Stewing in my anger…

English: Original description was I took this ...
English: Original description was I took this shot while playing darts with friends at Desperate Annie’s in Saratoga Springs, NY. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is amazing to me how rude some people can be while expecting you to be nice and polite.

The first week that I was here (or maybe the second) I discovered a little darts pub.  Before you get any ideas, this is not like any pub I have ever been in – it is purely Japanese and they have a dart board… that seems to be the only purpose of the pub.  The owner (Papa-san) is a nice Japanese man probably in his early fifties.  So far he is the only constant I have found there.

There doesn’t seem to be any gambling going on, but you have to buy into the game (100 yen).  If you (or your team) wins then your next game is free.  Over three visits (including Saturday night) I have probably won a couple more than I have lost… not bad, considering the fact that I hadn’t picked up a set of darts in fifteen years.  As for drinking, there are all sorts of alcoholic drinks available, although I have only been drinking club soda (in keeping with my diet).  I do like that I can smoke my cigars there, and Papa-san seems eager to give me a new ashtray every twenty minutes or so.

Most of the people there are really friendly, and even though most of them don’t speak any English and I don’t speak any Japanese, we get along and have fun.  My team this evening (Saturday) was thrilled when I doubled-out in three of our four games (2nd dart double-16, 3rd dart 40: 20 double-10, 1st dart double-7).

After our last game this evening a couple walked in and changed the dynamic of the place.  She was Japanese, he was Persian.  They are probably a bit older than I am – I would put them in their late forties.  She asked if I spoke Japanese, and I politely told her that regretfully I only know a few words.  I didn’t know until I was leaving that he was Persian, but I could tell from his accent that he was not Anglo-Saxon, although it seemed that his Japanese was pretty fluent.

Then the woman starts pointing at me and jabbering away.  I heard her say ‘sumo’ and start laughing.  I told her, as I did in my last such encounter, that I was not a sumo wrestler, rather I practice Taekwondo.  She laughed even harder, and although I don’t know what she was saying I could easily imagine that it was something to the effect of ‘the fat man thinks he’s a martial artist, huh?’  She then said to me ‘Oh, Taekwondo… you always wear helmets, right?’  I told her that I almost never wear a helmet, as that is only for sparring.  ‘What colour is your belt?’ I answered that it is Black.  She kept going on and on, and I could tell from the look on Papa-san’s face that she was not being at all polite.

As I had won my last game I asked Papa-san for my 100 yen back.  I paid my tab and left.  Before I did, the man told me that he would like to play against me some time.  While I didn’t say so, I would have liked to explain to him that if he wanted to play against me then he should leave his extremely rude wife at home because I have no desire to play while being insulted.  In fact, I have no desire to stay in any establishment where I am being insulted.

As I walked back to my hotel along the Tokaido Road (Yes, I believe it is THAT Tokaido Road) I couldn’t get the rude woman out of my mind.  While I know that fat is the last acceptable ‘racism’ for lack of a better term I would have liked to explain to her that I am working hard to lose weight, and that it has been a struggle but it is one that I plan to win.  I would also have liked to explain to her that she may laugh at the concept of a fat martial artist, but more than one armed assailant has found out the hard way that my looks are very deceiving.  I would also have liked to explain to her that while she may find it funny, I would be a lot more amused by the thought of my kicking her teeth in, but I was not so rude as to say so.

I did not explain to Papa-san why i was leaving.  I will, however, explain to him the next time I go in that when one of his patrons decides to have fun at my expense, I will simply walk out.  If it continues to happen I will find somewhere else to hang out.

In the meantime I will continue to be as polite as I can be to people here, because it is the right thing to do… but in my dreams I will think he getting mugged in a dark alley by the rude woman and her husband… and showing them the error of their ways.

T-5: Part One

This past Saturday I pre-tested for my Second Dan Black Belt test.  The actual test is this coming Saturday, June 2.  The Second Dan candidates were given a writing assignment to complete: “My Future Goals in Tae Kwon Do and Why I Want to Achieve Them.”  I spent most of Sunday thinking about this, and writing.  On the advice of Master Beis what began as a twenty-five hundred word essay has now been edited down into two more manageable articles.  Only the second of these, which I will publish later in the week, will be submitted to my Grand Master this afternoon.  I look forward to hearing your opinions about this first piece. –Mitch Garvis, 5/28/12

When I was seven years old I attended my first organized martial arts classes. Sensei Yaki Mendel taught us to count in Japanese, and taught us stances and punches. I was not a very athletic child, and had enough trouble getting my gi on properly. My friend Mark Nadler and I lasted ten classes, then called it quits.

Over the course of the next three decades I took up and eventually dropped several martial arts. That is not to say that when I walked into GrandMaster Kim’s OMAC in January, 2009 I was not a good fighter – the Krav Maga I picked up in the army has won more than a few fights over the years – but I was never really a martial artist.

If the truth is to be told, from that day it would take another seventeen months for me to call myself a real martial artist, although I had probably used the term anyways. It was then – on June 12, 2010 – that I earned my Black Belt.

English: vector version of Black belt 2st dan.png
English: vector version of Black belt 2st dan.png (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In five days I, along with a handful of other students at our school will be testing for our next belt. Valerie, Teresa, Corwin, Alex, and I will be the five who are vying for promotion from First Dan to Second Dan. I speak for nobody but myself, but can only assume that the others have worked as hard as I have to get to this point. I know that at the pre-test on Saturday we were all working well together, and that although we are a small group, I think we are one that will make a big bang at the actual test.

In the past few weeks I have written a lot about Tae Kwon Do, my thoughts, and inspirations. But when I was asked to write about my future goals in Tae Kwon Do (and why I want to achieve them) I had to pause to think about that for a day before sitting down to write.

I am of three minds: The Young Mitch, the Wise and Pragmatic Mitch, and the testing in Five Days Mitch.

As I look at the calendar and realize that, young as I may feel inside, I am turning forty years old in less than six weeks. An optometrist actually prescribed me bifocals last week, so it is getting hard to deny that I am no longer young. Nevertheless I still feel young in many ways, so Young Mitch says that I aspire to be a Master – a Grand Master even. I want to open my own schools and franchise my own brand of Tae Kwon Do. I want to make a loud bang that is heard around the world.

Wise and Pragmatic Mitch lives in the real world, and knows several truths. The first of these is that I am turning forty and have a pretty good career in IT, and that aside from being a pretty lousy entrepreneur and however good I may ever be at martial arts I will likely always be better at IT, training, and mentoring than I ever could be running my own schools. I have also learned that the best way to achieve any lofty goal is to start by setting shorter term goals. As John Lennon said, ‘Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.’ Every long-term plan I ever made got interrupted by what would eventually happen, better or worse. I also know that as hard as the first and second Black Belts were to achieve the next ones will just get harder, and I do not know (based on my career and family needs) how much time I will be able to dedicate to Tae Kwon Do. I know that I can continue to advance, but at what rate? I do not know. I would love to become a Master one day but…

…Testing in Five Days Mitch is singularly focused on my Second Dan Black Belt test that is coming up this coming Saturday. I am so focused that I cannot see beyond that. I am eating, sleeping, breathing, and living the requirements for my test. I have to be out of town this week but have asked the Grand Master’s permission to visit a Dojang in Montreal to train, and I will be there a couple of nights this week in addition to intense jogging on Mount Royal. I plan to be back on Friday for the lunch class, and hope to spend that entire day in training, practice, and meditation. I will do everything that I can to be ready for Saturday… but if you want to know what is going to happen Sunday then I have no idea of anything beyond that. From a logistical perspective I know that I am getting onto a plane Monday morning, but my immediate focus is Saturday; Sunday will take care of Sunday, and once I am past this goal I will be able to refocus my attention on other things.

Whatever angle you look at it from my goals in martial arts have certainly evolved over the years. I remember wanting to be a ninja… then when I decided I wanted to be a soldier I wanted to learn the secrets of the best martial artists – how to repel attackers, armed or otherwise – with my bare hands, and how to disarm, disable, and kill them. When I had hatred in my heart I wanted my hands to be weapons.

Today my goal is much less violent. My goal in Tae Kwon Do is to find an inner peace that I have not known in my life. I practice to be a better me, and to escape who I used to be. That does not mean that I wish to learn Tae Kwon Do as a sport, but I as a way of life. I wish to follow the same mantra that I have heard from only a few wise martial artists in the past: we train to fight so that we will never need to fight. That is why I prefer Poomsae (pattern) training over sparring.

Unfortunately the pragmatic side to me knows that the real world is not as peaceful as I would wish for it to be, and there are places that I travel that are not as safe as Oakville. In the past year I have had to fight – not for honour, not for glory, but to save my life in situations where there was no alternative. That is why I train as a killer and not as an athlete. When I train I complete every punch and kick and block as if there was an invisible enemy facing me. People have commented that there is a look of anger in my eyes when I perform my patterns, but they are misinterpreting the look; it is the look of pure focus in my eyes that an opponent might misinterpret as anger… but if in a real-life situation it convinces that opponent that fighting me would not be a good idea then they can call it what they like… it has done the job.