On November 14th, 2014 I posted this article on the facebook page for Tampa Florida Judo.  One of my followers encouraged me to share it again. So I am.

Please enjoy.

As I Watched The Tears Flow
(an open letter to Martial Arts Instructors and Parents)
by Rhadi Ferguson, PhD

In a world where entitlement is high and paying “the cost to be the boss” gets subsidized by helicopter parenting, many of us in the world of martial arts succumb to the current social momentum of “p*ssyfication” and our practices, dojo, and training environment becomes nothing more than the extension of a child’s bedroom and living room — a soft couch with a game console.

The dojo, a place that has been designated as a classroom and a proving ground, has become a baby sitting hall. And in order to “run a business”, many martial artists have sold their souls and betrayed the art which they have learned and come to love for the opportunity to teach a lie when they know the truth.

When we were growing up, if there was a problem, we just got in the front yard or met after school at 3 o’clock and we figured the sh*t out.

Now such things are frowned upon and looked upon unfavorably. but that is how children figure out the social order of their universe. They learn who is who and what is what. They learn how to outmaneuver and outflank someone cognitively who they cannot beat physically. They learn how to win friends and influence people. They learn why saying “Excuse me” is better than saying “move!” once you tell the wrong person to “move” and they reply with, “Well, if you want me to move, then MOVE me!”

See, these are REAL lessons in life and unfortunately they don’t get taught anymore in most cases in the right context and the right time — during the formative years.

So what you have or what’s manifested in our environment are young adults who say, “Yeah” instead of “Yes.” Teenagers when called who respond with, “What?” instead of, “Yes, I’m coming.” Young folks who say, “Huh” instead of “Pardon me, I didn’t hear you. Can you repeat yourself please.” You have people who walk into a room full of people who don’t know that the right thing to do is to say “Good evening” once they hit the door.

I understand that I have a responsibility to teach the difference between O Guruma and O Soto Gari and the subtleties of O Guruma and Harai Goshi and the minutiae that makes a gake a gake and a gari a gari, but at the end of the day….. NOBODY REALLY GIVES A SHYT!!

That doesn’t mean that I don’t teach it. I do. But the character development issues and the self-concept of the minority child (of which I have several in my dojo) are of the utmost importance. The art is a martial one. So the next time you get caught up in your fancy vocabulary words and all that shyt — WHICH I DO CONSIDER IMPORTANT (please understand that I am an educator) — just remember, you are teaching a MARTIAL art. (if you are in doubt of what that means please look up the definition).

And the “war” for the persons leaving out of your dojo are all different. Some are in the fight against obesity. Some are still in the war of understanding and BELIEVING that they can go to college. Some are in the war of ADHD. Some are in the war of being accepted by others. Some are in the war of the appropriate way to display love. Some are in the war against self-hate. Some are in the war of self confidence. And through you and what you teach — you…… hell, WE are supposed to help them get through life.

Most students will only be with you for a short time and then they will leave and go off to university or begin “their life.” You will be part of their story when they say, “I took judo when I was a kid.” The stories they tell about you will shape their future.

On many nights at my dojo. I watch the tears flow from the kids at practice because everybody has “their night.” And it goes in a rotation. And when it’s YOUR night. You will do randori with everyone. I will pay attention to every detail once you step in the door. Your “pleases” and “thank yous” have to be tight. Your etiquette must be tight. Your belt must stay on. You must execute perfectly and then you will do randori for an insane amount of time with everybody. Sometimes 20, 30, 40, or 60 minutes straight. During this grind, the tears flow. They cry. I’ve had parents step outside. I’ve even had some parents say, “This isn’t for me.” And my reply is, “I understand. We don’t serve breast milk here.”

When they cry, I love it. Because I’ve seen them cry and quit and now I watch them cry and conquer. And this week, when the report cards came in…… I HAD STUDENTS THAT HAD F’s and D’s last year COME IN TO MY DOJO AND HAND ME REPORT CARDS THAT HAD STRAIGHT A’s and A’s with a splash of B’s.

I’ve had parents tell me how much their kid’s behavior has improved.

Most of my parents did sports when they were young. The ones that don’t or didn’t — don’t jibe well with the environment and that’s cool. I most certainly expect to have several doctors and lawyers come out of my program. Not because they are smart, but because they will understand that discomfort and crying is not a reason to stop. It’s a reason to conquer. So I say…. let the tears flow and allow it to wash the ________ away.

You can fill in the blank with whatever word you want. It doesn’t matter to me. I just want those who are around me to be better off when they leave my presence.

My prayer is that I continue to be an effective change agent and that my change permeates the fabric of our society positively, one person at a time.

Blessings from here to there.


Rhadi Ferguson, PhD
Tampa Florida Judo
“We Don’t Serve Breast Milk Here!”

P.S. Today, I would ask you to look at your game on the mat critically and ask yourself, where you can get better. For most Judo players, being able to attack and Destroy the Turtle is of the utmost importance. Because of this, my friend Matt D’Aquino and I created the “Destroy The Turtle” Series.  If you want to become a better coach and/or player and increase your ability to submit, pin and immobilize your opponent, then get “Destroy The Turtle” Today.