Everyone that I worked with during the 2017 Kyiv Experience was a living testimony to hard work. From my brief, limited experience in Ukraine, it appears as if everything is more of a challenge and therefore, there is a sense of pride in what you do that I don’t see as much, particularly with our young people, here. Now don’t get me wrong…the kids over there liked fun and games in training as well, but they didn’t seem to “need” those activities to be motivated. Interesting.
Years ago I was introduced to a local soccer coach, a man who would become a friends and mentor. I noticed in his team the same things that I noticed with our experience in Ukraine. His players didn’t “practice”; they “trained”. Everything was taken very seriously and the proof is in the pudding. Coach Polon took a small, relatively unknown program in the DC Metro area and turned them into a name; while himself earning All-Met Coach of the Year…unprecedented for a small, private school! Polon often talked about pride with his team. “Not that egotistical, self-serving pride,” rather he instilled in is team a joy and anticipation on looking back on what you’ve worked through and accomplished…relishing the journey over the destination. To date, I’ve never coached against a team quite like SSFS, and I credit a great deal of what they are to the efforts of Eduardo Polon.
Going back to Ukraine…they’ve got that same pride. Clearly the instructors over there are instilling those admirable, budo qualities. There is a joy in accomplishment; not for ego or self-inflation, but because that is what is expected! Hard work is an expectation, NOT an exception, unlike here where every kid gets a trophy or medal for trying. I witnessed honor given to excellence not participation. Man, imagine what life would be like here if we could get away with such convictions!
This is why I love teaching budo, Kyokushin karate. We are a community of people who embrace the challenge. Who see struggle for what it’s worth: an opportunity to push past and through limitations. When you are daily breaking down barriers, who wouldn’t be proud? When you regularly find yourself doing what was once thought impossible, why wouldn’t you take pride in that? My friends in Ukraine work very hard. I’m thankful to be part of an organization (Phoenix Karate-do Association, Kyokushinkai International) that works across oceans to hold the same, high standard not just for technical expertise, but character development as well.