Most of the time I blog about the good things that are happening. I’m growing and learning from all the fun things I get to do. I sometimes touch on the negative, but my tendency is to draw the positives from it. Maybe I’ve given the impression on this blog that my karate journey is entirely comprised of roses and song. It’s not. Stuff does happen from time to time. Yes – surprise! Human beings, including myself, are imperfect. If we have a customer mindset we walk away when there’s something that needs to be worked through.
Customers feel they deserve the best for their money. If a restaurant serves a bad meal, we don’t return. If the landlord decides to bulldoze his strip mall, we find other places to shop. This isn’t bad, it’s just the way it is. But many people are so used to everything being customer-oriented that they find it hard to understand why someone would stick with a dojo through the “speed bumps” (presuming the dojo is a good one). A lot of people don’t understand that Karate is (or should be) relational.
Americans have almost no concept of senpai/kohai relationships and unfortunately Americans have a tendency to treat teachers with less honor than they deserve. I don’t for a minute think that the relational dynamics among American karateka are exactly like the relational dynamics among Japanese karateka, but a good American dojo will at least echo the Japanese norms. Teaching one’s kohai and being taught by one’s senpai not only is good for growing in the art, it also creates camaraderie and fosters loyalty. The focus shifts from individual to group.
Assuming a good dojo, it’s not about the value you’re getting for your money. Your focus should be on the group as a whole. It’s about you doing your part to:
1) Make sure the dojo can meet its fiscal obligations (rent, staff and instructor salaries, utility bills, etc.)
2) Promote harmony by treating everyone with respect
3) Transmit the art of Karate to the “next generation” to ensure the continuation of the art
4) Develop future leaders
It doesn’t matter if a sticky situation originates from inside the dojo or from without – if you’re focused on these four responsibilities you’ll find ways to survive and yes, thrive even when things aren’t optimal. Of course one can grow from wonderful, positive things that happen. Heck, my blog is full of sunny, happy, everything-is-hunky-dory examples of that. But can you grow from challenging situations that make you feel anxious or frustrated? Yes. Absolutely. Adverse circumstances are the fires in which we are forged. But one has to decide to go along for the ride.
When the decision is made to stick with the dojo during tough times, it opens one’s mind to engage in positive pursuits such as
1) Coming up with creative solutions
2) Encouraging others
3) Building bridges
4) Asking questions and actively listening to the answers
5) Understanding all perspectives and rendering sound judgment
6) Tempering one’s own knee-jerk responses
7) Not exceeding one’s authority
Doing these seven things during hard times is hard. Sometimes the resistance will be so strong that you might not make any headway. Things might break down past all repair in spite of everyone’s best efforts. But you at least will know that you acted with integrity. And you might discover that the next time something comes up you’re that much better equipped to deal with it because of what you’ve been through.
I’m going to borrow some inspiration from an internet acquaintance, Clifton Bullard, who posted about pearls on his Facebook page yesterday. Think about pearls. A grain of sand gets inside an oyster’s shell, and the grain of sand irritates the soft, pink flesh of the oyster. We all know what the oyster does about that situation – it coats that grain of sand in layer after layer of aragonite and calcite, making a lustrous smooth sphere that most people value as gems. Making a metaphoric pearl out of an irritating situation isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.
Disclaimer: I’m not targeting this to any one particular group or individual. OK, that’s a lie. I’m pointing my finger at myself. I’m human, and I’m not perfect – never will be. Someday I may need my own words to be “in my face” so that I can persevere in making the right choices. If this writing benefits even just one other person, I will be happy.