as a new member of a club, have you ever found yourself thinking that some of the club senior grades seem to have no interest in talking to you, or that they seem to only talk to other senior grades? a long time ago, I certainly did.
today, I had a moment of clarity. i was thinking about talking to our newly qualified poom grades – young black belts – and I wondered if they would think I was only talking to them because they are now senior grades. the answer would have to be yes, in some cases…but not because i am elitist!
some people are shy, some have no confidence or low self-esteem, and often children overlap all three of these characteristics. this can be a motivating factor for parents to enrole their child in a martial arts class, so its not unfair to suggest that martial arts classes may have a number of young wallflowers, perhaps more than one would expect. as a person progresses through their martial arts training, their age increases, their self-esteem increases, their confidence increases, and in all likelihood their fitness and mental health improve also. by the time the student approaches their first senior grade, they have undergone a transformation from wallflower to sunflower, tall, proud, and able to turn their face to the sun.
i have seen this happen on many occasions. inherently, they are more approachable, and better equipped to engage, more able to have a conversation without looking at the ground and feeling awkward. i am therefore more likely to persist in my efforts to talk to them, not because they are black belt students, but because they have transformed themselves by their training into a more sociable animal, i am less worried about making them feel awkward. just to state this absolutely clearly, its the person i am talking to, not the belt.
there is another factor, however, that may not be obvious to those who feel a void between the newcomers and the established. when you train with someone, you are exchanging ultimate trust – you are putting your lives in each other’s hands. without realising, you build tremendous bonds with your partners, and before you know it, you are so pleased to see your extended family, you may well forget to engage with others in the class in the little time you have before line-up or during water breaks. this can reinforce the appearance of elitism.
i am newly resolved then. i will forgo my hugs from my friends, delay them until after training, so that i may try harder to reduce the distance between the rest of us.