More and More About Nothing

Cult

/kəlt/

noun

  • a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object.
  • a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.
  • a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.

All three of us had just finished our martial arts workout. So we decided to go to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant and refuel. I had attended K-12 with Mary. She was the one who introduced me to the martial arts school. Standing just short of my height, she was attractive and assertive. Her deep brown eyes conveyed a depth that most women her age had yet to reach. Dustin was God's gift to martial arts with a body that rivaled the Greek Gods. I'd always found myself competing against him in everything, and consistently shown up short. Which was great for drilling my ego into the ground. Mary had a huge crush on Dustin. Again, the Greek God gift thing. Again, my ego.

"We're like a cult," Mary said.

"With all the bowing?" Dustin asked.

She nodded, then chuckled, then quickly checked the restaurant to make sure none of the black belts were around.

I chuckled. "Imagine if they were here, listening to us talk like this."

"They'd be pissed," Dustin interjected.

I kind of liked all the bowing. We were instructors at the school. Students walking in and out had to bow to us to show respect for the teachers. In turn, we had to bow to the black belts when leaving or entering the school. After each workout, we would all sit on the mat, like little school children, and the grandmaster would lay some wisdom on us. To question him, however, would be like throwing a shoe at him, and his subordinates would shout, "You've offended me. You've offended my family," and proceed to kick us out.

"You know," Dustin said, "they preach about honor and being humble, but they almost got away with stealing our fundraising money."

With twinkles in her eyes, Mary stared at him and covered her mouth in shock. "For the London trip?"

"Yeah," I said, "but Penn protested and the grand ol'master allowed us to have the money we worked hard for."

Penn was Dustin's and my teacher. Penn was one of the few that Dustin and I had termed thinkers. Everyone seemed to drink the grandmster's koolaid. We knew this because they spoke in his words instead of using their own. Sorta like a fifth grader repeating facts instead of internalizing the lessons.

Mary asked, "Wasn't the fundraising done to pay for the London trip?"

"Yup," Dustin answered.

I huffed. "It'll help offset the costs of flying there, paying for the rooms, the tournament, the food, the new matching uniforms we had to buy, all to make this guy look good."

Dustin shook his head. "In other words, we're paying for it all."

"You know they did this to another team who competed in China," Mary said.

"Yup. We heard."

"Didn't they raise a lot more money though?" I asked. 

Mary nodded. Eyes wide open. Meaning it was a lot of money.

"Crystal couldn't go because of what they did," I said. "She has two kids. There was no way she could pay for the whole thing on her own."

"Or even a part of it," Dustin said. He was close to her. The Greek God thing again.

Mary tapped her lip. "Grandmaster said it was to pay for his coaching services. But that's not how the fundraiser was marketed."

"It was to help pay for the plane ticket to China," she finished.

"Expensive," Dustin commented.

"For a mother of two," Mary said. "Very."

"I think we got our money because it wasn't as much as the China trip."

"I was worried the school would try and steal our money," I said. "But Penn assured us that it wouldn't be. And he followed up on that promise."

"Yup," Dustin said. "We're like a cult."

It wasn't long after that evening that several of us had decided to leave the school. The head instructors hadn't practiced what they preached. They fundraised through carwashes and other activities to help pay for material wealth under the guise of helping the school. They forced students to compete in tournaments to help fund martial arts organizations through tournament fees. They even tried to coax a brown belt to go easy in a full contact fight because his opponent was from a sister school. That brown belt didn't listen and won the fight handily. So the grandmaster threatened the brown belt that if he ever disobeyed him again, he would beat him.

It was a full contact fight. You can't enter a tournament where you're supposed to tear each other apart and hold back. That's a good way of getting seriously hurt in a game where you're suppose to seriously hurt your opponent. And for anyone to ask you to hold back in this situation is an idiot. 

The straw that broke the horse's back was when Penn had proposed several changes that would have improved the school, but he was rejected. A few weeks later, those same changes were being implemented without giving credit to Penn. He wasn't asking for money. So why had the school stolen his ideas?

Now, one of my spies told me they had formed an organization in order to certify their students' ranks. Sort of like a registry. What do they ask for in return? Cheddah. Moolah. A grip. Of course.

This makes no sense. If you've ever watched any cheesy Kung-fu movie, one of the pillars of martial arts is having a strong mind, the belief in yourself.

In other words, I can give someone a black belt, but that doesn't turn them into a lethal weapon. Or vice versa, you can have all the tools in the world to fight. But if you're not mentally ready for it, then those tools are useless. It's sorta like having a garage full of tools, a lift, air pump, and manuals. But if you don't know how to work on a automobile, then your garage and everything in it is useless.

And why would someone need to have their names registered to an organization as a black belt? Are they not one anymore if their names aren't recorded as such?

Think of it this way. If you're a skilled mechanic, and someone asks you to register your name as a mechanic, otherwise you won't be recognized by our organization as a mechanic, are you then not a skilled mechanic? That would be a hell to the no.

The funny thing is they always talk about putting your ego away. That ego can get in the way of personal growth. Isn't the need to have your name recorded as a black belt ego driven? That would be a hell to the yes.

This is interesting to me because I've been writing about insecurity in my posts lately. Here, we have a cult-like organization who has a number of followers willing to pay a fee to be a part of something that really has no meaning. They profess a strong mindset, but when they found my post about them in my teeny tiny corner of this massive thing we call the Internet, they had made the effort to comment against it. How insecure can they be? And it would be one thing if I mentioned the school, the instructors, the location, the system they teach, anything to point in their specific direction. But I didn't. And still they needed to comment on my little post, outing themselves.

So am I insecure that I left that school? No. I loved my time there. I made some lifelong friends. So why am I talking about them? I just needed cannon fodder to write about.

Cannon fodder

noun

  • soldiers regarded or treated as expendable in battle
  • an expendable or exploitable person, group, or thing