I was presenting a workshop in New England when suddenly I had an insight! It was really simple but yet profound. I realized that the instructors at this school were well adept at the physical aspect of martial arts training, but had little or no training in the practical philosophy of the martial arts. Before my seminar they were practicing their forms and seemed proud of how well they could perform them. I also felt that they were doing especially well because I was there, which is human. We all want to look good in the eyes of others. And also they were quite a bit younger than I and were perhaps showing the “old bull” what the young ones could do, which again is just a part of being human.
This particular school had about 500 students and most were there practicing when I arrived since my seminar was going to occur just after they finished. I thought that the seminar was going to have a good turn out since there were so many students there. I have spoken to large groups before so I felt confident that this time would be like those. When class ended the students changed into their street clothes and left, to my great surprise!
About 10 minutes later a few parents with a few kids showed up to attend my seminar, which was on “How to Defeat the Bully the Smart Way”™ using Mental Self Defense™ skills instead of resorting to physical self defense. My rationale was that it is better to first avoid a fight and then, if you can’t avoid one, to resolve it with verbal skills instead of physical ones – a reasonable assumption on my part and I assumed also on others.
But I think that I assumed too much for we had a very small turn out, which was not only disappointing for us but it was sad because children today desperately need these kinds of “mental self defense” skills to resolve conflict peacefully. (Isn’t this the basic intent of the martial arts?) It seemed that I was wrong, at least at this school that didn’t seem to value anything outside the “traditional” physical self defense training. (The woman instructor was the one who had initiated and promoted the seminar but the head instructor, who was a man, apparently did not value the skills I had to offer and therefore did not promote it to his students. What does this say about we men?)
I wonder why, when all the evidence shows that children need these “mental self defense” skills, that we keep on just punching and kicking? Why don’t we think about educating the minds of our students as well as their bodies so they can rely on their brain power rather than just on their brawn?
But back to the school and my poorly attended seminar which actually turned out very well due to the quality of the participants who attended because they really understood the necessity of the intent, that of learning the mental as well as the physical skills to help them cope with the urgent issue of bullying. They had a very strong desire to do something about it for themselves and their children. In the face of all the terrible school violence with kids killing kids, it was a wonder why more people didn’t show up. Perhaps people unfortunately still view the martial arts with suspicion.
So at this school I finally asked the instructors, after the parents and kids had gone, “Show me your Blackbelt without doing anything physical.” And what I got was blank stares.
Strangely enough, earlier that day one of their young students asked me sort of the same question. He said “Show me your martial arts.” This was said as I was talking to the small group about how to use your brain instead of your brawn in confronting a bully. I turned to the young boy, smiled and said, “I am doing it now.” He looked dumbfounded for a moment as I went on trying to show them how to resolve conflict peacefully before it escalated into a fight. I guess he expected me to leap up and do a flying kick breaking a dozen bricks. I understood his question and could tolerate that he asked it because, after all, he was still a child.