This article is dedicated to my two students: Amy H. and Abraham B. who listened, challenged, and believed.
There is a certain magic about the martial arts. Like the Greek myth of the Siren, songs of principles and well being, incantations of courtesy, loyalty, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit. Community service and love swirl around us as protective devices. Melodic tunes crescendo with countless drills and bruises.
Some might call this insanity, and to some small degree, there may be truth in that. But overall there is a beauty, and a magic. Much like Lord Alfred Tennyson stated—there is sweet music here. The word magic can conjure uneasy imagery, with its connotations to evil and the like. While this side exists, there is another to consider—the side that deals less with hocus pocus, and more on attributes of compassion, love, and honor
As leaders, our strongest desire is to inspire and guide our students. Though we have more experience than our students, we also continue as students ourselves, constantly looking for new lessons through life and experience. I have learned so much from students both younger and more mature that has confirmed, transformed, humbled, and humored me. One such occasion had to do with Harry Potter. I have heard about J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series throughout the years, and have cared very little, if at all, about it. While I support anything that gets our children to read, it seemed a little, well, dumb. And with all the things I have to do on a regular basis, I didn’t think it warranted investigation. Believing in an open door, and free speech with respect approach, when asked about Harry Potter from a student, I voiced my opinion, never thinking the topic would resurface again. As the school year progressed, one day in class, two students approached me.
“Miss K. We have a question for you.”
Their faces serious, my mind was trying to get there before their lips led me to a potentially scary place.
“Is it something bad, good, or in-between?” I asked with caution.
“We didn’t do anything, but you said we could ask … ” Amy stopped, her question trailed off.
Abraham picked it right up, “Ms. K. if we ask you something, will you not be, like, you know, all adult-y and get mad?”
“Well, that depends on what it is,” I said. “Go.”
As they took a deep breath and began, my heart raced. Looking around for smoke, broken furniture, and bodies, I thought, Man, what could have happened in such a short span of time.
“Well, you tell us to try new things, and we have been, but you refuse to read Harry Potter. Isn’t that the same kind of thing?” they asked hesitantly.
I had to smile. It takes courage to ask challenging questions, especially of the people we respect and care about. Never wanting to get caught up in the title or position, I realized that sometimes we may take questions for insubordination. Sometimes students really just want to know why. It dawned on me that our students listen to us more than we realize, but are we willing to hear what they have to say, even if uncomfortable. Point well taken. Hello Pot, this is Kettle—you’re black!
Right there, I had a decision to make. It wasn’t about saving face, but upholding the same integrity we ask of them. So I agreed to read the first installment of Harry Potter over the summer and take it from there. They were happy that I was willing to do it. Really, if something this small pleases them, why not? With much trepidation, I sat myself down on a Friday evening at the early part of June, and dug in. To my utter surprise, I loved it. I proceeded to devour the entire series over the summer, and I found some very valuable lessons that are on par with what martial artists subscribe to.
The Sorcerer’s Stone greets us with a foundation of respect, loyalty, and friendship. Initially, Harry Potter tried to be courteous despite being mistreated. The mistreatment wasn’t limited to strangers, but included, usually most harshly, his family. Family can come from many sources, life blood bonded, or circumstance infused. Harry Potter actively makes choices, even if these choices are at times hard to follow through.
Harry begins to travel a long road of people pointing, gossiping, and making assumptions in The Chamber of Secrets. This is where we begin to see Harry’s integrity. The fight in doing what’s right, learning to prioritize within what is right versus the convenient, and getting down to the basics of knowing yourself, is the installment for confidence and character. The first time you go to a martial arts class, usually there is a feeling of uneasiness. But with time, like with most things, it dissipates. The place becomes familiar, your interactions with people are more engaging, and the relationship between you and a new skill develop.
In getting in tune with the knowledge of self, our personal ride, much like Harry’s, can be a challenge. In The Goblet of Fire, Harry was placed in a situation not of his making, handicapped by inexperience. You might feel that you’re not the smartest, or have the highest kick, but you should always concentrate on doing your best at the level of where you are. Hermione Granger, one of Harry’s best friends, was known as the smartest student. Ron Weasley, the other best friend, had more knowledge of wizard culture. But Harry’s indomitable spirit, helpful nature, and deductive skills, placed him in the top tier of not only the contest, but also the wizard world. By keeping your attitude as constantly positive as possible, even if it takes longer, you will succeed.
From Harry’s home life—being hunted down by dementors, and blowing up Aunt Marge in Prisoner of Azkaban, a life of being inconspicuous hasn’t been afforded. Persistent and consistent movement is the difference between existing and surviving. Rarely is life fair, but it’s important to persevere, even when situations may not be our fault.
Self-control is exhibited throughout The Order of the Phoenix. Harry’s frustration regarding circumstances reached pinnacle heights, to a point where it hurt him emotionally and physically. Wanting to retaliate, but feeling helpless within one’s situations can be downright disheartening. Getting assistance is not a sign of weakness, but a strength. Wanting to fight, having the courage to fight, and knowing when to fight, are all elements of controlling one’s self.
Making a contribution to life is necessary in the fulfillment of our own purpose. Lending a hand where it’s needed, or contributing your personal gifts may seem too simple, but is often overlooked. Throughout the series, the Weasley twins are renowned for their playful antics but in Half-Blood Prince, much to their mother’s dismay at first, were able to capitalize off their strength of humor and turn their weakness into a lucrative business.
The Deathly Hallows shows us with all the magic in Voldermort’s mental safe, his inability to conquer in totality due to his lacking the ability love. Given the choice, it was easier to not let his guard down, and choose the destructive path for others, and ultimately himself. The more complex magic had nothing to do with conjuring spells, but the deeper magic, love, and self-sacrifice, which the power hungry Voldermort failed to understand, was harder to obtain. This shows us that being vulnerable, or having any emotion for that matter, doesn’t have to be negative. They just have to be balanced.The martial arts collective is rich with history and tradition, a magic unto itself. Nobody can take the thoughts, dreams, creativity, and goals from inside of you. Though some may not believe, hold onto yourself. That’s power. That’s magic. What’s wrong with believing in the magic of love or trust? These emotions can’t be proven, but are supremely real. No matter how much we may disrespect or disregard them, their integrity still holds true. The dark arts in Harry Potter had nothing to do with developing positive, affirming friendships, falling in love, and learning from mistakes, as Harry Potter demonstrates throughout the series. Professor Dumbledore’s belief that “it is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities” holds true in the wizard world as well as our own. This has nothing to do with sorcery, but more so with the need to have one distend their beliefs, and utilize a little magic from within.