This past weekend we had the pleasure of heading East and visiting the great city of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The trip was a bit of a whirlwind experience, and the drive was long and draining (far more than our trip to California, last year), but we still had a pretty good time. I took a bunch of pictures during our stay, and I’m sharing some of them here. (I would have taken pictures during the trip, but picture after picture of desolate shrub-land would get kind of depressing. The “City of Elephant Butte” sign was really tempting, though.) Watch for falling alt-text, and click through for a larger image.
We were in Albuquerque to attend the annual AKKA Academy Awards Tournament and Banquet. It gave our children a chance to participate in another tournament, and all of us an excuse to play dress up. We stayed at the Days Inn Albuquerque Northeast, which was a fine hotel for the price. It had all of the important amenities: ‘Free’ Wi-fi, deluxe continental breakfast, and an indoor pool.
The kids spent the one afternoon we had free in the pool and enjoyed themselves immensely. Since the temperatures in Albuquerque got up into the blustery mid-fifties, they especially appreciated the warmth of the jacuzzi.
The best part of the room was the scenic view it offered. Each morning we got to step out of our door and gaze out upon the architectural beauty of the French Funerals Lomas location, pictured below. The first morning, I had the pleasure of witnessing a lovely ivory casket being loaded carefully into the back of a waiting hearse. A truly inspiring way to start the day.
With that, we were in the right frame of mind to head out to the day’s opening event. The tournament!
Tournaments are a big deal in the AKKA system. They’re a requirement if you’re planning to test for Black Belt, because every candidate is expected to be able to handle the pressure of that kind of event well. We’ve participated in several of them over the past few years.
Each tournament starts with an explanation of how the competition is structured, and the fundamental rules of each part of the event. Mr. Davis has headed up these every time I’ve been to a tournament, ever since my son was a Little Dragon seven years ago. He clearly has a gift for it.
Our kids were split up into two separate age groups, which were competing in diametrically opposed corners of the floor. That meant I spent my time at the tournament walking back and forth, stepping over and around parents and spectators, trying to take pictures at the most opportune moment for each of them. Most of the time, I failed. Thank God I decided not to compete, because that would have made it a nightmare.
Steven misplaced a fairly critical piece of sparring gear, so he was unable to compete in that part of the event. He did perform a kata, but there was a lot of stiff competition, and he didn’t place. Afterwards, though, one of the senior ranking leaders of the organization, Mr. Gilbert, asked to see him repeat the performance and he gave Steven a number of really valuable tips on how to improve for next time. We were all very grateful that Mr. Gilbert took that time out from the tournament to counsel him.
After the tournament, a quick trip back to the hotel. Showers were taken, clothes were changed, and we were all ready for the evening’s main event. The Awards Banquet!
Not everyone could see what the big deal was.
The national Demo Team put on quite a show for us all. Their routine covered the entire AKKA system. Before I started training a couple of years ago, these always seemed a bit jumbled and hard to understand. As I’ve learned more and more of the system, though, I’ve really come to appreciate the choreography and precision that is at work as they perform. Especially with all the distractions (like flash photography) going on.
The demo team also performed a seriously impressive lion dance routine. There was a great deal of athleticism and puppetry involved. The kids loved it.
Finally, we were all introduced to some new students that were joining the system in order to learn how to protect themselves. Proving that there is never a bad time to learn how to keep yourself safe in a dangerous situation.
Wrapping up the evening, awards were distributed by the organization and the head of each school. Top students from every age group are recognized for their efforts. An award is usually handed out to the student that has shown the most improvement. And one family from each school is recognized as Most Supportive. This year, my family was honored and humbled to receive that award. Thanks to Mrs. Thibault and our other instructors for allowing us to serve each of you as we were able.
We didn’t get to do any “sight-seeing” this time around, but there’s a good chance that we’ll be returning to Albuquerque later this year. Anyone have any suggestions of what we should take time out to see next time we’re one state to the right?
Back in 2011, when I tested to move up from the
yellow gold belt rank to the orange belt rank I had to complete a written test, part of which was a half page essay on a subject determined by the rank I was advancing to. For the orange belt, the subject was ‘Honesty.’
I’m ashamed to say that I phoned it in. I waited until the last minute, and pounded out some weakly funny paragraph and a half roughly related to honesty. As I’ve moved up in rank, and completed a couple more tests, I’ve realized that I should have taken the exercise more seriously than I did.
I’m correcting that today.
Honesty (n) – the quality of being honest; uprightness and fairness, truthfulness, sincerity, or frankness.
Often, we consider the act of being honest as being an external trait. You think of a person as honest if he is truthful and fair with you. If he treats people well and sincerely, then he’s a good, honest man. Still, is that the best measure of a man’s honesty?
At it’s root, honesty is an internal value. A person is honest if he is the same person with you that he is with everyone else. If he’s the same person when he is all alone. Honesty is a measure of consistency of character.
To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.
That consistency isn’t inherently a measure of good or evil, either. I don’t think any of us would look at Charles Dickens’ character Ebenezer Scrooge and think of him as a good role model. He was a greedy and selfish tightwad. He was isolated, unfeeling and cold. And yet, he was never dishonest. He consistently stuck to the principles he believed in, until he no longer believed them.
Once we understand that, it becomes far easier to measure honesty in ourselves. Take an accurate account of your behavior based on the core principles that you claim to believe. How well does your private self hold to them compared to the person you are among friends and to the image you project in public? The differences you uncover will help clarify how severely singed your pants are.
What do you think? Is honesty more than just being consistent? Can you be evil, but truthful and fair?
Once again, I’ve just pre-tested for a new belt rank in Karate. Just like last time, I have to complete a written test, part of which is a half page essay on a subject determined by the rank I am advancing to. For the next belt, the subject is ‘Loyalty.’
So, what is Loyalty?
Loyalty (n) – the state or quality of being loyal; characterized by or showing faithfulness to commitments, vows, allegiance, obligations, etc.
Characterized by faithfulness. Honoring your word and duty.
As a married man, I can understand the idea of being faithful to a vow. A surface-level comprehension of that comes pretty easily. I’ve made a life-long commitment to honor and protect my wife. I got that.
Now ask me about what that looks like in my everyday life. It’s one thing to understand it. It’s another thing to live it.
Can I claim that I’m honoring my wife if I’m not careful with my eyes, my thoughts, or my heart? Am I protecting her if any image or idea that could challenge her status is allowed to enter my home? I may not actually take an action, but is that good enough to be able to claim loyalty?
I don’t think so.
Loyalty and devotion lead to bravery. Bravery leads to the spirit of self-sacrifice. The spirit of self-sacrifice creates trust in the power of love.
I can’t claim loyalty if I’m not willing to engage in self-sacrifice, and force my personal identity to give way to the identity that I first committed to when I became her husband. That vow supersedes my wants or desires. The moment I claimed the title, I was no longer living for just me, not even inside my own head. So, I am only faithful to my wife if everything about me is subject to the review of what a husband should be, and anything that fails that review should be culled.
That’s true of every mantle I’ve assumed, every oath I’ve taken, and every obligation I’ve committed to:
Whether I’m at my home, my place of worship, my workplace, or standing on a street corner, faithfulness to the principles that those words represent are more important than any fleeting whims or serious plans I might have. Every decision I make and every action I take should first pass through those filters. Otherwise, how can I claim loyalty to any of them?
Believe me, there are days that I think I can’t, but each day is an opportunity to improve, and I’m thankful for grace.
The more I thought about this topic, the more things came up. What should you do when your loyalties conflict with each other? When is it alright to walk away from something you’ve committed yourself to? Is there ever a good reason to be loyal to a nation or flag? All more than I could cover in a half-page essay, but feel free to discuss it in the comments below.