“If you can find something that marries well with your strengths, then you’re on the right track.”
This is Stephen Craig - martial arts devotee, exuberant coach and passionate educator. Stephen is in charge of Legacy Martial Arts at the North Shore Winter Club. For Stephen, Legacy is best described as a chapter of a world-wide organization dedicated to strengthening the mind in time with strengthening the body.
But don’t take it from me because the only thing I'm earning a black belt for is not putting on pants until noon.
Here’s the first part of my interview with Stephen.
Kelvin: Legacy Martial Arts has been here at the club since September, talk about about yourself and what you’re working on these days.
Stephen: I’ve been doing martial arts for over 14 years now. I’m a 3rd degree black belt right now, and I test for my fourth degree in March. I get to go to Las Vegas and test in front of a panel. Our organization is very, very regimented. We want to maintain a certain quality and consistency…
Kelvin: A standard?
Stephen: Yeah, a certain standard so that everybody from our organization meets a certain quality that’s uniform all over the world. Our organization is the only Tae Kwon Do that is world-wide. I mean literally, you can move to Brazil and you would find one of our schools there. We have over a million people in our organization.
Kelvin: So what does that mean? What is the organization? Your company is Legacy Martial Arts, how does that fit into the organization?
Stephen: Yes, we’re a part of the ATA which is a style of Martial Art that was created 45 years ago. It was brought over from Korea by the Eternal Grand Master who taught the military there. He then moved from there to Little Rock, Arkansas in the United States where he opened a club, a Do Jo, and started teaching and training. The dream of the Eternal Grand Master was to have schools in each place in the world under one unified organization so that literally you could go anywhere and continue training in our style. There is nothing more disheartening than joining an organization or karate or boxing studio and then you have to move.
Kelvin: And you can’t keep doing that and keep up that discipline.
Stephen: You can’t. No, you join another organization but their systems are different, the curriculum is different, the belt system is different. So there’s nothing worse for a child who has earned four or five different belts in their style and then uprooting them and moving because of a job or whatever circumstance dictates. At least within our organization you know if students move from North Vancouver and decide to move to Langley for instance, we have a club or a school in Langley.
Kelvin: So people can maintain a specific style anywhere in the world?
Kelvin: That’s like…
Kelvin: I was going to say it’s like real life ninjas, but huge works too.
Stephen: Totally. It truly is a family, we are a family.
Kelvin: With specific values?
Stephen: With multiple values and specific goals. We have whole-life skill themes, different life skill themes each month. This month we’re working on goals. So we ask our students what their goals are, goals that motivate, goals are something you want to achieve and willing to work for. We teach those life skills to our students.
Kelvin: There’s a lot more to it then just the physical aspect.
Stephen: We’re not just punching and kicking in here. I’m instilling values and those life skill themes and setting a precedent. We are very much about life-skill training as well as training the body. Physically, mentally, spiritually.
Kelvin: Part of your mission statement is planting seeds for the future, so let’s just talk a little bit about how the athletic part is married to the mental side when it comes to planting seeds for the future.
Stephen: In our organization, these notes actually came to me months before we had even scheduled this meeting, I was driving along in my car and I’m like, really what is the core value of this school, what will Legacy’s Legacy be?
Kelvin: I get all my best ideas when I’m driving.
Stephen: You pull over, right? This happens to me all the time!
Kelvin: Yeah, let me write this down before it’s too late!
Stephen: I have to write this down because I will never remember it, right?
Kelvin: Yeah, totally.
Stephen: We got off topic there a bit.
Kelvin: This happens more often than you might think.
Stephen. Right, anyways, specifically at Legacy, planting seeds for the future means starting on a new path. When I started this journey, and it is a journey, it’s not a job for me, this is my passion, this is my life. I don’t know where I’m going to end up in ten years. I hope it’s somewhere great but when I started my training as a white belt, I wouldn’t, I couldn’t tell you that I was going to be at a club or a school one day, it wasn’t something that was in my mind. Planting seeds for the future came from our belt philosophy so for every belt there’s a different philosophy. White belt is pure and without knowledge of Songahm Tae Kwon Do.
Kelvin: Pure because you don’t know anything. Talk about finding the silver lining …
Stephen: Totally, totally right. Throughout the whole belt system and then we come to first degree black belt. "Planting seeds for the future". This was the belt philosophy that really spoke to me. Now that you’ve gone through the ranking system and you are a first degree black belt, people are looking at you as the model, as the role model, as their leader, some one they want to be like.
Kelvin: The journey they want to travel.
Stephen: For me it’s creating future black belts and spreading them to their own clubs, their own schools.
Kelvin: To preach in a sense…
Stephen: You could call it a religion, to spread the legacy, if you will. That was Grand Master’s dream and I’ve piggy-backed on that to connect with it on an emotional level, If these are the gifts that I have, if teaching is something that I’m good at, then why not continue building that passion and using those tools to contribute to the organization?
Sitting with Stephen for an hour in the afternoon was an awesome experience. He’s so filled with life and ambition, it’s difficult not to consider hanging up my skates for a training session or two in the Do Jo.
In part 2 we’ll get into the effect martial arts can have on other sports, both as a physical training tool and a device for increased mental strength.