Martial arts teacher tells males students that emotions are okay
There’s a viral video making the rounds in which a karate instructor tells a male student, after he breaks a block with his fist, that it’s “okay to cry.” Which, of course it is, but if that were universally understood, this video wouldn’t be going viral.
The video is being noticed because of two things: 1) it’s unusual to see a man encouraging young boys that it’s okay to be sensitive; and 2) it’s a black man, instructing black boys.
According to The Huffington Post, the video, shows some of an initiation test a young boy, Bruce, is undergoing in an attempt to make it into the Cave of Adullam Transformational Training Academy in Detroit, Michigan. The academy teaches Mūsar Rū, created by the instructor in the video, Jason Wilson. It combines spiritual precepts of the Bible, meditation and mixed martial arts. And it’s pretty obvious this is not your typical karate.
In the video, after the young boy struggles to break a block with his left hand, Wilson tells him that he needn’t be ashamed to cry, that “we cry as men.” Which is almost revolutionary, even in 2016. He tells Bruce, “I don’t mind if you cry. I cry too.” And it seems this is exactly what the young boy needed to hear.
“We decided to share this part of his initiation test to encourage all of you to not only allow your sons to cry when facing emotional stress, but more importantly, patiently walk them through it,” CATTA wrote on YouTube.
The fact the Wilson teaches the class in Detroit, and that his class is primarily, if not entirely, made-up of African-American students, adds an extra layer to his approach.
“Being a black man in this country, you’re going to need mental fortitude. You’re going to have to be strong here,” Wilson said, pointing to his brain. He then makes a fist and says: “More so than here.” Wilson is clearly being more than a martial arts instructor to these kids, he’s being a mentor at a time when many inner-city kids, all kids, can really use positive male role models.
As Wilson coaches Bruce through this difficult moment, he tells him “When you feel the pain, punch harder. That could be a barrier in life or anything. Punch harder.” He says, “It’s called a test for a reason,” and is sure to let the child know several times that showing emotion is OK by him.
I have two sons, and while I value their sensitivity and never want to give them the impression that their emotions are a bad thing, I often find myself bucking up against generations of male expectations for stoicism and toughness. Boys don’t cry, right? I’m not the most macho guy in the world, but I rarely cry, and despite the fact that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, I still feel like saying that sounds like I’m bragging. Men aren’t supposed to cry, for some reason, and I didn’t grow up seeing a lot of examples of anything different.
When I was growing up, I was a big fan of the movie The Karate Kid. And despite how much I loved that movie, it scared me off of taking karate for life. If I had known an instructor like Jason Wilson, I might have changed my mind.
The Karate Kid showcased an instructor so evil, he forced them to take push-ups on their knuckles, preached “no mercy” for opponents, and even taught his students to bully others. Sensitive he was not. One look at this video and it’s clear that Jason Wilson is no evil sensai, and the emotional sensitivity he’s teaching is part and parcel with the martial arts method he’s founded.
Now that I’m a grown man with two children of my own, I understand the value of expressing and processing one’s emotions, and the danger of stifling them. And while I may not be the world’s most sensitive guy, I’m attempting to teach my son’s that emotions aren’t a weakness. Just watch the end of the video.
After Bruce listens to his instructor, he gives the block another try, and this time he breaks it.