Potential students find me or the dojo and always want to "talk over coffee" before they commit. I try to weed them out early so I meet them. They have the same questions usually and I politely answer things about style, rank, belts etc. Every so often, just like earlier this month a student wanted to know what i am capable of doing, as though it would be potentially transferred to them. And it also highlights a fundamental difference IMO about two differing approaches and modes of being. I would be curious to hear any/all thoughts on this.
But first a little context and typical conversation (this one happened earlier this month). What follows is about 20 minutes into the conversation after the usual questions have been answered, and he inquires about my own training regiment.
The potential student " You are a Sensei, so why do you still train with different people?" Me "Because I can and it keeps me humble" Him "Is it also because you are not confident in your skills?" Me "I would like to think I can handle myself, but one must constantly sharpen the blade." Him "Have you been in real fights? Does this stuff work?" Me "unfortunately yes I have had to fight many times, and have had my ass handed to me growing up. Not easy being small, different and smart ass - trust me. When I could not take the beatings anymore I started training hard." Him "but have you used your training to fight and beat them up?" Me "who is them? And the purpose of the training is arriving at a place where you dont have to fight but if you ever need to then you have some skills." Him "so you have used your training, tell me more about it pls" Me "what is there to know, i am here in one piece, thats all there is to it." Him "I dont understand, what did you do? how was the fight?" Me "The outcome is I am here, and for the how - well you got to train for that and pay the price" Him "I dont understand what I will be able to do if you dont tell me" Me "I dont know what you can do and more importantly should do, unless I see you train consistently." Him "This is not going anywhere" Me "Where do you want it to go?" Him " I want to know in how many ways will I be able to kick someones ass if I train with you" Me "you just need to do it one way well, and besides thats not what its about for me" Him "Then what is it about" Me "Its about not having to ever fight" Him " What ? Then why go and train with different teachers and teach consistently" Me " One must embrace violence to be at peace, embrace it so you can transform it" Him " I am confused, why train if you dont want to fight" Me "I train in order to be at peace, and peace is the state of being. A state where fighting is NOT - atleast for me" him "I am still confused" Me " When you train hard enough, you become very conscious of the consequences of your skills, and are less prone to use them. This can become a deterrent for you and others. And the end result is usually peace. Heavens forbid, if a fight breaks out then the skills will kick in. Either way the result is still the same" Him " ok, so will I get hurt and be in pain if I train with you?" Me " Pain will become your friend, and yes you will have loads of it" Him "So I will be in pain no matter what.. weather I fight or not" Me "Well, yes thats one way of seeing things" Him "whats the difference?" Me "intention and consciousnesses" Him "I think Kenpo is better suited for me, but thank you for your time" Me "Yes I think so too, maybe we will see each other in a few years.." Him "To fight?" Me " Perhaps to fight the notion of fighting" Him "I am confused" Me "I know, enjoy the coffee and relish he Kenpo, it has some wonderful things to teach us all" Him "You are not going to tell me why your fighting is better than Kenpo?" Me " Styles are not better or worse, the practitioners are" Him "I dont understand" Me " Its ok, I speak funny sometimes. Enjoy the coffee"
My current student who listened in on the whole interaction laughed out loud and said "Sensei, you are chasing away prospective students" I responded "Am I? Or am I saving time for the students who are already paying the price? Besides there is such a fundamental difference between the students who truly want to learn and thosewho want to fight for the sake of fighting"
"What is the difference Sensei?" "Well those who want to truly learn seem to ask about the philosophy and transformations within themselves and those who want to fight ask about what changes they can do to their opponent. At this point I am interested in teaching the former group. There are plenty of places that teach the latter. This is where I am right now. Ok lets train"