Friday, March 03, 2006

A teacher returns

Ms. Pryor, our 4th dan teacher, returned to our dojang Wednesday night.

I had two feelings about that: one--I wished I'd been there! and two--I hope she'll stay.

She's been gone from the school since December--she and Master Hughes had a personal falling-out, and they both thought it best for her to stay away for a while.

Her absence affected people enormously--especially the women. During that time, I had numerous conversations in the women's changing room about it. We were discouraged and missed her intense teaching style, her focus on cardio workouts, and her wonderful one-on-one teaching. Some women were so discouraged they talked about quitting.

It's not that we don't have good teaching when she's gone. Master Hughes is an excellent teacher, and Justin does a great job, too. But many of our other adult black belts have gone, and with a big school like ours (sometimes classes can be 30 or more people), one or two adult black belts just isn't enough for the kind of attention we need.

And there's something very encouraging about having a woman black belt lead the class. At least to us women.

Ms. Pryor is about my age, about my size, she started TKD as an adult. And she is an amazing martial artist. For me, anyway, she is a role model and mentor for me in a way that Master Hughes could never be, as good a teacher as he is.

I'm not sure the men quite understand how important Ms. Pryor is to us women. Maybe it has to do with the fact that martial arts are mostly male-dominated--in number and approach. Though there are many women at our school, the men still outnumber us (as do the children!). And, as Floyd Burk wrote in the March issue of Black Belt Magazine (thanks to Brian for loaning it to me), there are lingering stereotypes about women:

They're weak, they can't fight, they don't deserve their rank . . . None of which is true . . .

Even though we know these statements aren't true, I am sure that many of us sometimes wonder if they are. Well, I do, anyway. Fighting isn't natural to me: I never fought--physically--as a child. My instinct is to talk or walk away (which is probably safer, but nonetheless it's a tendency I have to work against when I spar).

But having Ms. Pryor there--someone who's a champion at sparring, whose forms are powerful and strong, someone who cares about helping all of us--that makes a big difference to me.

On, one person wrote about what made him stay in TKD once he became a black belt.

I wasn't sure what I was supposed to be focusing on, or how to improve. So I asked one of the older black belts for advice and he took me under his wing. I got the impression that part of being in the black belt club is adopting a mentor. He gave me detailed and personalized tips on my technique, and made sure I had all the instructional materials he could find.

With one more master teacher at our school, maybe the rest of us who are moving toward black belt and those who've achieved it can find a mentor to help us develop as martial artists.

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