|CHRISTOPHER N. GEARY
||PROFILE OF A MARTIAL ARTS MASTER
"Professor, I really liked your 'final' chapter. I say 'final' because a biography is never finished until the subject is 'finished.' Your insight into the human psyche is beyond your years. It takes many people a lifetime to come to the understandings you put forth, and others spend their lifetime never realizing them. Everyone should be able to take something useful away from this chapter."
~ James M. O'Connell
It’s time to wrap up this book, so I will take this opportunity to share a few thoughts based on my first 35 years of life. I hope that reading about my experiences and feelings will strike a chord with anyone who is dealing with challenges of any kind.
Most of us have had times when we reacted without thinking. Sometimes those reactions can hurt the people we care about. Let me give you an example. When I was a young child, I always felt uncomfortable and nervous around my Grandfather Teater. One day we were in a grocery store together, and I decided to muster up the confidence to speak to him. I remember spending some time trying to think of something to say. Finally, after taking a deep breath, I said, “Wow, that’s a lot of pop you have there in the cart,” with a nervous smile. He snapped, “Is that OK with you?” in an irritated tone of voice, and I remember that his words just about broke my heart. It almost felt like he had put his hand on my chest and shoved me away from him.
My grandfather probably reacted without giving it a moment’s thought. Most of us have been on the receiving end of rudeness from time to time, but have you ever done the same thing to someone else without even thinking about it? Maybe you were driving somewhere and you got annoyed because the lady in front of you was talking on her cell phone and changed lanes at the last minute, so you gave her “the finger” and swore at her through your car window. Yelling at her might have made you feel better for a minute, but would you have done the same thing to your mom? What if you went to a job interview the next morning and that same lady happened to be sitting on the other side of the desk?
The Golden Rule still applies today: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This rule applies to everyone, even the people you think are “beneath” you (including children). Someone once said, “People may forget what you say and do, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
I’ve found that people either love me or hate me because of how I make them feel. I’m like a mirror that reflects who they truly are. If they are lazy or undisciplined, they won’t like what I am reflecting back to them. If they have a low self-image, my words and example may help them realize that they can do much more than they ever thought.
No matter what your goals might be, you can count on the fact that some people will try to discourage you from following your dreams. Do not allow the world and the people in it to break you. Never stop trying to become who you truly are. Keep in mind that I wasn’t born a tenth-degree black belt. People comment on my fluid and powerful movements, but it took years of practice and discipline to develop my technique. Mastery of my art was something that I had to build up to. Whatever you want to accomplish, you will need to invest time and hard work to get the results you want. When you get there, it will be worth all the effort. It feels so good to be on top of the mountain when the world has tried to break you down over and over again.
Do you have the mental toughness to deal with whatever happens to you? We take for granted that we have air conditioning when it’s hot, complain when the indoor plumbing is not working for an hour or two, and get upset when little things go wrong. People bitch about paying $800 a month for their Lexus car payments instead of feeling grateful that they are able to earn a good income. What if they switched places with a blind man who had to sell brooms on the street corner to make a living? It is sad that we have allowed ourselves to expect so much but to give so little. I heard someone say that every man has to go through his own hell before he can reach his paradise. I believe that we all find our own ways to survive, and in the end it all comes down to what makes a person happy and content.
I have served my country in the Marine Corps, but five minutes after I mention it to someone, it seems that the thought has vanished from their minds. They don’t feel the pain, fear, sweat, the drive to better yourself or the willingness to die for something that you believe in—making sacrifices that other people are not willing to make. They don’t know what it’s like to do practice patrols all day while the hot desert sun beats down on you, to squeeze all your meals out of a plastic pouch, and to shiver in your sweaty “cammies” (camouflage uniform) when the temperature drops at night, and to lie on the dirt smelling your own sweat as you try to relax and fall asleep.
In the Marines, we did long hikes about every other week. We called them “humps.” Doing a hump would mean walking for 10, 15, 20 or more miles in full gear. I have vivid memories of a 30-plus-mile hike in Okinawa loaded down with gear weighing 50 or 60 pounds or so. This hump started at midnight (we hiked at night because it was cooler then) and lasted for 12 hours. It left the soles of my feet so sore that I had to walk on the sides of my feet for a couple of days to relieve the excruciating pain. When we got back to camp, I was so tired and sore that when I stepped into the shower the shock of the water hitting my body made me throw up all over myself. I couldn’t even wash off the vomit—I just turned off the water, crawled into my “rack”(bed) and fell asleep. I had reached a point that was beyond exhaustion.
What is patriotism? The car dealerships play their commercials with their pretty music and say that they will donate $100 to charity for every car that’s sold. The price of the car has probably been marked up $100 so people can feel patriotic when they buy it. Being patriotic doesn’t come from buying an overpriced new car that will be worth about half its value a year later. It doesn’t come from just putting up a flag on your house because it’s Memorial Day or the Fourth of July. It comes from your willingness to make sacrifices for something bigger than yourself. Not everyone has to serve in the Marines, but everyone needs to find something to believe in and something to reach for. In my own experience, I continually learn through my students. They make me want to be a better instructor and a better man for their sake and mine.
If life seems unfair sometimes, remember that in the end, people will get what’s coming to them. We all will die sometime, and if you spend the rest of your life looking over your shoulder waiting for something terrible to happen to you, you can be sure that someday it will. I believe the mistakes we make can be good if we learn from them. Admitting when we are wrong makes us more sensitive to others. If we allow ourselves to learn from our mistakes, we can improve our lives and become better people. Just because someone does something wrong or bad does not make them a bad person forever. Would you want someone to judge you for mistakes you made 10 or 20 years ago? Unless you’ve managed to live a flawless life, cut other people some slack. Don’t be a hypocrite by expecting them to be perfect when you’re not.
Life can be unfair, but we can choose how we react to whatever happens to us. The world is full of cops with bad attitudes because they believe that people should fear them and they don’t. I think sometimes they forget who they’re working for, and they judge everyone by the actions of a few. I know that it hurts to feel betrayed by society or by the ones we love. Sometimes it feels as if there is no way out, and the frustration can become overwhelming. There are those who get married and put their heart, soul, and trust into someone that they plan to spend the rest of their life with, but then they are betrayed by their partner’s lack of self-control, greed, and lust. The betrayal says more about your partner than it does about you.
There’s a fine line between sanity and insanity, but you don’t have to cross it. Instead of letting your emotions drive you to do something you will regret later, stop and relax. Take a minute to reflect on the situation. You can take control over your actions instead of letting your feelings control you. I have learned this from personal experience.
I don’t have to tell you how powerful the sex drive can be. You already know that. But you don’t have to give into temptation and allow yourself to be driven by your hormones instead of your brain. You can use self-control and consider the consequences of your actions. Sex is better when you care about the person you’re with. If you’re a guy, think about how well you get along with your best friend. You laugh at the same things, and you feel comfortable with each other. Now imagine that your best friend is a woman. She cares about you more than anyone else does, and you feel the same way about her. The two of you just seem to “click,” and you feel like it was meant to be. Caring deeply about your partner makes sex a much richer experience than you could ever get with a one-night stand.
True love is nothing more than enjoying the innocence of your companion’s softest touch and seeing the beauty of the world through their eyes. If the person you love has betrayed you, don’t let it make you bitter. The best advice I can give you is just to “ride on.” Don’t sacrifice your integrity to hold onto someone who is just using you to get what they want, or you’ll wake up one day and find that you’ve been sleeping with the devil. Let go of that person and move on. You never know when you might find someone who will reach into your heart, recognize your true worth, and love you for who you are. But don’t sit around passively waiting for someone to find you. Go out and make the effort to meet new people, and be open to the possibility of forming new relationships.
If you have a dream, go after it. The world can be yours; don’t let the bastards win. People will try to cut you down because it makes them feel better about their own lack of commitment, and they want to bring you down to their level. But keep your priorities straight. Don’t die alone looking at a pile of money. We all must find a balance somehow. When you close your eyes many years from now for the final time, will you feel the peace that comes from knowing that you achieved what you wanted in your lifetime? At the end of your life, what would you be willing to do to have another chance to do it all again the way you wanted to? Most importantly, what will you see when you close your eyes for the last time and your whole life passes in front of you? You may or not believe in an afterlife, but I believe we all are accountable for the way we treat other people. There are repercussions if you do things that you know are wrong. The scars that you inflict on others can last a lifetime.
Self-discipline is the key to leading a balanced life. You don’t have to be a martial artist to have it, but studying the martial arts gives you practice in self-control. It gives you the mental strength to deal with life’s challenges. To be a good student, though, you have to keep your mind open to new learning. I have found that know-it-all types of people make the worst students. You can’t teach them anything, because they believe they’ve already got all the answers.
Now and then something will happen that makes you realize that your way of thinking is right or wrong. On June 1, 2006 I was sitting in a fast-food restaurant watching a mom with her three kids. These kids were totally undisciplined. I noticed that they were wearing karate pants, and one had a black belt on. I didn’t recognize any of the kids, which probably meant that they were students at the Tae Kwon Do school not too far from my Corporate Headquarters. That black belt meant absolutely nothing to the child who wore it, and the parents were paying for martial art lessons that had absolutely no effect on their kids’ behavior. The lesson here is that you don’t always get what you pay for. Sometimes you get a lot less.
I’ve been teaching kempo for 12 years, and during that time I’ve promoted only five people to black belt. All of these people were adults. When they received their black belt, it meant something to them. Seeing that kid running wild and wearing a black belt reinforced the wisdom of my approach to teaching the martial arts. When people train with me, their lives are changed. I hope reading this book has changed your life, too, in some small way. If so, it’s worth all the effort I put into it.
I believe each person has a purpose in life, and we need to find that purpose and go after it. We need to think about the consequences of our actions and find the courage to do what is right, no matter what anyone else may do or say. Each person can have a positive impact on the world, no matter whether they happen to be a karate teacher, a single mom, a high school student, a truck driver, a police officer, or a senior citizen. Along these lines, I decided to include the following list of Paradoxical Commandments, which was written by Dr. Kent M. Keith in 1968 when he was a 19-year-old student at Harvard (www.paradoxicalcommandments.com). The list has shown up in many places over the years, including the wall of Mother Teresa's orphanage in Calcutta. You may have received it in an e-mail from a friend. I am including it here because it sums up so many of the points I have made in this autobiography.
The Paradoxical Commandments
1. People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
6. The biggest persons with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest persons with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
7. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
9. People really need help, but may attack you if you do help them.
Help them anyway.
10. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
— T H E E N D o f B O O K O N E —