I got paid the biggest compliment the other day.
One of the soccer (I've clearly been here too long using that word to describe football) players I'm working with here in the US called me "Mr Miyagi".
If you don't know who that is, you should so I will tell you. He is Daniel Larusso's wise old karate teacher in "The Karate Kid" trilogy...a must watch.
The player wasn't referring to my proficiency in karate, my diminutive stature or my Okinawan origins.
He was comparing some work I'd done with him to some Eastern healing work Miyagi does with his student after injury in one of the movies. After clapping his hands together and rubbing them vigorously with a meditative look on his face, he lays his hands on his student's injured site to bring about an almost instant return to health.
My work isn't Eastern or mystical and I don't clap and rub my hands (maybe I should...) but after a few minutes of our work together, he felt pretty transformed.
I never had a good nickname growing up so I will cling to this one for dear life!
Anyway, enough about context now.
This name led me to think about these movies (that I saw a few weeks ago and intended to write about anyway). They are a rich with metaphors and examples about learning, teaching and becoming a better athlete.
Here's my take on some of the golden messages you could take from Miyagi, Daniel-San and the must-watch The Karate Kid trilogy.
- Looks can be deceiving. Nobody suspected a little old maintenance man would be a karate master who would turn up to save the day. Judging your opponents by their appearance can be a costly error. Big or small, fat or thin, young or old, graceful or clumsy, if they are standing in front of you ready to compete, they can beat you so it's worth paying full attention to them. The costlier error still is to rule yourself out of performing at a higher level based on the same criteria. There are exceptions to the norms of body dimension and age in almost every sport but you can only be one of them if you give it a real go.
- Belts mean nothing. Miyagi never got a black belt - just a canvas belt. Apparently black belts came about in the martial arts by accident. Everybody started wearing white belts that got dirty over time. The guys who practised more had blacker belts meaning the belt became an easy way of categorising fighters of different levels. Levels, grades, qualifications and titles are not always such accurate indicators of ability. I know plenty of people in and out of sport that sound much more impressive than their performances are. Strive to improve your abilities over your qualifications. In a fight, your black belt wouldn't save your ass but your ability just might.
More on Miyagi and Karate Kid nuggets over the next few days.
Arton "Wax on, wax off" Baleci