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

the snow continues I will have more cancellations later in the day. I’m a full
time professional. I survive on teaching. So I make a few phone calls to stir
up some morning privates.

teach three progressive children’s classes back to back at a civic institution.
Due to the increasing snowfall the institution decides to shut down the
building at 6:30 when my last class ends.

and I arrive a half hour early. We change in the locker room then go upstairs
to a spacious second floor auditorium. I open with a beginner’s class followed
by yellow/orange class and finish with an upper belt class of blue, green and

kill time, Dharman and I talk about his early martial experience. Dharman studied
Tae Kwon Do as a teenager in Bergen
County with an instructor named, Lally.
Four years into his training, Lally asked Dharman to teach weekend classes for him.
Lally rarely showed up for these classes, nor did he pay for Dharman’s loyal services,
but he still demanded that Dharman pay his yearly tuition.

young martial enthusiasts get sucked into these predicaments because they want
to advance, so they will bend over backwards to help their sensei. But there’s a fine line
between apprenticeship and indentured exploitation. I’ve heard of many students
abdicating their common sense in martial arts schools. Such arrangements are
best discussed and mutually agreed to ahead of time to avoid misunderstandings
down the road.

through the advice of his parents, Dharman decides Lally’s school was not for

hand over the reigns to your heart, Dharman. They were given
to you and to you alone to fulfill a unique destiny. Take advice, eat crow if
necessary, but don’t give away your