Discipline can be a scary word for kids and adults alike. It is all in the way that we look at it. Some of us have grown to feel that this word has some sort of a negative connotation. The word makes many of us think about our childhood or some life lesson that we learned in a painful way. Personally, I thought about the word in this way for many years.

I grew up without very many active positive role models, and because of this I learned to bend and manipulate the rules to fit my immature agenda both in my childhood and my younger adult life. Still to this day I tend to learn life lessons the hard way just like so many of you reading this right now.

Throughout my martial arts career I have been fortunate to have had positive role models come into my life. At one time or another I sought out instructors for their martial arts knowledge. Their skills, techniques, and styles led me to follow them, all the while I was learning life lessons that I am still reaping the benefits of to this day. Whether I am trying my best to teach these lessons to my son, my students or myself I am constantly reminded of times when I witnessed a magic moment in martial arts training (either mine or someone else’s) that changed me for the better and helped to shed some light onto why I lost my way as a child and young man. This is the story of one of those moments…

Before I opened my first martial arts school in 2010, I went to visit one of my instructors and mentors Guro Dan Inosanto at his academy in Marina Del Rey, California. As an instructor I knew that I had much to learn and I still do, but the reason that I went was to learn more martial arts techniques, concepts and drills not to learn about the nature of Self-Discipline.

I watched Guro Dan teach several of the ”Little Dragon’s” classes during that trip. Although, I did not intend on teaching children’s martial arts it was quickly explained to me by my peers that I would starve if I didn’t teach children. I like food, so I buckled down to watch and learn.

What I witnessed was pure gold in the realm of growth and development as an instructor, student or just human being at any age or stage of life.

Guro Dan was having the children line up at the end of class. The students were to stand in attention stance in line according to rank before bowing out of class for the day. One little boy had trouble staying in attention stance at this time and following directions during the end of the class. Guro Dan very gently asked the boy to calm down and stand in attention stance. The boy tried but quickly began moving around again and disrupting the end of class, this time a bit more deliberately.

Guro then asked the students..” Little Dragons, what is the best kind of discipline?” The students quickly responded “Self-Discipline,Sir!”

At this point Guro then told the little boy that he “did not want to discipline” the boy and that the boy had the “chance to discipline himself before anyone else had to discipline him”. I watched as the boy calmed himself down and focused on his attention stance.

The class then ended and all of the students bowed to all of the instructors on the mat and returned to their parents to be picked up.

Many of the things that I learned that trip were quite frankly over my head. Being in front of a master of anything is a humbling and unique experience. I highly suggest it to anyone. Whether that person is a master of martial arts, public speaking, or cheese maker (a shout out to my Wisconsin people) the benefits of being around excellence and students of such can be a life changing experience.

I am not much one to harp on others about discipline, whether of self or others because I still struggle with this simple concept every day but I will tell you that no one can reach their potential without some sort of self-discipline. So the next time we look at someone else and see something that we don’t like or approve of, let’s just take a minute to think about how many times a day that we have been granted the opportunity to discipline ourselves so that we might reach the most potential that we have inside.

Let’s learn from ourselves and our experiences to be the best that we can be. Then sharpen the edge just a little more, after all we are the only ones who can do it for ourselves.

-Instructor Jamie Sparling