As we begin our relationship I want you to know, before we go any further, that I’m going to open up much of my life to you. I don’t think it’s helpful to be some sort of mysterious “guru,” demanding that you come to me on the mountaintop so that I can pontificate.
To that end I’m going to share successes and failures. I don’t believe that you benefit from someone who cannot examine himself and discuss the lessons he’s learned from his own failures. It would be incredibly hypocritical if I asked you to do that and didn’t do it myself.
My desire is to not only be a mentor to you in the field of self-protection but also to walk alongside you to be a benefit to you in other ways. Those ways will, I believe, reveal themselves as we work together.
For now, though, I want to share with you something that I learned recently during my time as a full-time minister. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of seeing churches planted and grow into thriving bodies of people sharing their lives together in worship and service. Sadly, I’ve also seen churches shut the doors, and there were several reasons for each church’s death.
Right now I want to focus on one reason that those latter churches closed, why they didn’t grow and thrive in their respective communities. I know of one church, in particular, where the people were set up to be a blessing to their community. They were uniquely positioned, if you will, to not only reach people with teaching and instruction but also warm hospitality and a sense of community.
But they didn’t choose to do those things. Rather, they passed on the property, kept renting space (from another church) so that they could save money and allow the other people to do the upkeep, etc., and removed any sense of accountability from others who might challenge them to reconsider their choice.
Some of you might say, “Well, maybe they disagreed with spending money they didn’t have.” Nope, that wasn’t an issue. Nor were those people challenging them asking them to do irrational, immoral, or illegal things. The bottom line was they cared more about themselves than others, something that churches ought not to do (but that’s for a different post).
What really happened was that these people decided they did not need to do those things. They decided that they were opposed to them and they rallied together around that fact. And that was the death sentence for them. They’re still together as a group but they have no impact in the community in any way. It’s a sad fact, to be honest with you.
You see, when you focus your identity on what you’re against rather than what you’re for you become self-centered and self-absorbed. You cannot imagine that anyone has anything to teach you because you’re your own authority. This is an potentially catastrophic place in which to find yourself. And yet, so many of us find themselves in this position, sometimes without truly recognizing it.
So how does this apply to us? Well, most of the time, we are unaware of our own blind spots. We cannot (because they’re blind spots) see every single need we have in our lives. So we meander through our lives blissfully unaware of key facts and thoughts that could have a profound impact on our lives.
Or another issue we have is that we reject a lesson because of its instructor, and we short-change ourselves. We reject the message because of the messenger. As Bruce Lee said in “Enter the Dragon:”
“It is like a finger pointing away to the moon. Don't concentrate on the finger or you will miss all that heavenly glory. Do you understand?”
Do you understand? If not bear with me and I’ll explain.
I’ve written about the fact that most people don’t want to go “full immersion” into the martial subculture. They have no desire to change their lives; they’re content with themselves, their habits, patterns, and interests. The last thing on their minds is dropping all of those things and taking up the life of a warrior from a history book. They don’t see that as a priority in their lives.
And that’s totally fine. All too frequently martial arts instructors can’t speak to non-martial artists. Further, they can’t even fathom why non-martial artists can’t see how valuable their training is. So what happens is that they wind up teaching and living in an echo chamber. They develop blind spots in their lives and wind up only doing business with, spending time with, and teaching people who are as into martial arts as they are.
I’ve said it before that I love my martial arts instructor friends. I value them as people and I value them as fellow martial instructors. However, when I was in my late-20s, back in the early 2000s I disengaged from the martial culture. I didn’t step away from thinking, training, or teaching, mind you. But I recognized that a good number of the people that I was spending time with had the exact problem that I detailed above.
I was a newly married man (and a newly converted Christian) and I had begun to see things differently, to prioritize my wife and my marriage higher than the martial arts scene. I saw the problems with eating, sleeping, and drinking fighting all the time. I saw problems with my thinking that I wanted to change and so I decided to respectfully remove myself from the scene.
Fast forward twenty years and I have a newfound zeal and understanding of the martial subculture. I developed this, in part, due to my many years of theological education, teaching experience (martial and non-martial), and my interactions with people from all walks of life.
While I never stopped teaching people to defend themselves, I scaled back my teaching tremendously, because I was walking in a different world. But the funny thing is that as I walked in the non-martial arts world I began to understand that I was in a position to bridge the gap between those worlds.
So I’m writing this article to declare what I am for and not what I’m against. I have zero desire to be opposed to “the commercial martial arts” or anything like that. What I am for, why Lacy Products and Services exists, is the high-quality, mature instruction in martial culture, taught professionally but not dramatically to serious, motivated, committed people.
I am a mentor. I am someone who comes alongside someone with a desire to learn, to grow, and to seek out training and skills that they recognize that they want or need. I walk in the martial world but I do so in as ego-free way as my training, experience, and skills allow. Additionally, I walk in the non-martial world, speaking both languages fluently, so I can reach untrained people in ways that they can easily comprehend.
What is a “self protection mentor?” Someone who you can contact when you need him, who'll reach out to you, hold you accountable, ask questions, live by example, lead when needed, and offer resources and aids along the way. I’ve become what I am today because of mentors who had my best interests in mind while holding me to a high standard and expecting me to reach it.
So that’s my role, my reason for putting myself in your path. In my next article I’ll explain what your role, as mentee, is going to be. You see, not everyone is a good fit for one another, and it's important to know not only what I expect of myself and what you can expect of me, but also what I expect of you and what you should expect of yourself.
Until next time,