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

 

Cultural Rant

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.

Where the slanty eyes?

Where the slanty eyes?

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.

Tombstone of Fluid Man

Tombstone of Fluid Man

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.

International Village People

International Village People

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.

My Dad Can Strike Your Dad Down

My Dad Can Strike Your Dad Down

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.

Karate Heah

Mr. Miyagi points to his head. "Karate heah." He taps his heart. "Karate heah." He grabs his belt. "Karate nevah heah." photo

I was reading an article in one of those karate or kung fu magazines. It was written by a practitioner. He was discussing how spirituality was missing from MMA, specifically targetting UFC fighters. That all fighters wanted was to be champions, to have fame, fortune, and busty ladies swarming around them.

Hell...what man wouldn't want that?

It's obvious there's a huge misunderstanding of how spirituality should be practiced, or that MMA fighters don't practice it. And it was also obvious this practitioner didn't watch MMA, read the forums, interviews, and watch post fight conferences like I do.

It's one of my many vices.

The wise practitioner, the writer of this wise article, full of wisdom, full of research, and full of shit harped on the lack of inner peace. Through his wise words I knew this person never fought, or if he did, then he approached it without inner peace. As wise and full of wisdom as he ascertained.

I'm a huge MMA fan. Watched hundreds of hours of interviews. And one thing that all fighters strain to get is inner peace. One of the most popular UFC fighters is former light heavy weight champion Chuck "The Iceman" Lidell. His monicker indicates that his nerves are as cold as ice before, during and after a fight. Every fighter praises him for that. Because if a fighter gets too excited, they'll waste energy, suffer from an adrenalin dump, or are prone to mistakes. And mistakes in a game where there are literally dozens upon dozens of ways to lose isn't a good thing. Keeping your cool is essential. And the current dominant fighters of the UFC and Strikeforce exhibit this without a doubt.

I get more nervous watching them fight.

Back to this all wise practitioner. His practice of inner peace is through meditation. I'm surmising here. But it's pretty common. And there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's pretty easy to reach inner peace when you're peaceful.  It's kinda like going into a room full of yellow balloons to look for a yellow balloon.

Now, if we place a fighter punching this all wise practitioner in the face, how well would he be able to keep inner peace? Not well. But MMA fighters do this every day. And their ability to keep this inner peace allows them to adapt to the fight. It's very common to see one fighter losing the fight badly, and with a slight change of strategy he comes up with the win.

This can't be done if the fighter panics because he isn't present enough to analyze what's going on.

MMA fighters also practice 6-8 hours a day. They have to love the process and love the journey to continue to learn and challenge themselves. Another principle of spiritualitism.

All fighters want to be champions. But as they climb the ladder to contention, they remain present and focus on their current opponent. They study tapes, go over strategy, hire fighters who can mimic their opponents, and rarely think pass them. The principle of being present is at work here.

MMA fighters practice inner peace, but they do it in an environment that doesn't elicit it.  So who's more skilled at inner peace?  Someone who practices in a peaceful environment?  Or someone who practices in a violent one?

I wrote this because it struck me as a huge misunderstanding of MMA fighters.  To be misunderstood is a sore subject for my main character in my book.  He's continually misunderstood by the people he's sworn to protect, but he pushes on because it is what he does.  What hero gives up?