Posts filed under ‘Inspiring’
Source: Empty Flower
Twenty years ago I decided to go to China to continue my traditional martial arts training. I lived in a smaller city in a rural province and hooked up with a group of Xingyi practioners in their mid 50’s – 80’s who had reps for their abilities.
My teacher brought me over to his teacher’s house one day and we hit it off well and later he invited to come visit him. When I got there he got pretty excited telling me he wanted to teach me, that my teacher didn’t know crap, that he could defeat him instantly and I should study with him. I said I would like to study Xingyi with him. His response was “Xingyi — Bah — I want to teach you real fighting.” That surprised me that the top Xingyi dog in town didn’t equate Xingyi with real fighting.
Unfortunately his wife, who was the head coach for the provincal Wushu program and later invited me to study Tai Chi with her, got word to me she didn’t want me to come over because her husband had a bad heart and got too excited when he was showing me things.
In high school, our AP Economics teacher was also one of the sponsors of our Senior Class (to collect dues, advise event planning, etc.). One morning, she started her class with “the importance of being responsible” and proceeded to tell the story of a senior girl who claimed to have paid her senior dues (that were due that day), but could not show a receipt, and therefore would not be attending the prom happening that week. The teacher verbally lambasted this girl’s character, calling her a liar and telling us that her tears were not going to change the situation. All of this while never admitting any fault for record-keeping (which was shoddy at best) or ever once giving her any benefit of the doubt.
When it was ultimately revealed who the girl was through our questioning, and we found out that she marched next to me in drumline (who i talked to everyday, who worked to take care of her family and didn’t have a lot of money as it was), I went ballistic. “She’s one of the most responsible people in our class! There’s NO way possible that she didn’t pay her dues.” Down the hall, I could feel this friend’s tears, knowing that she had just saved enough to buy her dress the previous weekend and had finalized her plans. Our classroom rallied behind me, pleading with our teacher to give her a break or some time to pay it back, even if it was her fault. But the teacher was relentless. “Sorry, rules are rules, Mr. R___. I can’t just let anyone who claimed to pay their dues waltz into prom, now can I?”
Source: In Context
A story from the late aikido teacher Terry Dobson.
The train clanked and rattled through the suburbs of Tokyo on a drowsy spring afternoon. Our car was comparatively empty—a few housewives with their kids, some old folks going shopping. I gazed absently at the drab houses and dusty hedgerows.
At one station the doors opened, and suddenly the afternoon quiet was shattered by a man bellowing violent, incomprehensible curses. The man staggered into our car. He wore laborer’s clothing, and he was big, drunk, and dirty. Screaming, he swung at a woman holding a baby. The blow sent her spinning into the laps of an elderly couple. It was a miracle that the baby was unharmed.
Terrified, the couple jumped up and scrambled toward the other end of the car. The laborer aimed a kick at the retreating back of the old woman but missed as she scuttled to safety. This so enraged the drunk that he grabbed the metal pole in the center of the car and tried to wrench it out of its stanchion. I could see that one of his hands was cut and bleeding. The train lurched ahead, the passengers frozen with fear. I stood up.
I was young then, some twenty years ago, and in pretty good shape. I’d been putting in a solid eight hours of aikido training nearly every day for the past three years. I liked to throw and grapple. I thought I was tough. Trouble was, my martial skill was untested in actual combat. As students of aikido, we were not allowed to fight.
“Aikido,” my teacher had said again and again, “is the art of reconciliation. Whoever has the mind to fight has broken his connection with the universe. If you try to dominate people, you are already defeated. We study how to resolve conflict, not how to start it.”
I listened to his words, I tried hard. I even went so far as to cross the street to avoid the chimpira, the pinball punks who lounged around the train stations. My forbearance exalted me. I felt both tough and holy. In my heart, however, I wanted an absolutely legitimate opportunity whereby I might save the innocent by destroying the guilty.
This is it! I said to myself as I got to my feet. People are in danger. If I don’t do something fast, somebody will probably get hurt.
When I was 6, my dad died. When I was a teenager, my mom died. I went to live with my grandmother, and a few months later, she died. I was left homeless and alone. Somehow, to this day I still don’t know how, I managed to get through high school. I lived in a Pinto and a box my last year. This was in a small town, back in the day. No idea why no one ever tried to “intervene”.
Anyway, I was lucky, because I was smart. Somehow, God’s grace, I don’t know, I managed to get into a very good school. I went.
Because no one ever bothered to tell me I didn’t have to pay my mom’s debts, I did. I worked at multiple jobs throughout my college days. No social life, just school and work. By the end of it, I was exhausted. I paid off her debts. In retrospect, they weren’t that much. Just a few thousand dollars. But back then….I remember someone at the hospital where she’d died telling me it wasn’t a charity hospital. I was a minor! If I’d known any better, I would’ve realized I didn’t owe anyone anything. But no one bothered.
This past year I have had 3 instances of car trouble. A blowout on a freeway, a bunch of blown fuses and an out of gas situation. All of them were while driving other people’s cars which, for some reason, makes it worse on an emotional level. It makes it worse on a practical level as well, what with the fact that I carry things like a jack and extra fuses in my car, and know enough not to park, facing downhill, on a steep incline with less than a gallon of fuel.
Anyway, each of these times this shit happened I was DISGUSTED with how people would not bother to help me. I spent hours on the side of the freeway waiting, watching roadside assistance vehicles blow past me, for AAA to show. The 4 gas stations I asked for a gas can at told me that they couldn’t loan them out “for my safety” but I could buy a really shitty 1-gallon one with no cap for $15. It was enough, each time, to make you say shit like “this country is going to hell in a handbasket.”
But you know who came to my rescue all three times? Immigrants. Mexican immigrants. None of them spoke a lick of the language. But one of those dudes had a profound effect on me.
When I was 16, I worked at a law firm downtown as a summer intern. Every day, I’d go get lunch from this row of vendors – either a gyro, a hot dog, a kebab, or a burrito. Each one only took cash, so I got used to carrying around a bunch of cash, and every day, I’d pay for my meal, take all the change I got and anything in my pockets, and give it to a local homeless guy named Ivan. I’d also just say “Hi, Ivan” or “Nice seeing you, man” or something along those lines.
Ivan was a mid-20s black guy who had fought in Iraq, but had some severe PTSD and had run away from whatever family and friends he had and moved a few hundred miles to upstate New York. He was generally nice, but quiet, and obviously in a very bad place in his mind. He had a giant, raggedy beard, clothes that he had obviously just picked off the street, and I can’t remember if I ever saw him in any position other than a mixture of the fetal position and a squat. I gave him change every day that summer, until I had to go back to school.
Now, this story diverges here, and two very important outcomes arise.
I had three months off to travel the world.You get this in Oz if you work seven years for same company, its called long service leave.
I go to London and on first day I went to Big Ben. I want to get the standard tourist shot – me and BB (cheesy but I am an Australian and it is the other side of the world!). Was about to ask this guy to take my photo and he lay down on the grass and shut his eyes.
I turned to the nearest person. It was a girl reading a paper and asked her to take my photo. Got talking to her. Her first day in London too. We decided to have a look around and got lost as both of us have terrible sense of direction, spent the day immersed in laughter and saw Lloyds building about 10 times unintentionally. She was Quebecois and spoke hardly English. Never the less had a blast.
Agreed to meet at Big Ben next day. Next day, I’m standing there and thinking, “who is that beautiful girl waving at me”… Turned out to be the girl from the day before. To be honest the first day I hadn’t really though much about her looks as I was jet lagged to hell and thought it was just a few hour wander around London before we went our separate ways.