Having Your Cake & Eating it too

Karate lessons, vancouver, bc, martial arts
The other week my wife and I had been invited to an event. The hosts, knowing that I teach and practice Karate-do and Kobudo, sat me beside someone who also practiced Karate-do. It was a very thoughtful thing to do. I suppose the intent was that we would have something in common and consequently plenty to talk about. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

The gentleman who sat beside me was only a few years older than me I surmised. When he went about introducing himself he began running through a laundry list of all the successes of his dojo: they had several branch schools, they’re instructor was Japanese, their dojo was affiliated with a very famous Shotokan sensei, they had well over a hundred students. I nodded and smiled when he spoke, but he had lost me at the first sentence that had come out of his mouth. Sure, he was probably a good man, but in terms of how we perceived Karate-do, we were light years apart.

The topic suddenly switched to me and the first few questions he asked were sadly predictable: what style do you practice, what rank are you, who are you affiliated with, how many students does your dojo have? I wondered if these kinds of predicable, rapid-fire questions are what it feels like when people go on speed-dating sessions…LOL, but I digress.

When I answered that there are only five of us that practice Karate-do and a few more that do Kobudo, his face looked incredulous. I could read the expression on his face,

How can so few people practice at a dojo…?

It seemed that minutes had passed when abruptly the conversation stopped. I guess he had nothing more to say about his dojo and Karate-do style, or so I had thought, but then he quickly added,

But I don’t really practice any more. I help out with the kids classes from time to time, but that’s about it really.

His statement took me aback for a second and now I was the one looking incredulous. The man sitting beside me looked in good health, came across as enamored with his style of Karate-do, and was seemingly loyal to his teacher, but despite all that he no longer practiced. It just didn’t make any sense to me personally.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for quitting Karate-do when your heart is no longer in it, but why drag it out by occasionally teaching the odd children’s class and not even bother to actively train yourself? The image that comes to mind for me is that of a person who wants to “have his cake and eat it too.” In other words, he wanted the outward, public gratification and recognition that comes from his peers of being involved in Karate-do without having to do the inner, self work of disciplining and steeling yourself with regular training.

Admittedly, I could be utterly wrong in my assessment of his situation. Maybe he has health issues that have forced him to step back from training for a while (I can relate to that), maybe he works those youngsters and himself incredibly hard when he’s at the dojo leading class? I don’t know, but what I can say is that his Karate-do was unrecognizable to me.