By Kristen Cabildo
Sifu Phil, Gus, Tim and I had a great time at the Inosanto Academy at the beginning of this month. For five consecutive days, we trained amongst other instructors certified by Guro Dan from around the world. The days were filled with solidifying our knowledge of curriculum, learning about the history of the Filipino martial arts and the evolution of JKD, and demonstrating our abilities to be versatile by free flowing with different weapons.
Every year, testing is a part of the instructor camp. This usually happens on day three or four and this year was no exception. That means we had a few days to review and enjoy the comfortable pace of the seminar before being evaluated and videotaped. Guro Dan, being the emphatic instructor that he is, reminded us that testing isn’t to make anyone nervous. He told us a few stories about when his instructors would put him on the spot and how nerve-racking that was. He didn’t want us to feel that way, but it was important to keep our basics sharp and record our progress over time.
Even though all of us had countless hours training under Guro Dan over the years, and we had been to the instructor camp before, the idea of testing still made us nervous. Last year, we demonstrated a set of basic punches and kicks and did sombrata with single stick, double sticks, and stick and knife. We anticipated that testing this year would be along similar lines. We knew the curriculum and we had practiced sombrata with different combinations of weapons. And we were familiar with the format of Guro’s seminars — the days would be a good blend of history lessons and training, so they wouldn’t be terribly physically taxing. Yet, all of us knew we would have to perform in front of Guro Dan and our peers. Despite all our knowledge, preparation, and Guro’s laid back attitude — we still got nervous to some degree!
When Guro Dan called our names, we got up there and trusted our training. After our demonstrations, we got pats on the back from our peers for awesome form, compliments from Guro Dan himself, and a scolding from one of Guro Dan’s assistants to “slow down” for the videotaping! If we messed up in front of everyone or demonstrated the wrong technique, we did it with gusto! With Guro’s good natured humor, he would correct us and we adjusted.
After day four, we all breathed a sigh of relief and had a good laugh about how anxious we were. No matter what level you’re at, being evaluated can feel stressful. Evaluations are a small snapshot in time of what we’ve been working on and how we’ve been spending our training time. We hope we don’t choke because we want to show how our instructor and peers how hard we’ve been working.
So if becoming more skilled over time doesn’t prevent us from being nervous, then why train at all to get better if it doesn’t guarantee confidence in all situations? What’s the difference between a white belt and black belt if we all still getting nervous no matter how advanced we are? The difference is: you trust your training more and you’re kinder towards yourself when you make mistakes. The martial art journey is a life long road. It’s human to get nervous when we know all eyes are on us. But the motions that we’ve spent years practicing are ingrained in our bodies. Even if we’re nervous, our bodies know what to do — whether it’s in front of a class or out on the streets. We trust our training.
And lastly, we know that every mistake in a demo or in sparring is an opportunity to grow. Guro Dan once stated: “The goal of martial arts is not for the destruction of an opponent but to be used for self-growth and perfection.” Guro Dan reminds us to explore the martial arts through the lens of self discovery and to pass this lesson along to our students.
We look forward to following Guro Dan Inosanto’s advice as we train here at Unlimited Martial Arts in Brooklyn, New York!