Thursday, October 20, 2016

Pollyanna's funeral

Yesterday was a good day to remember a necessary death.

I got a call from a young woman looking for a referral. She lives over 3 hours from our self-defense training center but wondered if I knew of any reputable places to train in her area.

I didn't. Not really. I know someone who is about an hour from her so we started with that. Maybe he can help her out. After I dug up his website for her, she paused, apologized for taking up my time but could she ask me a question...(that's such female thing to do - apologize for what you are going to do because you have been taught that making requests is an intrusion).

Here's the question: how do you know it's a healthy place to train?

The only reason that question gets asked is because experience has taught her it is a necessary question. When I got into this business I was incredibly naive. My previous martial arts experience had been positive. Both our kids trained in different arts with different instructors. I spent a little time in TKD. From our experiences, reality lined up with my expectation. Teaching martial arts means you are teaching a lifestyle of the tallest order. The instructors were mindful, respectful, and if they ever had a bad day - you didn't see it on the mat.

When I got deeper into training and ventured down the instructor journey I started to see the rest of it. The reasons behind this young woman's question. Hanging on to my Pollyanna attitude, of course this dark underbelly had to be rare, isolated cases.  Only it wasn't...isn't.

I have heard too many stories now, too many examples. I'm not exactly sure when Pollyanna died - it was a necessary death although what killed her still pisses me off.

After I gave her the info, we stayed on the phone for about 30 minutes. This young woman apologized no less than 5 times during the 30 minutes for all my time she was wasting and hopefully, at the end of it, she had a few ideas on how to assess a potential training center. And the question did come by way of experience. Conflict between a group of students caused the instructor to "fire" one of them.

The conflict developed when a student targeted with dojo bullying spoke up. The instructor knew she was being bullied. And told her that he was sorry but if she didn't leave the others would. He could afford to lose the $$ of one membership but not three. The bullies stayed and the targeted student had to go.

Maybe he meant well. None of us are buying yachts on our income. I get it. Sort of. At the end of day we do nothing if we have not helped our students stand for themselves. For however great of a guy this instructor may be, he taught a powerful lesson. If you stand up for yourself, you get kicked out of the tribe. WHAT?

If the martial gods have an ounce of power, they'll guide this ostracized student to a new training center where she will learn that speaking up for herself is the win - not abhorrent behavior punishable by banishment.

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