I had gone to a happy hour with a whole bunch of Asian peeps. Most of us didn’t know each other, so the most common question was “What do you do?” I said that I had two jobs: one’s for money to feed my body, the other is my passion to feed my soul. Everyone else answered with some form of IT, engineer, or finance. In the Asian culture, we’re taught from the womb that we are to take practical jobs. I don’t know, but Tom Cruise’s acting career has proven to be pretty practical.
Back in my day when I taught kids self-defense, my teacher had taken on a new student, who had been on this planet for three-and-a-half years. He could barely speak, couldn’t remember the names of the techniques to save his life, but he learned the movement like he learned to speak, and became an amazing talent. As this young prodigy moved toward his black belt, toward adulthood, my teacher and I began to have pretty severe disagreements with our school and the prevailing arrogance and ignorance that bred within the limited bindings. It’s funny how arrogance and ignorance always seem to go hand-in-hand. And this school was literally the pure definition of this.
We finally left the school as we sought for widespread knowledge, much like Bruce Lee leaving the classical mess for something more open, taking what works and throwing out the rest. This was not something our former school understood, since they added more and more crap that only bred more ignorance and of course more arrogance.
Why do I bring this up?
My teacher tried to convince the parents that their son would be better off with him. They couldn’t, wouldn’t leave the school, despite the now adult having spent most of his life with the same teacher. The mother, especially, wanted her son to have earn his blackbelt from a Chinese martial arts school. And here’s the funny part. The school wasn’t even run by Asians. Sure, the system was Chinese; though, I’m not sure what that means (no slanty eyes to mark the school). Sure, there were Chinese characters imbued all over the school. Sure, they even had Chinese dignitaries and masters that would come by and teach seminars. But do those things make a martial arts, school, or practitioner Chinese? A freakin' punch is a frakin' punch no matter who throws it.
It’s that word: culture. According to my dictionary, one of the definitions is: the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.
The customs of the school is Asian based, so not uniquely Chinese. The arts can be rooted back to Korea, Karate, some Kung Fu, but even the word Kung Fu is like saying Asian. There’s a lot of different Asians, and some of them Ajens don’t even consider themselves Asians. Most of the people teaching aren't even Asian. So when I heard that the mother didn’t want her son to be taught by my teacher because he wasn’t Asian, and she wanted her son to get his black from a Chinese based institution, I was beside myself, like I actually took a step to the side and was like “What? Get over yerself, lady.” And since the school had been based in the US, the achievements of that school, especially in international tournaments were considered US of Aye, not China, not any slanty-eyed nation.
The word culture has been on my mind since I started writing the 7th Province series because I’ve had to piece together the foundation of the society. A lot was drawn from my own experiences, a lot was invented, and a lot was used to help tell the story without giving too much away, through symbolism. Now, I’m not saying I’m an expert on what culture is, what it means, but I know this lady doesn’t really know what she was talking about. It’d be better if she had stated that she wanted her son to have the backing of an actual institution, and not by a single individual. As much as people see me as an American is how much I see this school as being Chinese.
Ultimately, she wanted to say that her son got her black belt from this school, not by an individual. And this is where culture and ego sort of mesh together, and it is from this place that I wrote the foundation of the culture of the 7th Province. Culture is very ego based. We see this in nations: America is the best country in the world. We see this in sports: My team won the championships. We see this in ethnicities: Blacks are the most athletic and can dance the best, or Asians are very disciplined. We see this in family: My dad can beat up your dad.
People throw the word culture around without knowing what they really mean. And some people love their culture so much, have so much pride in it, compare how much better it is than American culture that they’ve chosen to move here.
Just a Friday night rant.