Martial Arts Business: Why (I Think) Meeting Julia Butterfly Hill is Important to Your Career
I would not be surprised if the majority of the martial arts community sees no connection whatsoever with environmentalism and the martial arts ——or, more specifically, between the environmental activist Julia Butterfly Hill and anything that has to do with teaching or practicing the martial arts.
But I see a very important, vital, and relevant connection between this young lady and her work —and the work I’ve engaged in for the last 40 + years of my life.
If that day in 1971 when I walked into a martial arts school and took my first formal lesson were a rock thrown in the center of a pond, then each of the last 40 years have been an ever-widening ripple of growing awareness and understanding about the martial arts and self-defense.
As I’ve grown up as a martial artist I have come to understand the connection between my hands and arms and protecting my head and upper torso. I have come to understand the importance of dodging, ducking, and footwork —when it comes to both avoiding attacks and delivering my own.
I have learned how to use my words to defuse conflict.
I have become aware of the value of avoiding potential conflict as a method of self-defense, so I don’t have to fight or protect myself, physically, at all.
I have come to understand that the way I treat my family, the way I eat, the way I engage my friends and my community, and the way I think are just as important to self-defense as is the block, the punch, and the kick.
My view of the martial arts, what I have learned in the process of studying and practicing, might best be called a “global” view; a big picture view.
If and when you are absorbed in your own issues, the world can feel pretty small. I’ve been there, immensely absorbed in who I was, what my skills were, and what it all mean to me and mine.
Step back from your own problems to look at how others suffer and it can put your own issues into a different perspective. I’ve been there, as a teacher and friend to others. You too, yes?
Likewise, stepping way back and looking at the world, at history, at global issues, and what’s really important on a grand scale (what is “self-defense” globally?) —and it can (should) affect how you feel and what you teach others.
That idea might best be phrased, “Think globally, act and teach locally.”
From this viewpoint, environmental concerns are as relevant to self-defense as any other issue on the sliding scale between the micro, such as the block of the punch, to the macro, as in, for example, the destruction of our planet’s rain forests.
Julia Butterfly Hill is someone who I admire for her ability to live her life with more than her own personal concerns in mind. She’s part of the village of teachers who I look to for instruction on self-defense for big picture issues. From my viewpoint, Julia Butterfly Hill is as much a proponent of self-defense as an environmental activist, as I am as a teacher of the martial arts.
What’s Your Tree?
Julia will be the first person to point out that climbing an old-growth redwood tree and refusing to come out of it for 738 days is not for everyone. That tree was HER concern, but she doesn’t presume tree-sitting is yours.
But what she follows that idea with is what makes her so very important to the master teacher of the martial arts, as she asks, “What’s your tree?”
In other words, what do YOU care about enough to put yourself on the line for? And this, my friends, is a manifestation of the spirit of the warrior. This is what we want, in part, from our years of training, from what we hope we might instill in the minds and hearts of our students:
Julia Butterfly Hill is every young person we have the honor and privilege to teach and, hopefully, influence and empower. She’s an example of how an average person, two legs, two arms, one head, and without backup or money or anything much more than a certain fearlessness and a conviction to do what she believes is right, can have a profound influence on others and on the world.
When you meet Julia, understand you are in the presence of someone who contains the spirit you’d love to, be lucky to, instill in any of your students. Look her over carefully —and recognize that because she did what she did, you can be certain that others can do it too. What’s your tree? That’s the question to ask yourself. That’s the question to ask every student you ever are gifted with teaching. That’s the question that might be the ultimate aim of all martial arts training:
What is the battle you are willing to fight with everything you have?
Julia Butterfly Hill is a warrior for the things she believes in. Is there anything more important you would like to instill in those young people you teach?
She will be joining us in Greensboro, Alabama, April 10 to 14, 2013 in The 100.’s / UBBT’s Alabama Build-Vention. I suggest you come and make friends with someone who will teach you/remind you about the kind of courage we want to cultivate in ourselves —and most certainly in our students.
Be sure to get a copy of Julia’s book, One Makes the Difference: Inspiring Actions that Change our World. Need more information on our Build-Vention, call me, Tom Callos, at 530-903-0286.