The Martial Arts Melting Pot
I was raised in Hillsboro in the 1980’s, which at the time was a farming community. From 25th and Cornell to 185th was all 100% farmland, there were no stores or apartments, and often you’d see Cougar strolling down the road! The diverse workforce that Intel brought, the burgeoning farming community, and the migratory hipster had yet to take root in the Portland area.
Fortunately, my local martial arts school was a grand melting pot of diversity. My instructor was an Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) and our classes were filled with countless ethnic backgrounds. It was my window to the world, I had an opportunity to learn about so many different cultures from all my teammates. Forming those bonds was one of my favorite features of the academy and in my naivety I believed the rest of the world was as accepting and diverse as a small martial arts club in Oregon.
Tracing Diversity to the Source
Of course we know this isn’t the case, but one thing in my journey was constant. EVERY single martial arts academy I have ever trained at has been a multi-cultural celebration. One thing that adds to this foundation is the fact that most of the arts are from various regions of the world. Muay Thai from Thailand, Gracie Jiu Jitsu/Karate from Japan and Brazil, Kali from the Philippines, and Boxing from Britain and America, and that’s just to name a few. Every culture in history has there own indigenous form of combat, including Native Americans, Africans, Hawaiians and on and on..
Coming up in the 90’s/00’s you had to go to the source. To learn Muay Thai, I studied with my coach from Thailand, Ajarn Chai. To learn Kali I trained with Dan Inosanto who’s American born Filipino. BJJ with the Gracie family and their students directly from Brazil, like Pedro Sauer. All teachers from diverse backgrounds and they are experts at working with people of equally diverse background. Not to mention the fact I looked up to these mentors and the incredible skills they shared.
Bringing People Together is the Secret Sauce
Once you have conditions like this; diverse instructors teaching a diverse group of people, it perpetuates itself. We absolutely model this quality at River City Warriors and cultivate a welcoming place for all people, all religions, all races, all cultures, all sexual orientations, and all backgrounds. People who have great influence on your life and expose others to incredible diversity, encourage that to continue.
When people toil with one another, simply as human beings, without the baggage of bias, a very powerful thing happens. All the barriers of preconceived notions are dropped and strong relationships are formed. Martial Arts classes are the perfect training ground for this, because in class you’re going to share a space like I did with people of all walks of life. You work intimately with your partners to solve the puzzle of learning technique, to carefully test each other through sparring, and you grow together as you overcome obstacles in your path. All of that hones an appreciation for one another, a celebration of our unique differences and contributions, and an underlying principle at the core: We are all the same, one humankind. At RCW we cherish that, and will never falter to be the champion for all our family, friends, and neighbors in our community.