It was a warm night…
With three children’s and an adult beginner class previously, the air was quite humid. Sensei had worked this class through a good ‘warm up’ and some highly corrected basics before it was time to work on kata…
Sensei had divided the class up into small groups with a black belt in charge of each group as this class would be followed by the dan grade session, we had quite a few black belts in already – and the kyu grades could get almost private instruction from them, with Sensei moving between the groups.
As more black belts came in and sat on the side awaiting their class, they would add a little bit of instruction wherever they thought it might help. Sometimes though it was a bit like the old saying ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’…
Andy was taking some 2nd kyu’s through Naihanchi kata. “The kata is all about the stance guys, you’re ‘armouring’ with your muscles and this is throwing you out of your legs – you need to soften down through the body.”
“How do we do that Sensei?” Jane had been trying to soften and wasn’t being very successful.
Andy explained, “Although you are softening down, the secret is to soften ‘up’ to allow your bodyweight to drop down and rest in your muscles and tendons as opposed to the joints. The key to this is to soften the ankles first, because when you do, you will naturally soften up through all the major points in the body, when you then soften in the knees, you will naturally soften upwards at the same time. Continue this process through the hips, lower back and chest.
If you then align your body from the crown of your head to the arches of the feet, you will ‘feel’ your bodyweight sinking and sitting into the muscles in a balanced way.”
As Andy was explaining this to Jane, the other members of his group were continuing to practice the kata, at this point, Eddie, one the dan grades waiting for his class to begin came over and started to correct the ‘whipping motion’ of the upper body that one of the kyu grades couldn’t yet do properly
“What are you doing Eddie?” asked Andy.
“Just helping Roy with the power sourcing on the upper body” answered Eddie.
“That’s not what we’re working on” said Andy sounding a little exasperated.
“It’s all a part of the training for this kata” responded Eddie.
“It’s no good until he can soften properly” answered an increasingly agitated Andy.
“Well, it’s not going to do him any harm is it?” said Eddie now becoming quite agitated himself.
“I’m teaching this group, under instruction from Sensei,” said Andy now sounding very angry “you can’t even do what you’re trying to teach here – so butt out!”
The students had now stopped training as voices were becoming raised.
“I was only helping, because Roy needs to learn all of the kata….” replied Eddie.
Roy interjected “I don’t mind……” and was cut short by Andy.
“It’s not the point, Roy, we were just getting somewhere when Eddie butted in and gave you something else to think about.”
“What’s going on?” Sensei had appeared out of nowhere
Both Andy and Eddie started to talk at the same time, Andy speaking loudest – “Eddie just butted in and started teaching in my class changing what I was teaching, he had no right to do that!
Eddie retorted “I was helping out like we’re supposed to do, Andy was involved in a detailed explanation to Jane, so I thought I’d help Roy out.”
Sensei looked intensely at the pair of them. “Give me your black belts.”
Both black belts looked stunned.
“Give them to me.” They both took them off and gave them to Sensei
“In this club, all black belts are a part of the team. You set the example to all the other students. We all support each other and the students, that’s what we’re here for. I don’t even care about who was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ – you broke the golden rule and argued in front of the students. If you have a problem with each other you sort it out in private. If you can’t do that, you come to me for arbitration. You DON’T argue with each other in class in front of other students.
For Christ’s sake guys, this is a karate club – not a knitting class!
Now beggar off outside and sort out your problems – if you can’t – come down and see me in the office after class.”
“What about our black belts? asked Andy lamely.
“At this moment in time, you’re not worth them. Go away, sort out your problems like you should have done in private, if either of you are being unreasonable or you can’t solve it by yourselves then come and see me. When I see you behaving like black belts, I’ll give them back to you.”
Andy and Eddie went outside, within seconds they were back and apologised to the class and Sensei. Sensei then gave them back their black belts and everyone heaved a sigh of relief.
Sensei turned to the class “everyone here supports each other. If you have a problem with a fellow student or instructor you sort it out with them privately – and if you can’t – you come to me. One bit of disharmony, bad feeling or rudeness in class ruins it for all the others. If I see it, I will expel the offender. If you don’t get on, how the hell are you going to train to learn how to deal with all the crap outside of the club?
In here, you come from all walks of life, all ethnicities, all religions, cultures and genders, you must learn to get along, the Dojo is a microcosm of the macrocosm of life. Learn how to deal with it in here and then apply it to life outside.
Learn to get on guys, life’s too short to fall out with your friends.”