I make sure a student pays tuition on time. A student should not owe money to his teacher. Paying tuition makes the student-teacher system simpler, I fulfil my obligations to the student and the student fulfils his/her duties: attendance and payment.
About two months ago, a student I did not see in many years came to the Dojo and said he wanted to pay me an old debt. He is now an adult, and it has been many years since he trained, but while recently talking to his mother, he realised that when he was a child they only paid me a very small fee because his family had no money. A nominal fee for a student who has no money is also a fee! And so, during the years I teach, I got paid in children’s paintings and in flowers from those who did not have any money. That’s fine, symbolic payment is a valid payment and a student who paid doesn’t owe me anything later.
The reason for this economy in Akban is related to the inner freedom I want. If, after a student left the dojo, the teacher thinks that the student owes him, that causes big trouble for the teacher, suffering.
A relationship should allow for exhaling and inhaling. If it is not possible to release then it is impossible to put in new air. I try to let go, and succeed. That’s because I like to breathe, one of the survival secrets I teach. This is how I come to Dojo with a happy heart.
Debt to the community
Akban is not me, Yossi the teacher, Akban is a precious and rare community of human beings, in the best sense of the word, veterans who have been training together for three decades. The debt to me, to the teacher, amounts to tuition and attendance, the debt to the community is not that simple and is indeed very large.
Community debt is not a financial debt, the community has not lent us money, the community has inspired us, helped us persevere in difficult moments, imbued the techniques we practice with meaning. Repayment must be accordingly. Paying off debt to the community is a complex work reserved for the emotionally stable, for very powerful people.
For example, the Ninjutsu database, the documentation project, is repaying a debt to the community in which I grew up, Bujinkan. It’s not about money – the cost to maintain the Bujinkan pool of techniques is not excessive – it’s about work, many hours invested in documenting our syllabus.
In order to repay an inspirational debt to the community, attendance is needed, it’s like gardening, like teaching, like raising children, repaying debt is a practice that requires attendance, presence.
Paying back such debt is an extra bonus, it allows us to grow as strong human beings and change roles – from children to guardians.
A veteran who teaches repays huge debt to the community. He continues the line of knowledge and contributes his unique perspective and interpretation.
A veteran who keeps coming and practicing even though he is old and injured – repays debt because he gives us all a better frame of reference and inspiration to keep on practicing.
A veteran who uses the knowledge he learned in AKBAN to build a business and explains how – returns debt of knowledge. Specifically, how to use martial knowledge in completely different areas and settings.
A veteran who understands how to be a seaman, knows how to surf, sail, understands the winds, the clouds and the sea and knows how to bring his expertise to us, repays debt to the community, he increases our knowledge and enriches us all.
Every contribution makes us all in this person’s debt – we owe him. And since in our community we’ve been together for decades, we all owe a lot to such people, me too.
Not everyone has the luck and the power to be able repay debt to the community, I think it’s fine, as wrote at the first paragraph, at this point nobody owes me anything, but when a veteran repays a debt to the community it’s a great thing, it’s wonderful. I have accrued great debt to Akban and I love this very much.
Today, August the 1st, we start the AKBAN Blitz in the dojo.
The Group will train in two parallel paths: all session randori and aerobic Daken Taijutsu.
The choice of path is an AND Gate of the practitioner and me. Within the confines of the Gate one can move from one path to the other.
Those that have been at it for more than 30 years, do the same, Himum, Kamae and randori the whole session. For those that joined us this year, we video the randori for debriefing, slow motion it and send it individually to the practitioners.
Things to bring: No Hakama, just long pants and black teeshirt. Please bring full boxing gloves and water.
1. Video is a way to teach, even if only few people watch. True, this is not the ideal way, but I did learn things from videos and I think that others can too. We must Capture and distribute video to give away the knowledge we have acquired.
2. Video distribution requires courage. That’s the difference between writing a poem and putting it in the drawer and showing it to someone. In the case we show, we will have to live with the new reality and with the possibility that what we have created is:
a. Not good,
b. Too complex and not understandable
c. Clear and excellent, but not suitable for the reader.
The medication for fear, as we all know, is action!
3. Video photography, and critical observation, is a painful but excellent way to improve technique – both a technique of execution and a technique of verbal explanation. The engine behind my technical improvement are the movies I uploaded. You need to video and distribute to get internal and external feedbacks and improve.
I suddenly heard a noise and looked up to find Robert Hughes, the art critic of Time magazine, staring at me in disbelief. ‘But you’re Philip Glass! What are you doing here?’ It was obvious that I was installing his dishwasher and I told him that I would soon be finished. ‘But you are an artist,’ he protested. I explained that I was an artist but that I was sometimes a plumber as well and that he should go away and let me finish.
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.
During the thirty plus years I have been teaching, so many students have gone through groups, so many students, that I feel that the data I present is not anecdotal, it has a statistical significance.
Grit predicts success.
Success is also personal. Each practitioner starts from a different point, equipped with different initial quantities of courage, intellect and money. A different starting point affects the end point. Those who come to groups from a low starting poing will find themselves after thirty years in a better place, compared to their own starting point.
What is the unit of measure of grit? Years.
Grit is founded on decades of persistance, grit manifests in resistance to external difficulties. Grit maintains focus in front of disruptions. We sum up grit toward the end of life. Period.
A practitioner who trains for ten years is at the beginning of the road. Ten years is about tenth grade. A practitioner who has been training for thirty years is getting nearer.
Should the training be in Akban? Of course not, but there must be a comprehensive practicum, not just practicing but an initiation practicum that the apprentice is a part of.
When I look at the student’s cards, I do not see a statistically significant deviation. Long-term training predicts a student’s personal success – success relative to his starting point.
And those students who have a good starting point? Money, high IQ, crazy courage, the same students create success that can be measured in absolute terms, not only relative. Academic achievements, excellent family life, money or if the apprentice wishes to – an enterprise that improves the quality of life of many other people.
Grit means a simple but very difficult thing – training is not an option.
Over the last weeks we went into the rabbit hole of Kukishin Ryu and especially paid respect and training time to the formidable Oni Kudaki armlock. As Z. said, the focus that Kukishin Ryu puts on this difficult lock is unprecedented in martial arts.
At the last sessions, last week, we worked on the riddle from a different direction, more battle ready, and did the special Tai Sabaki that epitomises Kukishin Kata. This background will also serve us at the Ran Levari, AKBAN Berlin Dojo Cho, upcoming seminar.