The mother of a very young, beginning student recently exclaimed to Soke Balas, “I don’t want anything spoiling my son’s natural creativity. Why does he have to learn all this stuff the exact way YOU want to see it? That isn’t creative.

Every creative force must have a context from which it can spring, an environment that nurtures it and provides to it the milieu in which its expression can best flower. Creativity without taste or context is analogous to energy unchanneled and untargeted to any task… in short, an effort without an objective.

In the Tai Shin Doh style, we cherish personal creativity and applaud its expression. Because of this, we do not conduct a “disciplinarian” approach to our teaching. We are very careful to differentiate our patient form of instruction from intense “boot camp” martial arts training (nonetheless, our students do learn to appreciate the martial aspects and applications of their training). The “natural creativity” to which that mother referred is, in our minds, a seed that exists in all students. We believe being truly creative - growing, flowering - requires careful nurturing and cultivation - the “right soil” from which to spring.

To this end, we are careful to provide all our students with the true basics of martial arts – solid basic moves and counters, self-defense techniques, plus kata forms that are proven EFFECTIVE teaching tools. In so doing, we are like the art school that instills the basics of color and light, proportion and dimension, depth and focus, so that young artisans can maximize ALL the available resources in their own creative endeavors.

Just as guild craftsmen start as apprentices, move on to become journeyman artisans and, only much later, earn the title “master,” so martial artists must start by learning the basics of their art, practicing and perfecting them for years, before they create on their own.

As an example, our advanced kyu-ranked students commonly know a dozen classical kata forms, and a few can even demonstrate almost twenty katas that have been perfected over decades, sometimes even centuries. Each movement – every strike, every block, every turn and jump – is a discrete lesson in effective self-defense. Two of our advanced shodan black belt students – Elizabeth Corwin and Lauren Chandler – have developed their own graceful, synchronized kata, “K Form One;” they have competed with it in tournaments, and have WON. Their creativity is a study in power and grace, classically based and totally focused.

This creativity is effective and has maximum positive impact because it has been carefully nurtured and targeted toward a specific goal – the artistic pinnacle of the martial art.

Hence, “natural creativity,” a truly common part of each young student’s makeup, only achieves its optimum outcome, its greatest value, if it is patiently and attentively cultured and cultivated.

It is to the credit of Tai Shin Doh that we view every young student as possessing that “natural creativity.” It is a goal of Tai Shin Doh to develop in our students the ability to focus and channel that creativity to its optimum effects – artistically and martially.

It is then that apprentices become true martial artists, solidly on their way to becoming masters of their art … and their lives.