At 50 you’ll be a beginner

by Diana Rathborne

When Simo Paula asked me to contribute an article for Guro’s upcoming birthday, I thought of the many varied gifts I have received from learning and training with Guro Inosanto these last 20+ years. As Guro’s birthday is the catalyst for this article, it seems fitting to touch on maturing in the martial arts.

During a seminar weekend at the Mn Kali Group at least 15 years ago, I heard Guro Dan say “At 50 you’ll be a beginner” to my instructor Rick Faye. I was in my 30s, Rick was in his 40s and Guro was, well, Guro, and, as always, remarkable at every age. At the time I remember thinking “Huh. He said it so it must be true, but I’ve been training at least 10 years now, Rick as been training 20 or more. I don’t think I’m a beginner, and Rick’s definitely not a beginner.”

As this is the year I turn 50, I have to say that I am grateful that I get to focus on becoming a beginner martial artist instead of (or in addition to) bifocals, gray hair (locating and removing), the temptations of Botox, that stretching is no longer optional and increased absent-mindedness.

Each seminar I’ve attended with Guro has been a gift, the value of which I’m realizing more fully each year. What I find most exciting is the knowledge that there is a wonderful trail already blazed for me on how to do this art as my body, my mind, my health and my spirit all change with age. Guro’s approach to learning and training is both infectious and a joyous process for those of us blessed enough to be his students.

The martial arts and those of us who train in it for a while are, as they say in the UK, ‘a quirky lot’. The development of the physical skill seems to peak when we understand it least but think we’ve ‘got it’. The mental, intellectual and spiritual development seems to hit it’s stride after we’re no longer able to do what we were a few years prior. The challenge then, is how do we still find joy in the training instead of focusing on the decline of our physical attributes? Guro Inosanto has given all of us, and the art, a pathway to a more youthful existence both because we train and because we have an avocation that keeps us excited, growing and learning. I keep thinking of the overused but very apt expression “Use it or lose it”. Every day through training we use our mind and our bodies. Here is a short list of some of the gifts that I’d like to thank him for:

– The knowledge that the art itself is continually evolving. As our foundation develops we are given more techniques, drills and training methods from more areas of the arts.
– The atmosphere of growth: humor, joy, camaraderie, challenge and family.
– A role model that shows us to be busy doing what we do. It is both easy and tempting to compare oneself to others and come up short.

Guro’s teaching and the opportunity to learn from the many great and varied instructors under him all underscore the same lesson: we all received a unique and individual package from the Creator – to use the gift we were given, not to compare ourselves to others & get busy.

– The attribute of a curious mind: to see that Guro is always learning – whether a new technique, a new gadget, a new art or from a new instructor.
– The mindset of openness and acceptance: Guro is always able find the good in all things and express and focus on that element.
– The faith to be true to yourself – Guro’s ability honor his emotions, spirit and physical reality and let us see it, is courageous and inspirational.

Thank you Guro for all you have given to all of us. Instead of dreading it, I am looking forward to 50 and to being a beginner. Your excitement, passion and approach of continual personal development are an example for meeting each year’s challenges with a renewed passion for learning. And, for my less motivated/inspired days, the knowledge that you are taking classes, teaching classes and keeping a schedule that I can only aspire to 50% of, holds me a bit accountable and gives me the ‘no whining, get busy’ push that I need.

Thank you,

Your student, Diana Rathborne