I Don’t Do Nice


I Don’t Do Nice

“Cover up guys and sit down….”

Despite the efficient warm down, everyone ‘squelched’ as they sat. When you’ve had a really hard work out and everyone is drenched in sweat, every bit of clothing, underwear and skin is soaked.  Even using covering track gear and towels, you can see the steam rising from everyone’s head and shoulders. When they get up, they leave wet bum prints – almost like ‘rear end personal fingerprints’ on the floor.

We’d had a ‘classic’ session, starting with standing basics, working on the skills of making a proper fist, use of wrist, elbow and shoulder in the punches and blocks followed by foot formation, knee position, leg extension and supporting leg in the kicks.  This was followed by moving basics in a variety of stances, working on power sourcing through the body in movement, timing of the hands and feet and the release and focus of power in the technique. This was then put into combinations skill building as we entered and exited the techniques in a variety of ways, gradually building up into a series of a dozen or so moves.

By the time we put these skills into kata it was becoming quite complex and required intense concentration, maintaining the correct posture and body alignment, breathing, mindset, power sourcing, timing and technique –  we were working very hard!

We then put these skills into application, using the ‘blind side’ (or the side that your mind is not naturally attracted to in a technique) so we looked the other way in each technique to find hidden application and also to the ‘withdrawn’ or ‘other’ limb to find a multitude of ways that they could be used.

These ‘fixed’ applications were put into pushing hands or ‘contact’ scenarios and then gradually varied and made faster until both attack and defend became freestyle at fighting speed.  This is when the pace really became intense!

Just as we reached exhaustion, sensei stopped the class and took us through the ‘golden ball’ qiqong, pumping the body from the centre, using the upper thighs, hips and lower back, flexing the spine to move the rest of the body in time with the breath in a variety of movements to soften, relax, stretch and warm the body down in the most efficient manner.

“Any questions?”  It was two way feedback time.

“Sometimes sensei, I think you are really nice, and other times, like when you pushed me tonight, I think you are ‘horrible!”  Jane was a ‘nice’ girl and didn’t take to being pushed to what she thought was beyond her limits.  It’s probably the only time it’s ever happened to her.

“Nice…..  I resent being called ‘nice’ Jane!”

“That’s a compliment sensei!  The ‘horrible’ was the bit you were meant to resent!”

“The word ‘nice’ generally means that the person being referred to is no threat to anyone, never voices an opinion and is usually very polite because they are marketing themselves or their goods.

Give me someone with an opinion who wants to work and achieve something and won’t suffer fools gladly any day.”

“That’s not very nice of you sensei…”  As the words left her mouth Jane realised the humour in what she had just said

“Exactly Jane.  My job is to teach you martial arts not get you to fall in love with me.  To do my job effectively, sometimes you will love me and sometimes you will hate me.  When I push you farther than you think you can go, like tonight, you hate me…”

“I wouldn’t go that far sensei…”

“Then I didn’t push you far enough… when you have improved and developed as a result of my pushing, you will love me – and the process will be repeated until a mutual respect develops.  But even then you would not use the word ‘nice’ because it’s too nondescript for what’s happening.  I would prefer ‘harsh, but fair’”.

“That’s a bit harsh sensei…  but fair…”  Now Jane knew she was being witty and was joining in the fun.

Sensei scanned the sea of faces.  “It’s a strange world where people look for a club and instructor that allows them to remain in their comfort zone – a ‘nice’ instructor that makes them feel comfortable and is never ‘horrible’ to them.  But how can you possibly become a martial artist if you’re always ‘comfortable’ and everyone is always ‘nice’ to you?

The best instruction I ever had in my life was from people that I didn’t like, people who were horrible to me, people who constantly made me do things that I didn’t want to, people who didn’t suffer fools gladly.  They were people that felt a responsibility towards what they taught and how they taught it, one described it to me as a ‘burden’ from their ancestors.  They weren’t looking for ‘customers’ or ‘punters’ they were looking for potential martial artists.

In their clubs and on their courses the tail didn’t wag the dog.  They weren’t looking to ‘please’ the customers and sell their books and DVD’s – they were looking to put a mass of very important information across – and the students hadn’t gone for an autograph on their book, DVD and T shirt – they had gone to get knowledge.

I detest bullies and so did they.  Bullies don’t have anything to teach, they are just looking for victims, the same as the ‘nice’ salesman.  It’s not rocket science telling the difference.  A ‘proper’ martial arts teacher is looking for the next generation of martial artist; they will have an authentic, deep system that has to be taught in layers and through a relationship of mutual respect developed over years of training, look at the senior students to see the result of the system and teaching.

Training should be hard and the expectation high for each person, we don’t have the time to waste in too many ‘niceties’ we both want to get the job done in the most efficient way possible, with the respect we develop for each other we don’t have to be ‘nice’ in a false way.

There are only a few martial artists in this world.  Most people in karate suits have been actively ‘recruited’ from their homes or in shopping precincts by high pressure salesman, they didn’t want to be there, they were press ganged into it.  They don’t want to suffer to learn.  Most black belts now are the result of a 1 – 3 year contract that the student has ‘bought’ from the instructor and is guaranteed – not earned.

To find a good teacher is a quest that is actually harder now than ever before.

So call me ‘harsh’ call me ‘fair’ call me almost anything…. But don’t call me ‘nice’!”

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