13 years ago I got a phone call from Mr Gibbins telling me Mr Packer had passed away. After I hung up the phone I sat there and cried.
He once told me that he thought I really had the right personality for this gig of being a martial arts instructor.
Over the years I think back on those words and wonder…would he still think that today? I hope so, because I try to teach in a way that reflects his words in this photo.
As Mr Gibbins has told me…there is not a shortage of people in the world who know how to be violent without training. Our job is not to make people better at that. As a matter of fact our job IS to make people better THAN that.
I am baffled by the surviving mentality that being a martial artist is about being able to fight. To be the toughest guy on the mat and anything less is weak and insignificant. If you cannot kick ass then you are not worthy of the rank. I see this attitude in the many Facebook forums. It is be the biggest badass with your martial and/or marketing skills to the point of demeaning anyone who doesn’t do things the way you do or think they way you do.
The thing about Mr Packer was that he WAS a legitimate badass but felt that was so beneath what it REALLY means to be a martial artist. I knew his martial skills were beyond question but it was his spirit of acceptance and compassion that really impressed me. He admired physical prowess as long as it was accompanied by what he called “traditional values”…Honesty, Courtesy, Respect, Discipline.
He believed, and I agree, that the martial arts are about being the best version of ourselves that we can be. As he put it…the cultivation of humanism and the development of leadership skills. Being able to kick ass is sooooooo not even on the spectrum. I have been studying his art for 23 years now and have been entrusted with the rank of 6th Degree Black Belt. Yet there are even color belt students in my school who could wipe the floor with me.
Fighting skill is not a measure of a person, fighting spirit is. What is fighting spirit. Mr Packer had it. He fought in the ring, yes, and trained others to do so as well. But I remember him as someone who fought to maintain an organization of over 30 schools spread across 2 countries. I remember him as a man who fought to make sure every school manager felt like they were a contributor in AKKA. I remember him as a man who fought to make sure I felt welcomed and at home in his school whenever I was in Albuquerque. I also remember him as a man who fought his greatest fight against cancer and, even though he lost that one, he went down standing up and exemplified the true heart of a warrior…in life and in death.
And he lives on through my teacher, Mr Gibbins, who does his absolute best to honor his teacher by making sure we remember him and treat his System of Kenpo as a treasure and pass it on with integrity.
I am not perfect and have made my share of stupid mistakes over the years that sometimes I wonder how it is I get to stand in front of a class and do what I do. I mean who am I? But, Mr Packer had faith in me. Mr Gibbins has faith in me. I do my best to honor that in my little corner of the martial arts world.
I love being a martial artist.
I love our art.
I want my students to love it too and so I will continue to take the advice Mr Packer gave me 18 years ago when I inherited AKKA Independence and asked him what the secret to longevity in this business is. He said…
“Show up, unlock the doors, turn on the lights.”
With Honor, Sir!