Following is one of the most underrated aspects of leaderships!


ADM. William McRaven

A great majority of martial arts instructors are very poor leaders and followers! In a recent speech to the 2015 West Point Class given by Admiral William H. McRaven, the ninth commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command said the following; “Finally in watching Army Officers young and old, I learned the great ones are equally good at following as well as leading.  Following is one of the most underrated aspects of leaderships, and each of you will be asked to follow someone else.” Now obviously, that was written in regards to current military leadership, however, I see over and over again, how the current martial arts are based on former military arts.  And I have seen over and over again some martial artist breaking ties with their instructors for many reasons.


GM Kim, Dong-hoon


Grand Master Trân Triêu Quân

When will this trend end?  Will it ever?  How many instructors today still follow their original instructors?  How many of you are still willing to “follow” anyone?   Sadly, I fear its not many, but the question should be why?  Some have very valid reasons, such as death of your original instructor. As marital arts instructors, we are generally known for our hard headed attitudes, but when is enough, enough?  When do we show our students we are willing to not only lead, but to follow?  Are you willing to let others lead in order for you to follow?  Are you willing to follow your instructors and support them without taking offences?  Everyone has ego, everyone gets their feelings hurt, but, teaching the martial arts, isn’t about you!  Your time was before, when you were a student, it’s about your students and what you can teach them now.  And as ADM McRaven so aptly put it, “following is one of the most underrated aspects of leaderships”  so, are you a leader?  A great leader is a great follower, just like a great talker, is a great listener! If you are so vain, and egotistical, maybe you need to stop teaching, and start learning?  You need to become a student again, if you want the attention, we give to students, a great instructor should be one that is known not because of his very flashy uniforms, or the amount of titles and stripes on his belt, a great instructor should be one that has great students, who follow their instructors because they follow their students and lead by example.

Students expect you to hold them to the highest standards, and if they are not held to the highest standards, and their individual efforts are no more important that of anyone else then, how can we as instructors expect them to become instructors later?  We must insist that our students are better then the instructors!  So many instructors, masters, grandmasters of today no longer are students, they are just instructors. Many over use the excuse of “my instructor has passed” a prime example is after General Choi, Hong-hi passed in 2002.  Since then, especially, many have made the claim that “he has passed, so I have no instructor or master now!” This is a very sad state if they truly have no instructors!  How sad is it that they feel and believe that they are the next or only and that they alone can now teach what was left!


GM Nam, Tae-hi (center) ; Master Rick Balkin (right); Mr. Hoss Rafferty (left) Dallas Texas USA 2011

Today’s “lack” of instructors who don’t have insturctors/leaders for the Grandmasters/Masters/Instructors  is rather idiotic if you think about it…..just because we may graduate at the collegiate level, never means we cant learn, most great professors I know are great because they continue to learn, and they learn mainly from their peers and their students….martial art instructors need and should do the same, seek out others, your peers, and your juniors and learn!

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One Response to Following is one of the most underrated aspects of leaderships!

  1. Joon P. Choi says:

    This is a great observation by ADM McRaven!.

    “Solseon-Soobeom” – Lead by example – unless you conduct yourself and lead your students with what is taught in class, you are not a good leader nor follower.

    Respect and loyalty are never a given, it has to be earned – every inch of it.

    “From the moment we are born to the moment we die, you must improve yourself. If you don’t improve you are dying. It is our obligation as human beings” -Joon P. Choi-

    The 3 Great No’s:
    1. No Excuses
    2. No Complaints
    3. No Blame

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