Try a Class for FREE!

Thomas Clifford’s Martial Arts

Growing Up

Growing Up At The Dojo

Posted: April 21, 2019


"Everything happens for a reason. When you have a great reason, great things happen."




Dear Friend,


I trust this blog finds you well. 

Time is really flying by! 

2019 is proving to be an overwhelmingly spectacular year at the Dojo, and the best is yet to come. 

We have another round of Black Belt, Degree, and Title tests coming up in June. 

We have a fantastic group of high ranking adult Black Belts training at the Dojo. 

Have you checked out the testing schedule in the lobby of the Dojo? 

We have certainly come a long way. 

If things go according to plan, 2020 will be a banner year.

Especially for the first generation of Jr. Black Belts from the Pearl River Dojo, who I personally have had the honor of training through every belt level. 

For my first 30 years as a Martial Arts instructor, I did not teach children’s classes. 

Fortunately, that has changed. 

Our children’s classes have always been fantastic. 

It’s wonderful to finally be directly involved with every student’s progress. 

My kids train at our Dojo. 

As a parent, I feel compelled to express my gratitude to their classmates.

There is a small degree of truth in the notion that I am my daughters Martial Arts instructor. 

It is a certainty a privilege, and I am honored to fulfill that role. 

Equally, I am honored to “teach” all of the students who train at TCMA.  

However, much more accurately, I learn far more from all of you, than you could possibly learn from me. 

Our classmates are the best resource for acquiring the distinctions that lead to progress on the mat. 

I am fully aware that this is an unpopular assertion.

Many instructors delude themselves into believing that they are the primary source of knowledge in the Dojo. 

This is completely ludicrous, and a symptom of low self-esteem.

My classmates have always been the strongest influence in the quality of my training and cultivation of my skill.  

Therefore, I would like to thank everyone at the Dojo for being such tremendous influences in the lives of my children; Karina and Kellisa. 

I want to thank all of my classmates; past and present.  

Your lessons will be carried forward, I promise. 

Growing up in an environment where everyone holds themselves to incredibly high personal standards will definitely have a profound impact on their future.  

I sincerely appreciate the unique culture that we have all worked so hard to build. 

Trust is the most powerful form of influence. 

I know that they are surrounded by people who are principle centered. 

There is no greater peace of mind. 

As students progress through the Belt levels in the Dojo, they should expect more, not less, from themselves. 

Serious students hold themselves to higher standards of excellence as they move up in rank. 

Demands on our mind, body, and spirit naturally increase as we age. 

An instructor must always have high expectations of his students. 

Anything less would be an insult. 

Students expectations of themselves are far more important.  

As a students grow as practitioners, they must also grow as classmates. 

Early on, as a Kohai - eager student, little more than full effort in training and polite behavior is expected. 

But as newer students begin their journey, a Kohai becomes a Sempai - experienced student. 

It becomes necessary to take on the role of leadership. 

True leadership is all about service and contribution.  

A Sempai sets the example for her Kohai. 

She guides her juniors in a genuine effort to help them learn everything she knows. 

A basic social norm that suggests that; the strong must influence the weak, the intelligent must influence the ignorant, and the proficient must influence the unskilled. 

None of this means that a Sempai does the work a Kohai must do for himself. 

It means that Sempai leads by example. 

It is the most inspirational, and therefore influential action, the senior student can take. 

This ensures a high functioning Dojo. 

The experienced students lead the way. 

They set the standard of excellence. 

They exemplify the culture of the school. 

It is their attitude, behavior and character that the new students naturally imitate. 

If the senior students act like spoiled, entitled brats, the juniors will follow that example. 

Thankfully, we do not have that problem. 

An authentic Dojo is a very attractive and appealing place. 

People should be drawn to it. 

The environment will provide a rich and robust sensory experience. 

The look, sound, smell, and feel must be inviting and pleasing. 

The most powerful "force" in the Dojo is without a doubt, the students. 

The instructor and staff are of course, counted as students. 

If the Dojo culture is not based on "servant leadership", a dysfunctional hierarchy will result. 

Leadership is never a matter of how many people serve you. 

It is always a matter of how many people you serve. 

The appropriate behavior in a Dojo must always be built on a foundation of effort, service, and productivity. 

All students should go to class with the intention of being and doing their personal best. As students, we owe this to ourselves. It is what makes training rewarding and enhances your effectiveness. 

We have a phenomenal Dojo, and that is because of you and your classmates. 

Our future has great potential. 

Let's continue to work hard, benefit accordingly, and pass on the lessons that we learn.  

I look forward to seeing you and your family in class at the Dojo! 




Kyoshi Thomas Clifford

Recent Posts