Every Labor Day weekend, for the past 8 years, I have attended Grandmaster Alex Dunlap’s Northwest Indiana/Illinois Open Martial Arts Tournament. As usual, I help run the black belt meeting where we explain all the rules to everyone and then pick out our center judges as well as our corner judges. After the meeting, Grandmaster Dunlap came up and asked if I could run the 6 year-old and under ring. While most people would cringe at the very thought of having to do this, and then politely make excuses as to why they cannot do it, I smiled and got right to it.
It is somewhat understandable why the vast majority of judges do not wish to take this ring. After all, who wants to see the same basic form ran 1000 different ways but only ran correctly once or twice? Of course, you run across the occasion nervous cry or the one who completely forgets their form and you end up trying to walk them through it. However, in all, I get through it and actually have some fun. At the end of what came to be a 2 hour running, we finished off the last division and handed out the last of the trophies and proceeded to move on to the rest of the tournament.
As I was walking through the crowd I had a woman stop me with this comment. “I really enjoyed how you ran the ring, but most of all thank you for actually smiling at the kids. I think it really helped them with their confidence.” I was taken a bit by the part “…actually smiling at the kids.” So I had to ask, “Don’t most of the judges smile at them?” Surprisingly she said no. She told me that most of them just try to get the ring over and done with as soon as possible so, they can go watch the older kids, or adults compete. This leads to them marching the kids in the ring, move them quickly into place, and then sit with a scowl on their face while the kids try to run a form. She went on to tell me you can even see the frustration in their body when a kid begins to cry or forgets his/her form. This inevitably leads to the kid getting more nervous and not having any fun at all. However, she said that by me and the other judges actually smiling they seemed to have more fun and did not feel so intimidated and that made it more enjoyable for everyone.
It is amazing how we can all forget how powerful a smile can be. As adults, we are stressed with the daily grind of work, paying bills, and making sure our kids are taken care of. Life does not always give us a reason to smile and so we do not. That day I relearned something that I have forgotten. A smile can bring new life to others regardless if you are just passing someone in the hall or watching a six-year-old do his form for the first time. In return, you begin to feel new energy as well. So put those 26 muscles to task today and smile. Something so simple can help change a person’s day for the better.