#28 in a continuing series— 84 days in the teaching life of an
American sensei in 1999)


My next
class for the day is a semi-private with two men, Dharman and Scott, both brown
belts, and very different from one another. Dharman, a good ten years younger,
is on a martial career path. He wants to be a full time karate instructor.
Scott is a computer engineer.

conventional practices mask the broader nature of our interactions, for all
relationships possess a spiritual component, and this always widens the dojo
dynamic, and makes up an aspect of training which is generally not openly spoken
about in most American schools. These two men are much more than ‘martial’
training partners.

men stand about 5’4”.  Scott is heftier
and sometimes struggles with his weight. Both men have keen minds, although
Scott is sometimes cutting. In casual conversation, he can be quick to dot your
‘I’s’ and cross your ‘T’s. It didn’t slip past me that Dharman’s older brother,
possessed many of Scott’s abrasive personality traits. As far as I am concerned,
Dharman just swapped one annoying brother for another, martial one.

It’s not unusual for us to find ourselves
attracting familiar (family-like) energies into our dojo life to extend the
family-style drama. As Dharman was becoming aware how harmful and limiting his
relationship with his brother had been during his formative years, he now finds
Scott filling in.

the spiritual plane, Dharman will get an opportunity to gain some clarity about
other men’s sharp demeanor. Dharman suffered low level mental and emotional
abuse in his early life. It’s like having a low-grade virus where you can’t place
your finger on why you are rundown. The doctor tells you that you are fine. But
you know otherwise.

Scott had left, I shared an analogy with Dharman.

could imagine about now that you might be having a silent dialog with yourself
about how that pin prick of Scott hurt, but how you’ll endure it.’

bullied by his brother, Dharman probably thought to himself, ‘I wish he wouldn’t
do that to me, but I’ll show him how Spartan I can be. I’ll take thirteen pins
before I’ll ever scream.’

now and then during a kumite, Scott inappropriately hits Dharman; a flicked
finger to the eye, a backfist to his cheek. Dharman shares his frustration about
Scott with me. Scott is doing the same thing to Dharman in the dojo that his
brother did to him as a young boy.

“Analysis isn’t going to cure your
problem,” I explain. “If Scott does something distasteful, take action,” As the
motivational speaker, Anthony Robbins, says, ‘It’s not what you think that makes the difference. It’s
what you do!’  “If Scott stuck a pin in my arm I’d pull it out, hand it back and tell him not to do it
again. There is no reason to endure a painful situation that could otherwise be
prevented by speaking up. People can get so caught up in others’ dramas that they
enter battles that have little to do with the central cause of their being.
Fight only the fights you can’t avoid. The moral high road of combat is to
prevent pain and suffering.

goal in martial arts is to solve a confrontation with the least amount of destruction
to either side. There is so much anger in this country that we have lost sight
of this morale. Instead, we are quick to kick butt.  Some instructors think nothing of teaching their
students to pulverize any and all opponents for the slightest provocation. What
happened to having compassion for our enemies, and learning how to step out of
harm’s way?”

think you are accepting Scott’s pin pricks for unconscious reasons—because you
don’t have a better way of being. Maybe you accept them for fear that you’ll
get more than you handle if you react too strongly.”

Dharman used to tell his older brother off while he was getting pounded, he got
pounded harder. “Perhaps, you think if you call Scott on his lack of control
you may be opening up a Pandora’s box of more problems. Honestly, from my
perspective, you and Scott present a great learning experience for each other.”