I have seen a lot of sniping on social media about the fitness of martial arts instructors. There are some instructors that tout their fitness and insult heavier martial artists. On the other-side I hear instructors tout their technique and dismiss the relevance of fitness. It can get nasty. One online altercation led to one martial artist accusing another of body shaming. Making people feel bad about themselves is not fitness motivation. Inspiring people to be something greater than they are today is fitness motivation.
As I have discussed many times, we must remember the tenet of respect. You can’t expect students to be respectful, if the teachers are online disrespecting each other. There are positive ways to demonstrate value of martial arts. We do not need to denigrate another instructor to show our value. I know some heavier martial artists that would crush some of the fitter ones I know. I also know some very effective fit instructors. Fitness is not necessarily indicative of effectiveness in the teaching of martial arts. However, being fit is healthier.
Being heavy does take a toll on the body. As I have mentioned before, I am overweight and am on a mission to get fit. I am getting fit for my own health, not to impress people online. I try to stay out of the online chatter (not always successfully). I am not going to tell a heavier instructor they are ineffective because they are less fit than another instructor. I might advise them that they should consider their health and ask them if they think they will be able to continue the same level of activity at their weight when they are 50. In my experience as I find myself a couple of years away from 50, the answer is no. If I want to continue at an aggressive level of activity, I need to lose weight.
There are people who can continue at higher levels and stay heavy. I was in a 5K race last year and an older gentleman ran by me and the back of his shirt said: I’m old, fat, diabetic and you’re behind me. How you manage your health is a personal decision. How you act online is also a personal decision. I ask you to consider being positive in both cases. Live your life in a healthy way in the physical world and online. Live in a way that would make your students proud.
Remember that as an instructor you have an impact on your students and their parents. If you are negative and disrespectful, you will find that your students and their parents will act the same way. You have a responsibility as a martial arts instructor to be an ambassador to the martial arts. You are an example to your students and their parents. If you are negative, your students and their parents will only have a negative narrative to share with others. Wouldn’t it be better to have them communicate a positive narrative?
Body shaming is very common today. It can make people, especially kids, feel bad about themselves. As a heavy martial artist, if you can lose weight and use your online presence to communicate a positive message of fitness and respect for others, you can have a positive impact on students who feel that they are too heavy to start martial arts and who avoid fitness programs. I have been communicating my struggles and have heard from students and readers that they believe they can succeed because they have seen me succeed. They have also seen that it is hard as I have slipped but that being persistent can get them to their goals.
You won’t see me running around with my shirt off this summer (maybe next summer) but you will see me teaching the importance of respect and fitness in martial arts. Martial arts can have a positive impact on everyone. Don’t let our words scare away the people who can benefit the most.