Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The new guy

It's a new quarter at the dojo, and we have a new intermediate belt joining our class.  He's from a sister dojo, a seems nice, but it'll be an interesting time for sure.

He's a younger guy, means well, but he definitely sticks out and has a mindset that might very well make it harder for him to stick around.  Why am I bringing this up?  I'll get to it, don't worry.

When we bow, the only sound is from us saying something, if anything at all.  He'll slap his palms against his thighs.  When we laugh at a joke sensei makes, he'll instead say "hai" loudly (it's just an affirmation, but we normally save that for a command/request, not a joke).  When asked if a technique works the way he does it, he'll admit that it doesn't, but will keep doing it that way because that's how he was taught.

Now I'm not here just to point and laugh.  The slapping is something his dojo does, the "hai" can be seen as politeness, and continuing to do something that doesn't work might be the only thing he knows how to do.

I bring him up because situations like this make me think a lot.  In this case, about two specific things:

How aware are you when you stand out?

I don't mean genetically, I mean in terms of habits and behaviors.  It's one thing to know that you do things against the norm (guilty as charged) but are you aware when you do?  When everyone else is silent during a bow, are you making a loud, sharp noise?  I don't think you do, but there could be things that compare to that example.

When everyone else is being casual, are you being formal?  Or vice-versa?  Maybe it's good that you are, but you should be aware of it.

If everyone else is getting a concept that you're not, do you dig in and continue to do what you're used to, or open your mind and risk feeling "dumb" in order to learn?  The former means the group leaves you behind, while the latter means you keep with the group.

How much are you willing to sacrifice for growth?

If you were already "high up" in your group but had a chance to join a bigger group  (with no hard feelings) that promised growth, would you rather A) join the new group even though people were a lot better than you and your ego would take a big hit for a long time?  Or B) stay in your group and continue to be a "big fish" but not getting any better?

I think a lot of people would say they'd choose the first option, but when you feel like you "suck" for a long time (compared to other people in the group), even when you ARE getting better, things can easily stop being fun.  Because of that, even as much as I push people to grow and get better, I wouldn't fault people for picking the second choice.

So I applaud the new guy for coming to an unfamiliar dojo (even if it's the same style), but I wonder if he'll stick it out, given the first week of ego-slamming he's gone through.  And we're not being mean to him, just showing him another way of thinking about things.

It's akin to someone coming to a church of a similar but different religion, and having to listen to sermons and participate in rituals that he thought he was familiar with.  It's not easy.  Would any of us stick it out?  For how long?

Watching him struggle and continue raises questions that have no definite answer.  But sometimes those are the questions that help us grow the most.  Question everything!

1 comment:

  1. Good timing! I just arrived in Honolulu for the TCP Fellowship and I'm trying really hard not to stick out too much! Similar group, same-but-different group culture. I spend a lot of my energy observing how things work and how people behave (and moving out of the way!). But then, I came in expecting to experience something different...