In The Many Faces of the Dojo series (here are the links to parts one, two and three) we got to meet some of the interesting people who we train with. They are the people we train with each week. They enrich our experiences, make us laugh and sometimes also get on our nerves, all of which are parts of training!
But what about the people who actually teach the classes?
Today we are going to meet some of the insane instructors, surreal senseis and crazy coaches you may encounter on your martial arts journey.
A quick disclaimer: this is not a reflection on anyone in particular; rather, this is more of a satire of some of the things I have seen, experienced and, at times, have also been myself.
- The Sage: The Sage has been doing martial arts since he was 1.3 years old, and was taught by a solitary monk on top of a mountain in a province of China you never heard of. He has meditated under waterfalls during snow blizzards (or at least he thought about some stuff in the shower when the hot water ran out, same difference). He has experienced the harsh sun beating on his bare back while training in a Zen garden. The Sage will always try to point out the mystic secrets of techniques, and often ends up confusing his students to no end.
‘How can I improve my punching power?’ a student asks. The Sage replies with ‘ahh, if you focus on power you will never achieve it. Think of the movement of blades of grass during a typhoon while the sun is setting in the east and the wind is blowing in a north-westerly direction, and your punches will never be blocked!’…
While his student is perplexed, The Sage congratulates himself on a job well done and goes to make another cup of 'essence of cherry blossom' tea.
- The Veteran: The Vet did 2 tours in Iraq (which he pronounces eye-rak), fought in Afghanistan and, despite no evidence of messing about with the space-time continuum, also served in Vietnam and Korea. He was captured and escaped after killing his captors with a boobytrap made from rat bones, dirt, cigarette butts and a discarded rubber band. He also worked as a detective and a bouncer and a paramedic. He knows what things are like on ‘the street’. Hell, he walked down ‘the street’ every day for a living. He fought on ‘the street’. He bled on ‘the street’. He knows what works and what doesn’t work on ‘the street’. He really, really likes to say ‘the street’, and says it in such a way that you can somehow hear the apostrophes when he does. He’s not into rolling around with other men on the floor like they do in that sissy UFC crap, and doesn’t spar because his techniques are too lethal. If someone starts shit with you, The Vet has a simple solution – kick them in the balls, punch them in the throat, poke them in the eyes, repeat as necessary.
Oh, and in his spare time he also knits sweaters for his Doberman, Zeus.
- The Drill Sergeant – The Sarge is not a Veteran, but really wishes he was. He worked in security for the longest time. You’d never hear of it, it was before your time, but it was in one of the roughest shopping malls around. Boy, has he seen some action back in the day! He had some real angry people he had to politely ask to leave the premises. He once even had to lead a fire evacuation drill! You can recognise The Sarge from a distance. He’ll be the one wearing camos and aviators (even though he trains indoors). He also talks about ‘the street’, but while he means it to sound really hardcore it comes out more like he’s talking about a middle-upper class suburban street. The Sarge is really good at drills. He saw a documentary about the SAS once, so he is well informed of the level of fitness that is required of elite warriors, and loves to make you puke. He’d also love to do the drills to show you how it’s done, but his wrist is really sore from playing too much Call of Duty, so he can’t do push-ups, or have any techniques whatsoever done on him. But don’t get a big head – back in the day he would have done double what you just did in half the time.
- The Disciplinarian – The Disciplinarian believes in discipline and respect. His gi is always pristine, and if yours isn’t you can bet your sorry ass that you’ll do some push ups.
He is always on the mats 10 minutes before classes start, because it’s customary, and if you don’t do the same then you can do some sit-ups while you are thinking about proper behaviour.
He expects you to be serious and focus in class, and if you think about cracking jokes then you can do squats until you don’t feel like such a clown.
And you damn better make sure to keep up with the rest of the class and shout ‘OSS!!!!!!!’ at appropriate intervals, or you’ll be doing burpees until you don’t feel so lazy.
What’s that? You asked to turn the fan on and have a water break?!? What is this, a country club? 750 push-ups, right now!!!
But you know what the funny thing is? We keep coming back. Because despite the fact that they may have some quirks, these people make us better. The Sage is wise and can help us find things we may not be aware of otherwise; The Veteran has been through some really tough things, and is willing to share his experience so that you and your family are safe; The Drill Sergeant can teach some you really great drills and will get you in shape in no time; and The Disciplinarian will teach us to focus and stay determined even when we feel it’s hard.
Don’t forget that your teachers are also human. They make mistakes, just like everyone else, and have their own unique perspective about the world and about training, just like everyone else (more on this here).
Here’s your challenge for the week - reach out to an instructor who has made a difference in your life, and let him or her know that you appreciate what they’ve done for you.
Stay safe, stay tuned.
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