Instructor’s Notebook: Revelations

martial revelation

Revelation: “Something revealed or disclosed, especially a striking disclosure, as of something not before realized.” Collins English Dictionary


Sometimes, words that once held deeper meanings are now expressed in shallow terms. It’s just “aaawesssomme.” For instance, when people use the word, “revelation” they are probably pumping up some slight thing, like office gossip, or promoting the discovery of the correct word in a crossword puzzle. But the core meaning of revelation has more charge than this. It is a fierce kick that cuts right through your daily defensive space and lands you a dozen feet off the road, sitting on your rump.

Revelation—like a pair of tinted glasses someone sneaked on your face while you were sleeping—is not always as clear as water. Nonetheless, revelation can be a great gift. It is commonly experienced or seen in the context of religion. But martial arts, due to their unique construction, can also nurture or even inspire revelations. If you are a teacher you will get many opportunities to witness these transformations.

Let’s not get into exactly the CONTENT of a revelation. Even if you can’t define it you may see it foreshadowed in one of your students. You know she’s about to take a large step forward, but when and in what way even you as teacher cannot tell. Lessons at this point may be more like a detective story, looking the evidence square in the face but unable to guess at the solution.

Then, one day, she comes in and she’s about 200% better than she has ever been, than she ever even dreamt.

Revelations always change things, but not necessarily permanently. As a teacher you can “help with the ride.” For instance, one of the first things to tell the student is to refrain from forcing anything. Yes, their kick is much better but it’s not mandatory that ALL kicks from this point on be superb. The student should get comfortable, move into her new, increased skill slowly, like becoming accustomed to a new bedroom.

Oddly enough, it is at these times that students often become either much better…or just quit. Sometimes the revelation of skill or natural ability becomes too much of a responsibility for the student and she becomes, in essence, disturbed by her success. Even a single student who has felt the change creates a ripple effect, raising the bar for everyone in class, re-committing themselves to practice.

The importance of a teacher is to sort out the idea that revelation and result are often pretty similar skills—”I had a dream I was boneless and woke up with greater flexibility”—and to make the student aware, because the specific steps from revelation to reward are not always obvious. At the right moment, a teacher can inform the confused student about the nature and meaning of revelation

Faster kicks, more astute perceptions, quicker reactions, a deeper understanding of the tradition, a startlingly original breakthrough, a simple shift of the pelvis to a more comfortable position; each and all of these may in part be the result of hard work, lots of sweat, refined kinesthetics. But they might also be the results of a hidden shift, a different viewpoint, even a daydream that encourages re-adjustment.

Revelation does not mean you are automatically an enlightened superhero, but it does mean you’ve been listening.

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