Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tale of Two Students

The following accounts are true and happened this past week. Names have been changed for obvious reasons.

Marge has been training at our school for about three years. She works two jobs, has a young child and is occasionally harassed by her loutish ex-husband that she finally managed to get an order of protection from. Three nights ago this dumbass shows up at her apartment, drunk and feeling amorous, and grabs Marge by her wrists. Big mistake. I teach two counters for this maneuver. Marge used variation #2: hop back into neko-dachi and forward leg kick the assailant in the groin. Her ex drops like a sack of bricks, gets up, swings with a haymaker that barely misses and is greeted with a projectile glass pitcher to the head (not taught by me). The jerk runs out of her place bleeding from a nasty head wound while Marge goes to a neighbor to call the police. (Fortunately her youngster was with a relative while all of this was going down.) He's in jail now for a variety of charges and is recovering from a mild concussion. Marge showed me the glass pitcher she hurled at this guy. It never broke, the thing's huge and feels like it weighs about ten pounds. He should consider himself lucky to be alive. Marge is doing okay and attributes her training to her ability to survive and get through all of this.

Stan is another intermediate trainee with a few years under his belt. He's thirtysomething, single, and works in an office for a big company. Recently he was awarded with an "Employee of the Month" certificate that, among other things, entitles him to a reserved parking spot. A co-worker took it upon himself to steal Stan's hard-earned parking spot which is clearly marked for these kind of employees. Stan locates the guy and politely but firmly tells him not to do that again while that spot is reserved for him. The space-stealer apologizes profusely and hasn't done it since. One could say that Stan had an attachment to his reserved spot at work; that he felt entitled to it, which he was. But Stan saw this in a bigger and broader context. Before karate training Stan saw himself as non-confrontational and fearful of standoffs of any kind. Stan's ability to speak up for himself like this was unprecedented and the experience left him feeling liberated and at ease.

Stories like this are meaningful because they illustrate how valuable karate practice can be. Marge's case was extreme; her life was at risk and she had no choice but to resort to the jutsu or technical aspects of karate to protect herself. Thank god she's alright, and I've been given good reason to believe that this episode won't repeat itself for her.

Stan's story was far less dramatic—he was never in any physical danger—but his self-respect was at stake. He was not acquainted at all with the co-worker who took his parking spot and had no idea how confronting him would turn out. Given this uncertainty, Stan was nonetheless resolved to fix this problem and conducted himself admirably.

Both students exemplify the spirit of karate-do: The ability and willingness to take one's training outside the dojo with effective and positive results.

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