Social Media has become an essential tool for many of us who teach professionally. It helps spread the word, promote our work and to a certain degree validate our efforts. One of the many dangers it affords is the ability to curate our posts and filter our presentations.
Facebook, Instagram, and You-tube can unsettle by encouraging us to review and compare our lives with others. It is just too easy to lose our-selves in meaningless scrolling and comparing.
(Let’s face it, despite my best efforts I will never look as good in some red swim shorts as the ‘Hoff’! 😊)
I am working hard to define a plan so that I can use my Social Media with intention. I plan to set myself boundaries on posts and screen-time. Even at my tender age it is too easy to live life online and I want to present the best possible example to my kids by being present in the ‘real-world’.
With that in mind I wonder if there a harder job in the world than being a parent?
We all enter it with little or no experience and essentially must make the best of it. One of the biggest challenges I face is the immediacy of the Internet driven world and the expectations that presents to my kids.
When I was a boy our first home computer was an obscure one called a Dragon 32 that my Dad bought second hand from a guy at work. I remember it had a cartridge game system and a cassette deck. When Dad brought that home it felt like one of the best days of my life! That was probably around 1986.
A few years later technology had moved on and I was thrilled to get a Commodore 64 for Christmas. There was only one problem! There was an issue with the tape deck and only the Typing Tutor would load! I spent Christmas day and Boxing day learning to type and trying to beat my word-per-minute count. Wow, I really was geeky! But equally I was resilient and patient. I made the best of it! I still remember the buttons you had to press to load the games. ‘C-Load-M’.
When the stores re-opened, we took it back and exchanged it.
During one of our recent classes for the teenagers I told them about the ‘Good Old Days’ where you had to visit a store like HMV to buy games. Games which took thirty to forty minutes to load. These games could Crash, and then perhaps not load at all.
Finally, I explained how you would be treated to blocky graphics and Casio sounds to accompany your gaming. Back then the only free games were the ones you copied from cassette to cassette.
My friends and I would often play football outside while we waited for a game to load. We would also get organised and all meet at one of our houses with a particular game, sometimes with our own joysticks. (My favourite was a Quickshot two with rapidfire. I wonder how many of you reading can remember destroying joysticks playing Daly Thomson’s Decathlon?)
Today my son wanted to install a version of Minecraft on our laptop. He already has it on our PS4 and his Nintendo Switch.
He has seen one of his favourite You-Tubers (for those who are old like me, these are people who make a living playing games and posting videos of the gaming) playing on a particular server and he desperately wanted to get involved.
Initially I resisted. I struggled to understand why he wanted yet another version of the same game on another device. I couldn’t see the value. It seemed like a waste of money!
My Son was so passionate about it that he offered to pay for it himself from his savings and he was adamant that he would play it often and get value.
The problem is that my Son and his generation are used to having these things straight away! They will never know the joy we experienced jumping on the bus, finding the game in the store, buying it with our own money and then anticipating the gaming awesomeness while we travelled home to play it. Now you simply click and download.
New games appear in an instant and I can’t help but feel that some of the value is lost as a result.
Oscar was impatient and he was rushing me. I agreed he could download the game, but to teach him value and patience I made him wait until the afternoon until I downloaded it. I was desperately trying to parent appropriately and not take the easy option and deliver the game straight away.
Then we hit a problem.
There were two versions of the game on the Microsoft website. The Java and Microsoft 10 versions. Neither of us were sure which one he needed. I was happy to research, my Son was impatient.
I quickly read the descriptions and discovered the Java version enabled programming and other advanced functionality. I have Microsoft 10 on my laptop so this version appeared to be the correct one. Meanwhile Oscar is pushing, ‘come on Dad, please download it…… I really want to play it’.
I wasn’t 100% certain it was the right one. But, I clicked download and committed to the purchase.
‘Ping’…. A few minutes later and the game is installed and is instantly playable. My Son was full of anticipation.
I passed him my laptop and left him to play while I boiled the kettle for my next cuppa strutting out of the room like the Hero Dad I had just proven to be.
Uh Oh! You guessed it…..disaster … we had installed the wrong version!
I walked back into the room and Oscar was devastated. He was on Youtube researching the name of the server. He had found it but couldn’t seem to connect through the PC. I flicked my imaginary cape over my shoulder and googled the server. There in Bold text was the dreaded statement ‘you will require Minecraft Java edition to access this game’.
My heart sunk!
I shouldn’t have relented to his pressure. I should have held firm and researched more.
My son was devastated, and his eyes filled with tears that he fought back. He had just spent £23 of his own money on the wrong version of the game.
Back in my day we could have asked someone in the store which version to buy and avoided this stomach wrenching experience. I really felt for him but then I stopped to think. This was a valuable lesson!
Sometimes if you want something you have to wait.
You must be patient.
You need to do your research.
Immediacy offers instant fulfilment ... but paradoxically can risk instant disappointment.
I was tempted to buy him the other version there and then, but I knew he would fail to learn from the experience if I did.
Later when I put the kids to bed, I reflected on this and the upset my son had experienced and I pondered the similarities to karate.
On Saturday I had a new child beginner come to watch the class with his Mum. After I had taught, I asked them to stay for a short while so I could talk to him and understand why he wanted to learn. He told me his reasons and I explained that he would be very welcome. We could start work straight away but I needed to be honest and tell him that it would likely take many years before he would be proficient in the skills he desires.
I did however explain that we could work on his confidence straight away!
Those of us of a certain age and pedigree in karate know that you cannot simply download a blackbelt skillset. This is not the Matrix!
Unfortunately, the generation born since 1997 do not know life without the internet.
Knowledge, fulfilment, information, and insight for them has always been a click away!
Last summer I was discussing practical karate with one of my Senior Students. He had remained focussed during lockdown and had been researching karate online and watching Youtube for inspiration and insight.
My student is a very pragmatic person and creative too, so it is natural that he would question and study. As an instructor this can be challenging. I certainly remember having some long chats with my teacher in my formative years.
When my Black Belt told me some of his concern’s I asked him a simple question:
‘Do you still Trust me as your teacher?’
His answer was yes, and I explained it was fine if he didn’t. Inevitably we are all different and must walk our own paths. If he chose a different path we would still be friends. In-fact I would be interested in his work and proud I had helped him so far. But as the trust is still there, I will reward his faith by pushing forward.
(Trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something. "relations have to be built on trust.")
I think trust in karate is perhaps more important now than ever. Our students whether young or old will be conditioned to immediacy and have high expectations regarding the speed at which answer’s and gratification can be found.
Personally, I still aspire to the skill of my mentors and I choose to trust the methods and process they followed to achieve their level. We cannot rush these things, but this patience sits in stark contrast to the instancy everyone experiences in the modern world.
Karate dedication and improvement WILL take decades……. But it still comes down to trust.
Trust the art, trust your teacher’s and trust the PROCESS……
Turn up and do the work knowing that it will not download straight away.
The right choice is worth waiting for!