My Kung Fu Panda Moment

August 28, 2013

My Black Belt 1

My Black Belt 1

You are eleven years old and one Saturday instead of going to Kung Fu classes you decide to skip it and go play football with your friends. As you kick the ball around, run from one end of the concrete pitch to the other working up a sweat, you are carefree having the time of your life. Life could not get any better.

Then from the corner of your eye you spy a familiar figure, someone you recognize, someone with the power of authority. That someone you realize upon second glance is your father.

My heart skipped a beat when I saw my dad looking down at me from the street into the sunken car park where I was playing football. That was me being caught red-handed on a cold Saturday afternoon in London, missing my classes to play football with my best friends and other guys from the neighborhood.

My dad had signed me up for Saturday classes about six weeks ago.

"Son, you need to be able to take care of yourself, this is the rough East End and one must learn how to fight," he rationalized.

I was actually quite keen to join and went along happily attending classes every weekend. I would forego playing tag, football and other games with my best friends for a couple of hours every Saturday to learn the art of self defense and fighting. This weekend however my friends cajoled, goaded, teased and urged me to not go to classes. In the end I succumbed to peer pressure and using my kit bag as a goal post proceeded to play football.

So seeing my dad made me gulp and I thought, "I've had it, I'm done for," as he beckoned me over to him without saying a word or raising a hand in gesture.

"Why are you not at Kung Fu classes?" he asked. I could feel my ears burning and my friends watching me made me want to sink into the ground and disappear.

"Err! I just wanted to play football and didn't want to go to class today," I mumbled as I looked at my feet.

"I never, ever want to see you miss Kung Fu again, I will let you off today, but from next week you will go to every class without fail," he stated, and with that he carried on walking to wherever he was going. I went back to my football game and having explained to my friends what had happened carried on playing.

However, I decided there and then that I would never miss another class. Of course there were the odd classes that I did miss due to illness or a reasonable excuse, but I never missed a class of my own volition. I persevered with my training  and my Sifu a fellow Bengali called Maruf, took a liking to me and taught me well. In return I became a dedicated and loyal student.

So through all the fights, the twisted fingers, busted toes, torn ligaments, bloody noses and bruises I kept at it from 1981 to 1989. Each year I would partake in one exam and each year I would pass to go through nine sashes in that period. I fought fights and got beaten and others I won unanimously. I taught junior students and I trained with Black belts.

I was my Sifu's star pupil, becoming his first student to achieve Black belt in 1989, which made him an extremely proud teacher. The exam to attain my Black belt required the demonstration of a set of movements, followed by set sparring where no blows are struck. This was followed by breaking bricks and slates with bare hands then kicking wooden planks in half.

Then came the fights. There were three 3-minute fights. One-on-one, one-on-two and the finale was me against a senior Black belt. All of these fights were performed with only gloves, foot-guards, gum-shields and groin guards.

At the end of it, my lips were busted and bleeding I was bruised all over and I was exhausted to the core. Yet when the results were announced and I had got my Black belt every pain, every drop of blood and every tear was of happiness and exhilaration. At the exam my dad was not there, nor were any of my friends just my Sifu Maruf and my fellow classmates. Maruf came and gave me a huge hug and lifted me straight off the ground.

When I got home my parents were very proud of my achievement. I have to thank my dad for making me stick to my classes.

If there is anything I learned from my years of Kung Fu was if you start something worthwhile stick to it and finish it, be committed. Secondly, never give up, no matter how hard, tough or unexciting the work may be keep at it. Thirdly I learned self-control and discipline in all areas of life, especially how to use peaceful methods to resolve conflict. Last but not least the rewards for achieving a worthwhile goal are priceless.

This story is dedicated to my dear Sifu Maruf who died a few years back, killed in a car crash in Bangladesh. May you rest in peace, you were my first role model. 

Not lost in translation

August 22, 2013

Course Material

Course Material

I attained my MBA from Kingston University in Surrey, England back in 2003. The degree was a two-year part-time course, which suited me perfectly due to work commitments. What this meant was that for two years I would finish work on a Friday and then drive from whichever part of England I was working in to Kingston-Upon-Thames. Then I would be up on a Saturday and Sunday to attend further lectures. It was gruelling to say the least.

Having completed my bachelor’s degree in 1992 I felt my brain was atrophying and my mind was restless in constant search for intellectual stimulation. So I took the plunge and decided to take on the challenge of an MBA in strategy. Even though it required a lot of dedication and time it was worth every minute and every penny I spent paying for it. It was an absolutely amazing learning and social experience studying with other fellow working professionals.

However, my story this week is not about me graduating with my MBA but about a fellow student. When our course started we were all put into groups of six or seven. These groups were known as study groups whereby we were a team and would tackle assignments and projects as a team. The team would then get scored based on how well we wrote our reports and gave presentations on case studies.

In my group there were five others, consisting of two women and three men. Every one of the team except one was a native English speaker educated and brought up through the British education system. English language therefore was second nature to them all.

One of our fellow team members was from Romania and he had graduated from university in Bucharest. Even though he spoke good English his grasp of it was not effective enough for him to respond and debate at the speed of the native speakers. In essence he became the weakest member of the team, just because English was not his mother tongue.

He was successful in every other respect working as a business development executive for a UK firm. He travelled up and down the country selling his employers services to business customers. He lived outside London with his wife and having moved to England aspired for success in all its various guises. They worked hard and took on further education to improve their prospects.

Alas, in our study group the remainder of the team without directly saying so pretty much shunned him and left him to his own devices to cope as best as he could. So right from the outset he sought solace in my company both for companionship for the duration of the two-year course as well as support in terms of the study material. I did what I felt was right and took him under my custody.

I did not cover for him or defend him and ensured he did his part of the teamwork. What I did do though was be there when he wanted to ask a question about something he did not understand. I would help him through some of the financial calculations required at post-graduate level and read his written work for grammar and logic.

He did not falter and for the two years he struggled sometimes but never gave up. He kept on going through thick and thin and I would say put in the most effort out of the whole team. He successfully wrote his thesis with the minimum twenty-five thousand words and presented his viva voce. Both of which he successfully completed and passed

In the summer of 2003 we all sat our finals. When we got our results towards the tail end of summer he passed. He may not have achieved honors MBA, but he passed. On that day of getting our results he was the happiest guy on campus.

I was pleased as punch and all credit went to Armand for he showed that hard work and dedication can get you superb results and anything is possible if you put your heart and mind to it. He showed me that we are all different and learn differently, some of us required an extra hand than others. Most of all he taught me that no handicap is stronger than a person’s desire to succeed. So wherever you are Armand, here’s to you pal.