As a fighter and student, I found myself focusing primarily on my own goals and dreams. Training helped me discover myself and live a more skillful, thus happier life. However, an interesting shift has occurred in my career in the last 10 years or so. I became a coach and began to shift my focus to my students and fighters. My mission became to teach, lead and inspire others to achieve their dreams through the martial arts, and I am proud to say that I have done just that. I have enjoyed sharing my experiences with those willing to learn, which has proven to be more rewarding than fighting ever was. My new journey as a coach has allowed me to produce several national champions who went on to become medalists at the WKA World Championships in several countries, earning me the position of assistant coach to the US National Team. I have been involved with the WKA as a coach for over a decade and it has been a tremendous experience.
However, this year I was called on for a different cause. I was an official, one of 35 judges, timekeepers, and referees whose mission was to provide the sanctioning of the largest, most prestigious ring sport tournament in North America. Coupled with a team of 2 administrators, 6 staff members, 15 volunteers, and the leadership of WKA USA President Brian Crenshaw, we did not disappoint.
Many of our jobs started Friday night. After a 4-hour weigh in and check in process (and quite a bit of caffeine I might add) the WKA staff went to work on setting up the brackets for the following day. Many of us (including myself) stayed up until 4 am to complete the task, and only sleeping a few hours before waking to begin the tournament on Saturday morning. Nevertheless, the job was done, and we as a team were excited to start a long day of amazing fights.
Over 300 competitors fighting in various arts such as Muay Thai, MMA, Kickboxing and Grappling, came to The Arthur Ash Center in Richmond, VA to compete. Their mission was to become a National Champion, thus securing their spot on the US National Team that will fight in Italy at the World Championships in September. Accompanying the competitors were the numerous camps and teams that prepared them for the rigors of tournament fighting, a challenge that is part skill, part conditioning, and ALL heart. Representing their camps with pride and honor, each fighter fought numerous times in the course of one weekend, a feat of ironclad and resilience.
And what an amazing weekend it was! The national event always turns out to be a family reunion of sorts. The many warrior tribes of the United States come together to celebrate life through unarmed, physical combat, a life that we embrace all too well. As I stood in the ring, refereeing hundreds of matches, I was in awe and admiration by the level of respect each fighter and camp had with one another. In a world where respect and dignity towards our common man seems to be antiquated, we are an anomaly. Fighting is a ritual that is as old as time itself: One will stand against another to showcase their skill and bravery in honorable combat. In the end, when the final bell rings, both combatants will know more about themselves than before. It is a thing of utmost beauty to watch this event unfold in front of your eyes. As fighters, coaches and officials partake in this ritual together, this ceremony known as a “fight”, we see both our sport and our spirits evolve in front of our eyes. It is present moment awareness at its finest. It is the shedding of preoccupation with the past or future, concentrating only on the NOW. A fight is the embodiment of true life, and this weekend was truly alive.
As we crowned new champions and tended to the wounds and words of both victors and the defeated, I continued to come back to the most important word of the weekend: Service. There is no higher purpose than to serve others. Service to the greater good of the entire fighting community is what the WKA stands. Each and every person who offered their weekend to this cause did it out of a love for serving our people. I felt a sense of pride and honor working with such a great group of individuals, some who drove over 8 hours to make this one of the greatest North Americans that I have been a part. Each official wanted to have an impact on the fight world. They wanted to make a difference on a larger scale; to have a greater bandwidth, so to speak, than the confines of their own gyms.
Now as the WKA National tournament has come to an end, I have realized another level to my mission of service. After all, at the end of the day, service is our higher calling as martial arts instructors. We thrive on serving our community; on giving the people that we influence the lifelong benefits of cultivating the mind, body and spirit. Service has been at the heart of the greatest warriors on our planet. The word Samurai, for example, means, “to serve” and so they lived and died for the service of their nation. Our military serves our country both in peace and in war. It is an honor for such warriors to sacrifice and provide for their own kind, and at the WKA nationals, that tradition was continued in the same honorable way.
I for one have served as a trainer of individuals, teams and gyms for most of my adult life. I have enjoyed giving back to my community immensely. Now, as both an official and the assistant coach to the US National Ring Sports Team, I can be of greater impact, not only to our entire nation of fighters, but to the entire world. I am extremely grateful to Kru Brian Crenshaw and our entire WKA staff for sacrificing their time and effort for the sake of service to our fine community. It has been an honor to serve with you and I eagerly look forward to doing it all over again at the World Championships in Italy later this year.