali, and all the others who have helped along the way, Thank You.