Supporting Others On The Mat
Here we are again. Less than one year after civil unrest erupted across the United States and the world, there is a similar situation brewing once again in Minnesota as Officer Kim Potter shot and killed a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright. Potter has since resigned and has been charged with 2nd-degree manslaughter. All mere miles from where Derek Chauvin’s trial continues for the murder of George Floyd.
It is a situation that is all too familiar. For some, it is a matter that may have been thrust into your face for the first time when you saw Chauvin press his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 minutes. But it is not new to the Black and Brown people standing around you, sharing the mats with you, training the same techniques as you day in and day out. The students that you teach are aware of the impact of police brutality, misogyny, social injustice, and racism. Some in a personal way, some in an emotional and mental way, but they know.
So, what does that mean for you as a practitioner or instructor of martial arts? You care about your teammates and students, right? It is not just an ideal that you put on the wall, gear to sell, or on social media when you talk about “training with your family,” right? If those are not just empty words, that means it is up to you to show empathy and take the steps needed to gain a better understanding of what others are going through. Educate yourself on what your “brothers” and “sisters” go through in the multitude of hours that are not spent learning arm bars or high kicks. It will go a long way in helping you learn how to support them through times of unrest such as today or even in the “quiet” times before the next one – because there will be a next one.
Some voices will have you believe that martial arts itself is apolitical. That could not be further from the truth. Even if it was, that does not override the fact that members of the community in which our martial arts academies practice are politicized for just existing. Do not ignore what is going on in the world around your gym. Speak to your students. Speak to your teammates. The simple act goes much further than many would expect. Besides, silence begets ignorance and is a problem in its own right.