25 years ago my karate instructor, Marty Weedon, asked me to start a Golden Knights Karate class at a local private school. I had just recently earned my Black Belt and was untested as an instructor. But what has happened in the 25 years since then is nothing short of amazing.
Today will be my LAST day teaching that class in that gym. I can’t help but reflect on some of the lessons I’ve learned in the last 25 years.
1) Time isn’t just measured in minutes.
When I started this class, there were no cell phones, no internet and not everyone had access to a computer. When I started this class, I was not married, I didn't have kids (they're 17 and 14 now), and my hip wasn't titanium. And, yet, in some ways time hasn’t changed at all when I walk into that gym. The journey to Black Belt and beyond is unchanged. The kids that want to walk that journey are no different today. They are inquisitive, they are impetuous, they are entertaining. And when they “get it”, they keep it for life.
2) Some things never change and that’s good.
I’ve always been a forward thinker. But when this transition hit me, I couldn’t help but think back. I estimate about 700 kids have passed through my classes. Some didn’t last long and some are life-long friends. Some of those “little kids” are now pushing 40 years old. They are now doctors, filmmakers, social workers, military officers, physicists, hippies, parents, students, teachers, lawyers, and many other professions. But they will always be MY students.
3) Big progress is created in small ways.
When I look at all the pictures and contemplate all that has been accomplished by all these students, I am overwhelmed. When I think about all that they have yet to accomplish and all those that they will inspire, I am in awe. But all of it is possible because of every interaction at every class. Every opportunity to challenge, to support, to empower caused small reactions in those little people. And those little reactions multiplied into a tidal wave of impact as they grew up and moved on. In the end, all those little moments really did matter.
4) Every ending is really just a beginning in disguise.
While I am a bit melancholy about the passing of time and my own youthfulness, I am excited to see the next chapter. As fate would have it, a student whom I’ve had the honor of teaching for 20 years will officially take the baton and move us to the next level starting today. He is 25 years old – the same age I was when I created the class. I am excited for him as I was excited for myself 25 years ago. Although I am still going to be teaching some classes, my new role requires me to be the mentor to the instructor. I have traveled the road he is starting down and wish him the best!
I wonder what the next 25 years will bring….