CHRONICLES OF
THE DOKA

#33 in a continuing series:

(84 days in the teaching life of an American sensei in 1999)

I
have a student that others have aptly named, the Cyborg. He’s up next. He
arrives late from Manhattan at 6:08 pm for his remaining five forty-five minute
private class. I hear him descend the dojo steps. The bathroom door shuts. The
Cyborg is changing into his gi.

All
private students; men, women, cyborgs, have the option to either change into
their gis or practice in appropriate loose clothing. The Cyborg’s class is generally
straightforward and occasionally flat. Though he is very disciplined, and pushes
hard, he reminds me of a warrior in a castle whose drawbridge has rusted shut.
Open and loose does not fit his character. His effect upon my energy has become
confining of late. There are training issues I do not feel comfortable bringing
up. And I usually have to provide the sole charge for his class, unlike other students
who come in enthusiastic, curious, even electric. The Cyborg lives in the ‘white
zone.’ He trains to release pent up physical energy. His captive red man
(primal self) is chained behind a steel door of will. A small slot provides a
glimpse of a bloodthirsty and beastly killer. This cyborg has walled his red
man behind a formidable ego.  

When I bring up his black belt test, a
strange tightening energy stills the air in the room. The question  has taken the Cyborg’s beyond his comfort zone.

A mutual student and friend of his, named
Harvey, once told me he could not believe that I was letting the Cyborg pick the
date for his own test.

“It’s out of character with your previous testing
agendas,” he said.

“Truthfully,”
I responded, “the timing of the black belt needs to be a joint effort. I don’t
ask students to perform if they are sick, going through a divorce, or
recurperating from a car crash.”

Cyborg pushes the date back.

I want him to test in
November before his eldest son, Mike, who is also testing. Cyborg decides his
black belt test doesn’t matter to him. But I can’t miss the opportunity to test
his eldest son before he goes to Yale. So I postpone the Cyborg’s test in favor
of Mike’s. As if a negotiation, the Cyborg announces that February 1st is
acceptable date his test.

The Cyborg also appears in a bad mood today.

“I have absolutely no time to practice outside of
class,” he says exasperated that I even brought the subject up.

“The longer you wait, the harder it’s
going to be,” I tell him. I catch his negative vibe and simply switch the
subject. There’s no point in pushing.

The
Cyborg’s eldest son and I have become very close over the years. Mike has
shared with me his father’s distaste of my orating in any way during a class. He
wants to move his body and take a break from his mind. So I drill him on sunsu
kata where his memory is spotty.

Karate training can bring out the best and worst in
people. Teaching is always a negotiation of sorts. What a student wants and
what a teacher has to give can sometimes be out of sync.

I
cannot figure out is if the Cyborg is purposely downplaying his skills for a
surprise performance later – his modus
operendi
that his son and I have talked about quite often, or if he realizes
that he might be confronting a part of himself that eludes him. it’s quite possible that he doesn’t really care. Yet, he ahs trained hard for ten years.

A black belt
test can bring as much darkness as light to the surface for some students.

(The
Cyborg never tests for his Black and eventually leaves karate training. His two sons earn their belts with distinction).

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