Black Belts, Ranks and Achievements

Last week Mark Hatmaker tackled another one of my goofy questions and then wrote a blog post around his answer.  In it he called me “Affiliate Coach Mitch Mitchell.”  After a week I’ve finally untangled how that makes me feel.

My black and yellow belts, both sacred for different reasons. Ask me in person some time and I’ll explain.

I got my TKD black belt in 1989.  Three years earlier I’d been 80 lbs overweight and unable to do a single Push-up.  When I tied the belt on I was 155 and I could do fifty Push-ups.  But more importantly, instead of blaming the world for my failures I was looking in the mirror.  That was a turning point.

In 2011, after years teaching at the YMCA and Recs and Parks, I earned the rank of master from CMAPA.   That was a milestone too.

But I set out to earn those those belts and certificates.  The tangible reward wasn’t the goal, but it was certainly an expected part of the process.  Money changed hands.  Boxes were checked.  Expectations were met on both sides.

But with Hatmaker it was different.  Sure,  he’s been calling me “coach” for some time.  Last year he gave me the thumbs up to start my Bobcat Martial Arts project built around his Rough ‘n’ Tumble program.  But something clicked when he typed out “Affiliate Coach” in that blog post last week.

I dawned on me that I had earned the respect of someone I admire, and it had happened organically.  No written requirements, no expectations.  It just happened.  A seventeen year process that started with his godforsaken Gladiator Conditioning Program back in ’03 passed like weeks.  And despite the sweat, pain and difficulty, everything involving Hatmaker has been at once extremely hard and somehow effortless. 

And that makes being called “Affiliate Coach” more special than any belt or certificate.  Thanks Mark, for things that can’t be put into words. 

Me (R) and Hatmaker (L) at Karate College 2004








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