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Martial Arts Success Interview

“Dr. Webster-Doyle’s work is outstanding in the field of peace promotion.” — Citation when he was awarded the Robert Burns Medal for literature by Austria’s Albert Schweitzer Society

Have you heard of Alfred Nobel, the man who invented dynamite, and later created the Nobel Peace Prizes for discoveries in science and art that promote peace in our world? Dr. Terrence Webster-Doyle, 64, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, may be the new Nobel. His classes, books and courses, which bring the original intent of the martial arts into the 21st century, infuse new ideas into our thinking. The way he combines specific traditional martial arts methods with universal and timeless thought processes is revolutionary and, in today’s world, he is helping people — especially young people — understand and resolve conflict peacefully.

As a boy growing up in a tough town outside New York City, Terrence Webster-Doyle was the victim of bullies who rendered a life-threatening injury to his head and knocked out several of his teeth. He overcame the physical damage, but the emotional wounds are what drove him to find a way to help other victims of bullying.

In his award-winning book, Dr. Webster-Doyle’s Martial Arts Guide for Parents, he describes the terrible shootings that have happened in schools because of bullying. And his perception that these killings could have been avoided if school administrators had taken the issue of bullying seriously enough to bring effective bully-prevention programs into their schools.

Dr. Webster-Doyle’s internationally acclaimed books were written to address this urgent issue of conflict in the relationships that people have with one another. He strongly feels that the martial arts, if taught as both a physical and mental endeavor, can be a viable solution to reduce episodes of societal violence growing every day. His relentless search to find a way to successfully address violence began in the 1950s, when he started to learn how to cope with conflict by the use of physical means through fighting back.

Then, in 1961, while attending the University of Miami in Florida, he found what would be a life-long career, one that has now spanned more than four decades in dedication to the martial arts. What he saw in a storefront was what looked like “people doing gymnastics in pajamas.” It was one of the first schools of martial arts in the U.S., and he was hooked!

All that rage and frustration from being bullied now had a place to come out, but in a safe and controlled way. He threw himself into karate with great passion. After leaving Florida, he went on to practice with Henry Cho, a pioneer in taekwondo, who had just arrived from Korea and was teaching in New York City.

He received his 1st-degree black belt in 1967 in gensei ryu karate, the first American to do so in this style taught at Chiba University in Japan. His instructor’s name was Shigero Numano, a 4th-degree black belt fresh from Japan who could hardly speak English. Sensei Numano taught classes at McBurney’s YMCA on West 23rd street in New York City.

In the meantime, he earned his masters degree in Psychology from Sonoma State University in California and a doctorate in Health and Human Services from Columbia Pacific University also in California, and a lifetime teaching credential

In 1980, “Dr. T.,” as his friends call him, originated his own style of martial arts, take nami do, that incorporated what he felt was missing in the other martial arts. That is, an understanding of the causes of conflict and the skills to avoid, resolve and manage it peacefully through an integrated combination of mental and physical martial arts.

In the late 1980s, he decided to call his educational program Martial Arts for Peace, for this is what he believed was the original reason the martial arts were created.

Today, Dr. Webster-Doyle’s Martial Arts for Peace resources and programs are being used worldwide. They have been translated into many languages, including Russian, and placed in Russia’s prestigious Libraries of Foreign Literature throughout the country. He has received numerous national and international awards (see sidebar story), including the illustrious Bruce Lee Medal presented to him by Mr. Lee’s widow, Linda Lee Cadwell, at the Bruce and Brandon Lee Memorial Banquet.

Meet a man who’s devoted his life to the betterment of mankind.

MARTIAL ARTS SUCCESS: Perhaps the best place to start, with someone like you who has been involved in the martial arts for more than 40 years, is at the beginning. What were the martial arts like in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s?

DR. TERRENCE WEBSTER-DOYLE: It’s now being called the “Golden Age” of the martial arts in North America. I cherish this experience because I have a martial arts perspective that few have today. It was exciting because we were some of the first non-Asians to experience the martial arts in their original form from martial arts teachers from Asia. We didn’t know it then, but we were breaking new ground.

The main thing I remember then was the dignity and the civility of the art. It’s difficult to put that into words, but perhaps I can come close to the actual feeling by saying that there was a gentleman’s code of respect and honor in the martial arts that came from Asia. The “art” was the most important intent and the reason for learning.

I wanted to study this and apply it to my life. I knew that this unique feeling I experienced in the original arts had to be preserved, because without this intent, the martial arts would become more martial than art, more commercial than artful. Later, I discovered that I wanted to translate this feeling of dignity and nobility in teaching this “art” to children so that when they grew up, they would be kind and happy human beings. They would be people who respected life and really cared for each other. This is the essential lesson in these great arts of self-understanding.

MA Success: You’ve come a long way since those early days. What do you value now, and what keeps you going?

Dr. Webster-Doyle: What really keeps me going is helping people understand and resolve conflict peacefully. This is the central theme in all the books I’ve written. This is the Mental Martial Arts™ that I feel is so important. These mental self-defense skills go hand-in-hand with physical self-defense skills. Together, they are one skill.

I’m always disappointed to discover that some instructors either don’t educate their students about the mental side, or think that they are doing it by teaching the physical side only. Many martial artists who understand the need for mental self-defense skills still refer to the martial arts as a physical activity only, and refer to mental skills as an option or a tag-on. But the truth is that mental skills are the foundation of all martial arts, and physical skills were originally the add-on! Something got lost in translation!

MA Success: You write the column, “Martial Arts for the 21st Century,” for us. MA Success is a trade magazine. What’s your main purpose for this column, and how is it related to the business of the martial arts?

Dr. Webster-Doyle: My main purpose is to keep the original perspective in the martial arts as they develop in the twenty-first century, and beyond. The martial arts are evolving, and we as martial artists, need to evolve too. We need a martial art for this century that can address the unique concerns we have today. We must preserve the essence of the original martial arts philosophy – the fundamental philosophical intent of the martial arts is to understand and end conflict.

What is unique about martial arts for peace is that it is a “universal philosophy.” It reflects the true meaning of the word “philosophy” – the love of truth in everyday living.

If we don’t bring this intent into our martial arts schools, we are not teaching the arts as they were originally intended, and we will lose the tremendous benefit they offer. Martial Arts Success is mailed exclusively to full-time school owners and part-time instructors at recreation centers in four countries. Therefore, it is the perfect vehicle with which to get my message across to the instructors in our industry.

Also, regarding the business of the martial arts, there’s a simple formula for success. It goes like this: “The right teachers, with the right education, with the right perspective, with the right programs, will make the right living.”

MA Success: I understand that you have just recently developed a new, more comprehensive program on bullying? What does it entail?

Dr. Webster-Doyle: The issue of bullying, of conflict, operates at many levels. The new program is called “The Complete Course on Bullying.” It starts with the structure of thought, and understanding the causes of conflict within our thought. This is the foundation of all human conflict.

The next stage deals with understanding the inner bully. We have all been conditioned to bully ourselves!

The next level deals with how a young person gets bullied at school or at home — these are typical individual bullying situations.

What follows from individual bullying is group bullying — prejudice based typically on race, gender, sexuality, religion or nationality.

Then there’s the bystander or instigator — people on the sidelines who, from a distance, encourage a bully to beat up a victim.

Finally, we learn to understand why we always pick on each other as groups of people divided in ideological global conflict.

I think that we have to explore all these levels, from the playground to the battlefield, if we are to understand human conflict. That’s what the martial arts for peace are all about. This is a perfect program for after-school care, because there’s enough time for this kind of in-depth program then.

MA Success: Your books and programs have been extremely well received. What do you think are the primary benefits they have to offer?

Dr. Webster-Doyle: There are many benefits to reading our books. Instructors and students who e-mail me every day about how our guides balance the mental with the physical and are changing the lives of students on an ongoing basis, have noticed great success. Not only are these schools making good income from our materials, but also they are getting a lot of positive attention from their communities, and encouraging the enrollment of more students, who are staying in classes longer.

These books, guides and programs help children learn how to cope with conflict in creative, nonviolent ways. They work! But it all comes down to school owners and instructors taking the time to educate themselves about the importance of doing this. More and more parents want their children to learn these skills and are now seeking schools that teach them.

Conventional martial arts schools that still rely on teaching physical skills only will lose out to the ones that are combining programs like ours with a new and relevant physical self-defense system. This system fits the real needs of young people today. We cannot rely on outdated martial arts for our young students. We must combine the original intent of the martial arts with realistic, safe, age-appropriate skills to meet current needs.

If the martial arts are going to survive, they need to help humanity, and all martial arts school owners and instructors need to educate their students mentally as well as physically.

MA Success: You have a background in education, psychology and juvenile delinquency prevention outside the martial arts. Do you think this is what has led you down this path?

Dr. Webster-Doyle: While I value a formal education and training, the most important things I learned came from the “street.” I was driven to start these programs because of a strong desire to find out for myself how these arts could follow their original intent of resolving conflict peacefully. I didn’t need any degree or credential.

The major factor was an urgency to find out what prevents us from living an intelligent and happy life. I knew somehow that the answer existed in martial arts that are for peace. Some of what I learned in my formal education was helpful, but this essential search for self-understanding was never taught to me officially. Anyone can do it. You don’t need a Ph.D. — just sheer determination!

“The truth is that mental skills are the foundation of all martial arts, and physical skills were originally the add-on! Something got lost in translation!

MA Success: You write about a “Martial Arts Code of Conduct” in your Character for Kids Kit™. What is the martial arts code of conduct?

Dr. Webster-Doyle: In this time of diminishing values, it’s vitally important to create a “Code of Conduct” for children to help them live an intelligent and peaceful life. Kindness, honesty, gentleness, compassion, integrity and respect need to be taught to young people.

The key is in “how” we teach these qualities, this Code of Conduct. We can either condition young people into “being good” through a system of punishment and rewards, or we can wisely bring out their integrity through tests that challenge their character. It is the latter that makes a child blossom into maturity with an intelligent understanding of life. Conditioning them in negative ways with don’ts and shoulds only creates conflict between who they are and who we try to condition them to be.

MA Success: Do you ever wonder if some martial arts teachers think that you are not practicing “real” martial arts because you teach kids “Mental Martial Arts?”

Dr. Webster-Doyle: When I started practicing formally in 1961, there were no children, only men. When young people started taking martial arts classes, no one really knew how to teach them. What we did then was teach what we were taught as adults, which was too hard, too martial. So we had to learn how to teach children at their level.

I spent years experimenting and have now arrived at a specialized version of martial arts particularly suited for their age group. These are “integrative martial arts” — we integrate the best of mental and physical martial arts skills that are developmentally sound, age-appropriate, and legally and physically safe. Our programs incorporate many activities I’ve learned from psychology and education such as role-play, interpersonal games and even puppets.

The idea is to get across this message to children: “You can learn how to get along with other people without being a bully or a victim.” This is the reallesson in life — understanding what prevents peace, understanding what creates conflict. I will use whatever intelligent means I can to get that message across.

When working with young people, the most important thing to remember is that children learn from play. Play is a serious business for them. When children role-play the scripts we’ve designed for them, to practice what it feels like to be a bully, and what it feels like to be a victim — they begin to understand how their thoughts and actions affect other people. They understand this in a way that far surpasses a lecture, or physical martial arts techniques

When I see these young people learn to act with kindness and understanding, yet with strength, I’m encouraged that we are doing the right thing. Yet there is a very important place for the physical, as I have said many times, to give young people the confidence to not react to aggression in a freeze, the “fight or flight” manner. With this confidence, they can use their mental self-defense skills as their first two lines of defense – to avoid and resolve conflict non-physically, peacefully.

MA Success:You’re working on a special program for youth-at-risk. How can the martial arts help these young people?

Dr. Webster-Doyle: We’re currently working with three youth-at-risk organizations. One is in California under the guidance of Dr. Bruce Hiner, who’s teaching young people traditional shotokan karate along with our Bully Buster System™. Two others are in Florida and Nova Scotia. They have had amazing success with our original bully program.

I’m now working on a new and special program for youth-at-risk called MAP – STARS™. That stands for Martial Arts for Peace – Safe Tactical Awareness Response System. It will include a unique combination of select physical self-defense skills and appropriate mental martial arts skills for this particular group of young people. This will be a challenge, but one I welcome.

“We cannot rely on outdated martial arts for our young students. We must combine the original intent ofthe martial arts with realistic, safe, age-appropriate skills to meet current needs.”

MA Success:What would you say is your ultimate goal in the martial arts?

Dr. Webster-Doyle:My ultimate goal is to start a martial arts collegedegree program that teaches potential participants all the educational, psychological and business skills necessary that go into making a truly educated martial artist. It would be equivalent to a two-year community-college degree.

I think that we have started to educate martial artists in the business skills necessary to operate a martial arts school, but have not yet offered the necessary educational and psychological skills needed to make a qualified instructor like a public school teacher. After all, martial artists are teaching mostly young people. Shouldn’t they have all the skills required for anyone who teaches children? This is a real dream of mine.

MA Success: What spiritual quality of the martial arts ignites you?

Dr. Webster-Doyle:What I really cherish about the martial arts is the nourishing feeling I get when sitting on the floor really listening to a group of young people. I cannot put into words the spiritual feeling of harmony that takes place when a five-year-old child sits next to me and looks up at me with complete love and trust.

These children are living in the moment. They are innocent and beautiful, and I want to protect them. I want to help them keep their beginner’s minds, and also help them mature with an intelligent and compassionate understanding of life. This is what makes me get up each day. This is true martial arts — to capture the moment at its fullest and enjoy each delicate and precious instant. A friend of mine once said to me, “What you are looking for is all around you each moment — for it is the moment itself.”

Michael Foley, M.D., has studied the martial arts for 38 years and holds a 5th-degree black belt. He’s a Clinical Professor at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, and has been selected as one of the “Best Doctors in America” for eight consecutive years. Dr. Foley is the author of The Art of Humane Living– Martial Arts as a Path to Peace (www.ChaosPublishing.com).