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The Value of Failing Correctly


By Sensei Lee Patterson – Premier Martial Arts, MS Psychology

It was nearly the end of class, and I had a mat full of young students and a seating area full of parents. I
was demonstrating a nunchuck strike when, quite out of nowhere, my chuck struck the side of my head with what
felt like the force of a freight train and the sound of a thunderclap. A deep hush fell over the school, both from
students and parents. It was the kind of hush that falls over parents when their toddler bumps their head and falls
over, and everyone is holding their breath to see whether the toddler will go about their business, or begin wailing.Parents and students were waiting to see how I would respond. As the stars cleared from my eyes, I chuckled andsaid “yep. that happened”, we all had a good laugh at my expense, and class went on.

Everyone saw (and I felt) the mistake that I had made, and likewise, everyone saw how I responded to it. I
cannot imagine how things would have shaken out had I gotten all bent out of shape after that thump to the skull,
either by getting all self-conscious or snapping at anyone who laughed. Sadly, all too many times, I have seen
leaders fail incorrectly.

Making mistakes is something that we all do and is just a part of life, but it is exactly how we handle it that
is very important, not only for us, but for those that are following us. We all have those that we lead, in one way or
another, whether it is our students, our subordinates, our children, or so on, and they ARE watching. Will we run
from our failures? Will we try to cover them up, or blame them on others? Will we let them crush us? Or will we
face them honestly, and allow them to help us grow?

I am certain many of you have seen the Karate Kid movies and the Cobra Kai television series (and are
anxiously awaiting the release of the 4th season :). As such, I am sure you know how the King Cobra himself,
Sensei John Kreese, deals with failure. As we watched him choke his star student for committing the crime of
coming in second place, we can’t help but wonder why he would react in such an insane manner. I would posit that
it is a fear of failure; his students had to be the best, because HE had to be the best. We see pieces of John Kreese’s
early life, from kicked-around potwasher, to soldier, to disciple of a commanding officer who treated him like an
enemy if he failed to live up to his expectations. He learned that being a flawed human being was unacceptable,
and if he didn’t want to go back to being the world’s punching bag, he needed to become a man like the CO that had
bullied him. That same mindset he passed to his own disciple, Jonny Lawrence, who grew to be someone a lot like
him (thankfully not exactly like him); a bullied child hiding inside of a man, terrified of showing weakness. Then
Jonny passed that same poison down to Hawk. At least four generations of toxic insecurity. However, we can see
that there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Jonny has seen what “we do not accept weakness in this dojo” has
done to the young minds that he was responsible for, and is working hard to change it. For them, and for himself,
there can and SHOULD be mercy.

As leaders, we have a responsibility to do our best at what we do, but also to set the tone of the
environment in which we lead; how we handle failures in ourselves and others is a very big part of that. If we take
full responsibility for ourselves with our heads held high and work through it, it shows that failures happen, that
there is nothing wrong with it, that life goes on afterwards, and that people can fail sometimes and still be
successful. If we choose the other path, as John Kreese did, it creates an environment where mistakes (and the
people who make them) are unacceptable, where open and honest communication is impossible, where asking for
help is a sign of weakness, and where saving face is more important than success.
Failure happens. We can either let it crush us, or motivate us.

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Premier Martial Arts has been in business for more than 20 years, and since our founding in 1998 we have helped thousands of students of all ages realize their full potential. Premier Martial Arts delivers a best-in-class martial arts experience that helps our students develop the personal skills that are necessary to build a successful life. Our mastery of teaching martial arts over the past two decades is evident in our structured and thorough curriculum, which is standardized across our 100+ locations across the United States, Canada and England.

Our curriculum focuses on character development far beyond the importance of self-defense. We teach our young students how to respect their elders, how to be accountable, how to focus and how to stay in shape in a fun and exciting atmosphere. We empower our adult students with the self-confidence to overcome anxieties and trauma, in an environment that fosters inclusion and social belonging.

Premier Martial Arts Fort Wayne founded in 2015 by 6th Degree Black Belt and Master Instructor Ron Kuhn. Master Kuhn had a distinguished management & engineering career working for such companies as Verizon, NIPSCO, Frontier Communications and Mediacom. In 2019 he made the decision to operate his Martial Arts School fulltime which has always been his lifelong dream. That one location has grown to three in the City of Fort Wayne.

Master Ron Kuhn is married to his wife Anita (retired Special Needs Teacher) of 27 years. They have three wonderful daughters, Jordan, Ally and Katie. Jordan is a nurse who lives in Indianapolis. Ally has a computer science and business background and works with her dad at Premier Martial Arts. Katie is Chemical Engineering graduate and works in the pharmaceutical industry in Indianapolis.


Premier Martial Arts of Fort Wayne operates three locations:

North – 10240 Coldwater Road, Fort Wayne, IN 46825 (Coldwater & DuPont)

East – 10154 Maysville Road, Fort Wayne, IN 46835 (Chapel Hill Area)

Southwest – 9906 Illinois Road Fort Wayne, IN 46804 (Scott & Illinois Road)


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