A thought came to both Mrs H and myself at about the same time this year. It's not surprising that we think the same things at the same time, since we recently celebrated our thirty-first wedding anniversary. Anyway, the thought that came to us as we received so many presents, cards and well wishes from our respective students, was just how much genuine affection there was in the giving.
I suppose it's not all that surprising that, as the martial arts school LCTKD, which I co-founded with Gareth Hall in London's Chinatown, arrives at its tenth anniversary, the people who are part of it are going to feel no small amount of affection for the school, the dozen Instructors who help to run it (thank you, every one of you!), and their fellow students.
We often refer to the "LCTKD Family," and our welcome letter actually welcomes students to that family. This might sound a bit over familiar, but the closeness of relationships in martial arts is very well established. In China through recent centuries it has been normal to refer to your fellow students as your "martial arts brothers and sisters," and I was reminded of this when I saw a recent post on the excellent Kung Fu Tea blog using this description.
That reminded me, in turn, of the fact that I am often referred to as "uncle" in Chinatown. Not, I hope, because my brother and sister have Chinese little ones they have forgotten to mention, but because it's a term of respect for the older teachers (who are you calling old?), and another reference to the perception of martial arts family.
I was talking recently to a colleague about just why the martial arts engender such familial feelings. His thought was that it was to do with the physical contact, the sort of rolling and tumbling of children's play, a sharing of experience that is otherwise only found amongs siblings. Whilst there are many other theories, of course, that unusual one is one I find quite compelling.
Whatever the theory, and whatever the reason, we do know for sure that being part of a martial arts school feels like being part of an extended family, and we know that this is often recognised in the way people refer to each other. Long may it be this way. So, as Christmas approaches and my own thoughts turn to extending my good wishes to friends and family, I would like to say "Happy Christmas" to all my martial arts brothers and sisters, neices and newphews - and to a handful of uncles and aunts, too.