“I wish I would have known”

I wish I would have known the atrocities that people in positions of trust are capable and willing to commit. I wish I would have known that not everyone has my good intentions toward others or my concern for others’ well-being. I wish I would have known that there are people who will go to great lengths to isolate, manipulate and exploit the people who are trying to learn from them, to be so callous to the damage they cause in people’s lives.I wish I would have known, but even still, I’m not sure I would have believed it.

I would have believed that it was an isolated incident and most people are truly good. I would have still ignored the red flags and the “gut feelings” that told me something was wrong early on. It would seem that I had to experience it for myself, to actually see and feel the depravity that mankind is capable of, to know that such evil intentions exist within the soul of a single person. This is a lesson I hope I will not easily or quickly forget.

My biggest regret is not being able to save others. I had to leave quickly and covertly. I had to create a sudden and unexplainable chasm between myself and those I left behind; not to distance myself from them but to save myself from being swallowed by the monster they followed. I didn’t have time to collect others, I risked the final and total loss of myself, my being and consequently my family every minute I stayed. Those that were left behind are left with a choice: question the seemingly uncharacteristic behavior of one of their own or question their leader.

This leader is adept at spinning tales and playing the victim; a victim of the very people he victimized. I don’t hold it against them for not seeing the truth. It took me awhile to see it, too. I ignored my instincts, excusing them as overly emotional reactions. I believed the stories about all those that came before me that had “proven disloyal”.

I should have questioned why everyone left, what really drew them to go. What drew many of them to abandon the sport that they claimed to love.I understand, now, why many of them quit. To continue is a constant battle against the reality of the manipulation and abuse they faced. To continue is to stare the demon in the face every time you step in the gym or onto the mat. To wonder what the outcome of the training session will be, to suspect the intentions of every instructor that comes after them. Some days that battle is too daunting, to abandon would be easier. To walk away would take less fortitude. But, for me, it would mean turning my back on something that I truly loved before it was perverted by an evil force.

In fairy tales, evil is vanquished by good. This story isn’t entirely different. Waiting quietly to support me once I saw what they had long known, were my family and people that have proven to be friends. People who helped me move and are helping me move on. These people are aware of the lasting effects of the situation, effects on my physical, mental and emotional being. These people have patiently listened, consoled my tears, reminded me of good. They have fought back the demons when I was too tired to battle anymore. They are proof that good does, in fact, exist.

Unfortunately, the evil hasn’t been destroyed. It is being exorcised from my life, but it runs rampant, preying on new targets. Exploiting, manipulating, destroying. It is a ravenous monster that will never be satisfied until it meets its physical death.

The good guys, my knights, have helped me to find new places to remember my love of this art. In those places I’ve discovered instructors whose primary intention is to help their students learn. Coaches exist that are concerned for the well-being of their athletes: mentally, emotionally, physically. They see the athlete as a person and not a means to an end. They see the client as a student worthy of respect and dignity and not just a monthly payment. They are teachers who instruct and guide, not belittle and berate; instructors that guide to knowledge not use their platform as a green card for physical abuse and violence.

To move forward, I have told myself: Forget the person, remember the lesson. I will be cautious. I will be guarded. I will trust, but it will not be freely given. Loyalty will not be blind and undeserved. My gut will not be ignored. My emotions will be addressed. I have seen the good and the horrific. I will choose to believe that people are capable of good, but not everyone is good. It is okay to walk away from an unhealthy and dangerous situation. Abuse comes in many forms and none of them are acceptable. Friends will be lost over this, but the relationships that endure the struggle will be fortified.

I have classified my blue belt as my belt of misplaced loyalty. I believe I will continue to wear that color for awhile, and that no longer saddens me. It serves as a reminder of what happens when you don’t seek truth but blindly follow. It also serves as a reminder that the strong are resilient. I was bent, I was not broken. My advancement may take longer, but what was once an important goal pales in comparison to survival. It reminds me to remember who I am, to not lose myself to another’s motives, agenda and evil intent.

I unknowingly went to war against an evil and vile human and I escaped. That is the greatest victory I have yet experienced.