“I’m so high up because she stands so tall.”
That is how one amazing martial artist described her teacher to an audience of fellow martial artists gathered to hear about the intersection of anti-racist work and martial arts. Her teacher, and the people who came before her, paved the way for the great work she is doing today. They made incredible progress for women, non-binary folks, and humans of color in martial arts. Their school, Hand to Hand Kajukenbo, is a shining example of doing the work to create a more just, peaceful, and inclusive world.
It is common in martial arts traditions to honor our ancestry. And it is equally important to acknowledge the great shoulders on which we stand in all the other parts of our lives. Without the people who came before us, we could not be who we are today. We could not do what we are doing, and we could not do it in the way we are doing it.
Just imagine if electricity had not yet been invented. Absolutely everything about life would be different. We would spend our time differently without all the labor-saving devices that run on electricity. We would connect with people differently without all the communications equipment that require electricity. We are only able to work remotely during a pandemic and see a friend who are thousands of miles away on a video chat because of the work of all those people who came before us.
It’s easy to forget about the contributions of our ancestors. It is easy to take for granted all the things that came to be before we entered this world. Electricity was invented long before I was born, so I have never known a world without it. I appreciate electricity, and I also take it for granted most of the time. I have always lived in an electricity-requiring manner because that was the world I was born into.
In a similar way, I was born into a world where women are valued more than they have been at any prior point in this country's history. Society has a long way to go before reaching equality for all genders, but I can continue that effort today because of the efforts and achievements of great feminists that came before me.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was one of those amazing feminists. She paved the way for women in this country to begin to matter in more ways. She was one of the women who blazed the trails I walk today as I work to provide even more opportunities for women and girls and non-binary humans. RBG is one of my heroes.
I didn’t know her personally, but I feel a personal connection to her because what RBG did with her life had a direct impact on my life. When she died this week, it shook my entire world. RBG was more than just my hero, she was also my protector. She was one of the people who stood in between me and the people in power who try to take away my rights.
Now that she is no longer here, the rest of us have to fill those shoes. And it’s going to take all of our feet to do it. I am standing up for my rights and the rights of others with the other activists around me, and we are speaking truth to power. It’s hard to see now what impact we will ultimately have, but I hope RBG’s passing spurs even more people into action.
There has been so much uncertainty so far this year with Covid, murder hornets, an unstable economy, the brutal government response to the public outcry against unchecked police violence. Last week Oregon was on fire. This week one of the major champions for equal rights died.
Big heroes like RBG are important. They are inspirational. I strive to make an impact with my life like my heroes. Just as important are all my mentors. Mentors are the heroes we get to know personally, and who also know us. They have been to places I’m trying to get to, they have seen the things I’m trying to get my eyes on. They care about me and they help me stretch and reach for new heights.
No one handed me my current life. No one handed me my business to run. No one handed me my black belt. I have worked diligently and put forth a lot of effort to shape my life into what it is today, but I did not do it in a vacuum. All my life people have handed me opportunities, inspiration, and guidance. My great achievements are only possible in the context of my supportive community.
The self-made success story is a myth. No one pulls themselves up by their bootstraps. We are born into a world of possibilities made available by those who came before us. We do the best we can with the options available, and we are helped along the way by mentors and people who take interest in us.
We are so high up today because the ones who came before us stood so tall. We need to stand tall for everyone who is coming right behind us. Rise up.
Information and Inspiration
Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.