I would think that I was the ultimate cynic, except that I'm too cynical to believe something like that.
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Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Learning how to fight, tooth, claw, tool, and tongue
Last night, about 5:30 PM, my wife called me. She asked me if I could be home by 6:30 because she had received a free offer from USA Karate. She wanted me to take the boys for their first of a week's free lessons. I agreed, and so ended up leaving fifteen minutes early at 5:45 PM. On the way home my fifteen minutes were wasted waiting on a wreck to clear. I stopped at the grocery store and picked up the ingredients for the meatloaf I would be cooking that night—The meatloaf was a huge hit with the family. Recipe later—I stopped at a Circle-K and picked up five Powerball tickets—I got my numbers from Revelation Chapters 17 and 18. I stopped by the house and picked up the kids, and finally arrived at USA Karate right on time at 6:45 PM. Whew!
We went inside and I filled out some paperwork. No matter where you go or what you want to do, first everybody wants to see your credentials before they make you wait. Where do you live, when were you born, where do you work, phone numbers, work numbers, e-mail addresses. Paperwork and waiting in lines costs more of my time than I can afford, more than I should have to pay, more than anybody has any right to demand. Finally the kids got their class.
Alex was enthusiastic and excited. He couldn't pay attention with all the things going on around him, but he made up for it with sheer joie de vivre. Blake on the other hand paid attention just fine, as he hesitantly and halfheartedly performed the exercises demonstrated by the sensei. He was unsure, somewhat embarrassed, and almost certain that someone, somewhere, was laughing at him. At the end of the thirty-minute class they each got to break a board—not nearly as impressive as you might think—and they earned their white belts. There were smiles and clapping and high-fives all around.
This wasn't so much a class for the kids as it was a demonstration of teaching ability, to me the parent watching, and I admit this guy could teach. When the class was over, while my two kids chattered excitedly back and forth to one-another, the sensei took me aside to discuss all the wonderful things the kids would be learning. This school wasn't just about learning to defend yourself. It was a way of life. It would teach them concentration, respect, discipline. It would tone their muscles and hone their minds. They would develop confidence and self-control. It would cost two-hundred a month...
Now wherever you are, and whatever you do, perhaps that's not much to you, put to me that's a new car. And my family needs a new car. That's new furniture. And my family needs new furniture. It's a pretty good down payment on a college education...etc. Sensei explained that normally there is a $275.00 application fee and normally the class costs $225.00 per month, but if I opted for the "quickstart" program he could waive the application fee; he could knock $25.00 off the monthly membership fee, and that's not all. He would even throw in their uniforms for free! That's like a hundred dollar value or something. I would have to act on this deal now you understand. I couldn't just take advantage of the free week's lessons and then decide.
I told the sensei-cum-salesman that I would have to talk it over with my wife first. When I got home, my wife laughed out loud. You should have heard her. "Two-hundred dollars! They must be out of their frigging minds!" The kids could see the handwriting on the wall. Happy faces turned sad. Kids are a salesman's best friend; don't you ever doubt it. My wife soothed their loss by promising to call around and look for a school with more reasonable prices.
This is how you handle a high-pressure salesman when your own kids are used as leverage against you. "I'll have to talk it over with my wife," is the answer for the salesman and "We'll shop around and try to find a better deal," will ease the let-down for the kids.
Martial arts is a philosophy, an art, a science dedicated primarily to learning how to fight. All living things fight in some fashion or another. Even plants fight. They fight for their very lives—root and branch—for water and sunlight. While a plant might fight another plant for years, an animal's fight is over in minutes, sometimes mere seconds. Animals fight for their lives—tooth and claw—for meat or a mate and the reasons for which humans fight are not really so different. But just as animals are a whole magnitude better at fighting then plants are, people are an order higher still. Yes, we fight with tooth and claw but we also fight with tongue and tool.
Who is the deadlier warrior? The man who wears a black-belt and a karate uniform or the man who wears a gun-belt and a police uniform? The black-belt is a master of tooth and claw. Mastering his discipline took years and dedication. He should be proud of himself and perhaps his journey of effort and discipline and years will help him in ways completely unrelated to self-defense. It might make him a better student, a better teacher, a better father, who knows? But one thing is clear. His art of fighting with tooth and claw can never—on even his best day—make him a match for a trained gunfighter—a master of this deadliest of tools, the gun.
Finally of the four: tooth, claw, tool, and tongue, the tongue is by far the deadliest thing of all. The greatest mass murderers in history killed millions by convincing other people that this was a great idea and the right thing to do. And so if you wish to learn to fight then learn to fight with this the most deadly weapon of all, first and foremost. The best way to learn how to fight—with words in this the most deadly arena—is by using your ears. You learn to speak, not by speaking, so much as by listening.
There is only one defense against a skilled speaker, and that is the ability to listen. You must understand that when someone is using their tongue, they're doing more than moving their tongue around. They're attempting to influence you. They want to move you, or convince you. Maybe they hope to distract you or dissuade you. They might seek to mold you and shape you. But if you're really listening, you'll hear not just their words but also their intent. Your ears are better than a bullet-proof vest when you find yourself up against a fast-talker.
Herein lies the lesson: you can't jack a jack and you can't bullshit a bullshitter. If you have a black-belt it means you can probably kick my butt, but it doesn't mean you can talk me out of $200.00 dollars a month for karate lessons. You believe that happy crappy? Don't tell me, I'll tell you. (From my most favorite book ever, The Stand.)
Sweet and Spicy Meatloaf Recipe:
Five pounds of hamburger meat
2 cups bread crumbs
3 medium-size eggs
1.5 cups of milk
2 packages onion soup mix
1 teaspoon powdered garlic
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 bottle of Frank's RedHot Sweet Chili Sauce
Mix meat, eggs, milk, soup mix, garlic, pepper, and salt thoroughly by kneading and folding in large bowl or baking pan. Bake in baking pan covered with aluminum foil at 350° for 1.5 hours. Check with meat thermometer. Meatloaf is done when it's 160° in the center of the loaf. Pour out the grease of course! Finally pour the whole bottle of Sweet Chili Sauce over the top of the meatloaf.