The Lighter Side of Martial Arts – The Captain Underpants Award

This post is going to take a little detour from my typical, serious rants.  This will be the first post in many that I will call “The Lighter Side of Martial Arts”.  Over the 30+ years I have been in martial arts, and especially the more than 20 spent as an instructor, I have encountered many comical situations.  In this series of posts, I will share some of these humorous stories.

Sometimes you just have to embrace the failure

When you work with young children day in and day out, you are bound to get some very funny moments.  If you want some good, funny stories involving kids just ask an elementary school teacher.  This first story, however, does not involve children.  This story involves the actions of a full grown, adult man.

About 10 years ago, I was teaching in a studio that was only 1000 square feet.  In addition, the single bathroom was located directly in the center of the space making the space more like 2 standalone 500 square foot spaces.  In the very back of the studio was a small nook about the size of an office cubicle that served as my office.  Rather than a door, there was a curtain to provide minimal privacy.

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During this time in my career, I would occasionally have to travel for seminars, conferences, or other training events both as a speaker and as a participant.  When this would happen, I was fortunate to have a handful of adult black belt instructors that could cover classes for the few days I was gone.

Martial Arts doesn’t always have to be serious

These instructors went through training programs to qualify for this role.  In addition, they were provided detailed class plans and were required to provide detailed class summaries for every class they taught.  Being an instructor is a very serious thing and the work involved reflected that.

Owning a business and leaving it in the hands of others can be stressful, even when they are very well trained and qualified.  Every time I would travel there would be a certain stress level that I had to manage.  That being said, my trip was uneventful and thankfully the classes back home were also uneventful.  I checked in with the instructors, thoroughly read class summaries, and did not receive any calls or emails from disgruntled students and parents.  All was good.

I got home from my trip and went into the studio the next day which was a Monday.  Being gone for several days, there was a lot of work I needed to catch up on.  I sat down at my desk in my tiny cubicle sized office and started working on my computer.  At one point I needed to print something out but, lo and behold, my printer was out of paper.  I reach under my desk where I kept extra paper and found something I did not expect to find.  On top of my stack of extra paper was a pair of worn, men’s boxer shorts.

Even when times are tough, think about the good times

As it turns out, one of the instructors who was covering classes decided to use my office as a changing room and somehow did not realize he left his used underwear in my office.  This was the birth of an annual award I named The Captain Underpants Award.  This award would be given to the student each year who made the biggest blunder during the year.

The inaugural winner won go on to win again for butt dialing my home at 5am approximately 20 times one morning.  Other winners included a student who left his kids alone in their hotel room that was directly above my room and jumped on their bed at 11pm keeping me awake, a fantasy football cheater, someone who left their black belt at the studio, a teenage instructor trainee who deleted all of the shared files on a server for all instructors, students who targeted me specifically during a water balloon fight, an instructor who lost the key to the studio not once but twice, and a student who broke my toe.

The Capt. Underpants Award was born from an epic failure

We have given out this award every year since the inaugural incident.  Unfortunately, we did not have a 2020 award winner due to being shutdown for COVID19.  Hopefully this year, 2021, will be a better year, and a worse year for some unlucky person, and we can get back to having this annual, fun tradition.

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