The unnecessary


March 18, 2018
Yossi Sheriff

A student asked me: “Why can’t I do the warm up with a T-shirt and then put on the Gi? It’s too hot in this heavy apparel. ”

“What a weak question” I thought.

With this thought I could have ended this dialoge, but I wear a heavy black canvas Gi and a combat skirt, the Hakama. That’s what I wear for work.

“…” say the horrified looks of students who, on weekends, pedal on bicycles wrapped in colored tights. “I’ll wear tights, I’ll put on branded sunglasses, a yellow Lycra hat, but a black skirt and a heavy jacket? It is unnecessary”, say the disdaining looks on the face, I’ll be a loughing stock.

It is unnecessary, but there is a reason why we are a loughing stock, a reason that relates to the concept of Respect. Practicing respect is always unnecessary, always superfluos.

When I related this exchange in the dojo, one veteran later told me: “In the trenches, at the Yom Kippur War, it was obvious that this was the end of us: we would soon die or be prisoners of war. It felt like the end of the world. I did not know if we’d see the sun the morning after”

I looked at him, I did not know what to say, I’m old, but on Yom Kippur I was in elementary school, so I listened.

“We cleaned our weapons and machine guns, then we polished our shoes.” I gave him a deep look, he never misses a training session, and on Yom Kippur war, under a smoky black sky, with artillery fire landing next to him, he polished his shoes. It seemed appropriate to me.

If one asks “what’s in it for me?” I will not supply an answer. In the old school the question is, “How do I do it?” When I try to answer the first question, I turn silent. What comes out of it? Nothing comes of it, nothing, it’s unnecessary.

It is possible that the late Professor Amotz Zehavi would have thought that this was an extension of the Handicap principle, maybe. I think it’s powerful.

Doing essential things is good, but it’s not like doing unnecessary things: treating elders and children with respect, not stealing even when no one is looking, putting on a Hakama and Gi on a hot day, being a mensch. Unnecessary.