In time, like me, many of you became the “golden child” of your martial arts school. You trained harder than anyone, and you were the best or one of the best students in the school.
By the time I was a first-degree brown belt, I rarely lost a sparring match against anyone other than my instructors. In fact, I refused to test for black belt, because it didn’t mean anything to me at the time. Keep in mind, this was a time of massive change in the martial arts industry. Full contact had begun, and many of the myths of the “deadly black belt” were being exposed as nothing more than fable. Forms were being questioned as useless, as many black belts were shown to be only average fighters reduced to desperate, wild swinging in the full-contact arena.
After Mr. Farrah left the school, I stopped coming to my brown belt class. I would show up at the end of the class when they were getting ready to spar. I would walk out onto the floor, spar, and then leave. My instructor, Walt Bone, who was an excellent black belt and teacher, finally expelled me from the school.
Nine months later, he let me back in, and I returned to the arts with a deeper appreciation of what they were. I have worked hard ever since to honor them. I became Mr. Bone’s highest-ranking black belt until his death in a plane crash on December 16, 1982 (in a strange twist, I took him to the airport when he flew home to Dallas to visit his mom over the holidays. When I got home, I told my roommate, “I will never see him again.” Just a week later he died in a small plane crash in Texas).
These stories illustrate the path that many of us have traveled. It typically starts with an extended state of being powerless and out of control. That’s our motivation to join the martial arts school. Though intimidation and violence existed within the martial arts school, the traditions and rules made it more meaningful, and we endured the pain to move into the inner circle. In the martial arts that inner circle is earned by gaining rank, which wins you Respect.