Sunday, September 7, 2014

Your Life Is Your Toolbox

I recently opened my own Kung fu School. If you're interested in opening your own martial arts school this post may be of interest to you. The decision to open my own Kung fu school came after several years of very hard work (Kung fu), intense focus, and sacrifice. But by the time I was ready to open the school, everything that I needed to start a school seemed to already be in place. It was almost as if I'd been unconsciously laying the foundation for this moment over the course of my entire life. Maybe I had. You see, I've used almost every talent I've ever had, every skill I ever practiced and refined, every experience I've had in the creation and promotion of my school. I'll start from the beginning so this will make more sense.

Since I was a young boy I've been creating. I created my own comic books from characters to stories to drawing, inking, and coloring. I never sold any, never wanted to--they were just for me. But what this early creation did was get me started with visual arts and design. I'm not saying that the comics were extraordinarily well drawn or the stories were examples of the craft of writing. I mean, I was nine, or ten, or eleven years old. But it was a start. And I took those early attempts, knowing that they were crudely drawn and roughly crafted examples of writing, and worked on making improvements the next time I drew a comic book.

Once I'd achieved a level of proficiency at them, I moved on to other art forms. I tried wood working. I worked with clay. I made 16mm movies and played them on my brother's projector. I was part of the first generation of personal computer users and learned to program in BASIC on my Commodore 64. As time progressed I became very computer and tech literate and eventually used my skills to design newsletters and event programs using design programs like PageMaker and Quark for one of my early adult jobs.

I tried working with acrylics making "glass" tabletops. I tried my hand at photography, and bought a base model DSLR and took it everywhere shooting pictures and learning how to adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and other settings. I turned my eye to mounting and framing some of my pictures with varied success. All of this is to say that over the course of my entire life I was trying out skills and testing my various talents, experimenting and learning the right way to things by doing them, usually, completely wrong.

As a thirty-something, after starting my Kung fu training but long before the thought of owning and operating my own school was born, I began purchasing equipment to use for my workouts. A BOB heavy bag. A weight vest. Little things here and there over the years.

I opened my school on a tiny budget. I knew I'd have to make use of many of the talents I'd developed and honed over the years, and I did. I made a sign for the exterior of my school out of an old shelf, a chisel, a hammer, stain, spray paint, and lots of elbow grease:

The sign for my school is made from a 24" x 36"
30+ year old wooden shelf. I used a chisel, hammer,
sand paper, stain, and gold spray paint to create it.
It says Shaolin Kung fu Institute. It took me six straight hours of drawing, chiseling, staining, and painting to complete it. I'd never done anything like it, but my experiments as a boy had prepared me for it.

I made business cards and brochures for my business using the design skills I honed during my time as a PR Coordinator. In short, I've used every skill, artistic and otherwise, in the creation of my business. I hadn't realized how directed my life was toward this one destination until I'd finished most of the work and looked back. But, serendipitous or synchronous, all of these times and experiences had lead me to this moment in my life.

The BOB heavy bag found it way into my school. I acquired fu dogs for the entrance to my school and created pedestals for them:

The parts of the pedestal
 for the Fu Dogs
The pedestals assembled and spray
painted with stone spray paint
The finished pedestal with Fu Dog

What I say to you, martial artist, prospective instructor, student--wherever you are on the path, is this: use everything you have learned in your life in your business. Never forget the lessons you learned as a child. Don't be afraid to try something because if you fail at least you've learned something, and can use that knowledge in your next attempt.

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