November 21, 2014

Youthful Folly

"Sifu, since Halloween last October, a few guys, a couple grades ahead of me in school, have been confronting me, wanting me to fight them. I'm thinking about quitting my martial arts training because of it."

"Why? What happened?"

"For Halloween we had a dance at school, dressed up as a Ninja. I used my Karate uniform, my red belt, and a T-shirt for a mask. These guys asked me if the uniform and belt were real, and I told them that they were. Then for the rest of the night at the dance they stared at me and made remarks and gestures about fighting me. I didn't like it, so I left the dance and went home. At school they confronted me whenever they could, even at recess.

They want me to fight them, but I tell them I don't want to fight. So far they haven't forced me to fight, but I know they won't just forget about it. They'll continue to come after me."

I Ching: Hexagram #4: Meng, Youthful Folly. (Ken - Keeping still, over K'an - the Abysmal. Mountain over Water. 

In the Judgment we see that the youthful folly has success. First, Folly means inexperienced. It doesn't mean foolish as in the sense of unintelligent.

The Judgment states: "Youthful Folly has success. It is not I who seek the young fool; The young fool seeks me. At the first oracle I inform him. If he asks two or three times, it is importunity. If he importunes, I give him no information. Perseverance furthers."

The I Ching goes on to say that being young and inexperienced is not an evil and that everything will work out well providing an experienced teacher maintains the right attitude towards the youth.

Therefore, it is up to you to be the experienced teacher and to maintain the right attitude towards the confrontational students.

These students are challenging you and you must not respond by giving up your training program. As you know, the most important thing a martial artist learns is not to let his ego move him to act in anger or in fear of being humiliated or defeated. Nothing can deter him from his Path. It is ego that is his worst enemy, not defeat. A true martial artist, of any degree of skill, subdues his ego. An inexperienced person acts with his ego. He wants to show off skills he doesn't have. He's all bluff.

So you must not run away but instead turn and face them. The first time they approach you, inform them that you do not want to fight. Two or three more times you may tell them that you don't want to fight. If they continue, provide them with nothing, no words, no actions. Perseverance furthers. They will most likely go away. This will be a successful result for them.

In the Image, a spring of water lays at the foot of a mountain. These bullying students are the mountain, you are the spring of water, the superior man who cultivates character in all the things he does. To be like water, not only in our martial arts, but in the way we deal with our situations, is to become fluid. Water becomes its situations, fills and becomes whatever it comes in contact with. If it is a splash of water, and not a lake or ocean, it will mould into its environment and take the shape of whatever it falls upon.

There are times in which, when we try to avoid confrontation, our attempts become exhausted. In these times we must become like water which either evaporates or falls heavily, putting out the fires of the fools. Water is passive, it doesn't act on its own. But when a strong wind comes it moves the water, creating waves which violently splash against the rocks.

So, as a martial artist, there may come a time for you to protect yourself or another person. Be like water, and react accordingly. Offer nothing more than reactions to their movements.

"I was once in a situation that was very similar to yours. I was in the fifth grade, and a new kid in school who was in grade eight tried to make his mark. He wanted to establish a reputation for toughness. It so happened that he chose me as the tool to make his mark. He was not only five to six inches taller than me, he was also 10-20 lbs heavier too. When I heard about his intentions, I guess you could say I was worried that I might have to fight him. He wanted to hurt me, but those were not my intentions. My intentions were for the both of us to walk away untouched. One day he came up to me and suddenly attacked. He lunged forward throwing punches and kicks, but I backed up, parried and dodged as my martial art experience dictated. This went on long enough for us to travel a whole block away from where we started. He began to feel tired and discouraged and was much less confident in his attempts to hurt me. Needless to say, he gave up, picked up this shirt and left. About three hours later, school friends and the bully showed up at my door. Much to my surprise, the bully wanted to be friends. Case closed!"

More times than not, by remaining calm and using your skill to defend yourself, you will solve the problem of such foolish attacks. Your own self-control is usually enough for you to prevail.

Only fools lash out in rage and anger, but as that eighth grader realized, there was another way. Violence is not a means to an end, but in accordance with your response, it can become the beginning of a new relationship.

The worst thing you could do is to quit your martial art training. You would regret this for the rest of your life.