Talkng Over the Backyard Fence – Nov 17, 2013, Kim Taylor, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph, Nanadan

My head starts to hurt and my eyes cross every time I see someone talking about “lines” and their soke. Life just isn’t as simple as we’d like it to be and there just aren’t such clean definitions to make.

Most of the koryu discussions on the net seem to be about lineage… although perhaps that’s because there really isn’t much else to talk about except whether or not we can shoehorn everything into simple definitions.

Why, folks say, wouldn’t the various Menkyo Kaiden start their own “lines” or rename their art something else? After all they’ve got “full transmission” and so they are a the “ri” or leave part of their training… but why would they?

These guys know each other, the world isn’t all that big. Some of them doubtless like others more or less well, but they do talk to each other, they don’t live on different planets.

There’s a backyard conspiracy of the old guys you know, we talk over the fence while you guys are at school. When you get home you go online and start telling everyone what you learned that day. That’s fine, but when the gossip starts… well.

I was teaching a class one day many years ago… looked around and realized that there were guys in there who had been teaching classes 30 years ago that included wet behind the ears green belts who were now heads of organizations with thousands of students.

Here’s the thing, there are lots of guys around who know where the bodies are buried, and some of them actually know how to use a computer so don’t assume that you can claim special knowledge without having your chain jerked tight.

Don’t speak for your sensei, he can speak for himself.
Don’t speak for your club unless you run the thing
Don’t speak for your organization, the guys in charge can do that if they want.
Speak for yourself, by all means, but make it clear to yourself and others that you speak from your own experience, and be prepared to have your nose slapped with a newspaper if you deserve it.

Nobody knows more than an 18 year old, except maybe a 14 year old, but the 60 year olds might just be found in a class (with a 30 year old sensei), acting just like a beginner. You know, being quiet, listening carefully, trying really hard to learn rather than show how much they know.

You may wonder why those 60 year olds don’t post on the internet………………. Sometimes we are elsewhere sharing a laugh with each other, shaking our heads at the presumption of our students who surely know “the answer”.

I have been known to say “leave the 18 year olds alone, it’s the very last time in their lives that they’ll “know, absolutely know” what’s wrong with the world and how to fix it… life will smack them in the mouth soon enough”. Perhaps that’s why us old farts don’t sit on the youngsters too often, but the youngsters ought to remember that we’re not deaf or blind, and that the very people you may be talking about are people we’ve been out drinking beer with.

Here’s a quote from a post I wrote eight or nine years ago:

“As an example of who knows whom, gyrfalcon there gives an interesting quote about experts… I happened to be interested enough in who he is to check out his affiliation. Say hi to John for me Yulin. I know one of Yulin’s sensei from somewhere around 1987, have known the JSS from a bit earlier. I believe John introduced me to a fellow down on the east coast who now teaches iaido under the Roshukai, which is an organization Hyaku knows well, who also knows Imai and Iwami, and who is also a Brit who knows Trevor and Don who knew Bill who recently passed away, who introduced me to Haruna. I seem to recall that John also introduced me to John from Texas who teaches loads of folks who post on here all the time. John knows Ted of the CIA in Vancouver who is also a member of the CKF and who knows another CKF sensei in Vancouver who knows Iwata of the Roshukai…..

Now most of the old guys will know who I’m talking about above because we all know each other by reputation or by association. The above people are collectively members of at least 20 different martial arts organizations and are all related to the sword arts. The point is simply that we can figure out where the bodies are buried. “

It’s instructive to note that looking over that rambling bit of “six degrees of separation” I can’t see one person who would say that another person on that list doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

But our students, who have all of 2 or 3 years of practice have no problem making statements that we would never, ever make.

And why? Well I think a lot of the problem can be found in the existance of the “bad budo” forums and websites. The idea that we should be “budo cops” is not particularly healthy. Sure, worry about fakes and frauds but most of what I see is more like witch hunting. It’s a very unproductive pastime and can create the impression that “my school is somehow more legitimate than everyone else’s”.

As Queen Vicky is supposed to have said, “as long as they don’t scare the horses…” Your worst ‘corner store karatty klass’ is providing cheap and reliable babysitting while giving the little beggers a bit of exercise and structure in their lives. I personally don’t care if the guy running it has a brown belt from some questionable idiot that awarded himself a sokeship, as long as the kid knows how to give the kids some safe and harmless supervision I’ve got no problem at all with folks paying a couple bucks an hour to “some guy who’s just in it for the money”.

The dangerous ones… those you have a responsibility to report to the police, not to a website discussion forum.

Gossip is fine, natural, and will always come back to slap you in the mouth. Remember that everything you ever write will be hanging around in 10 years to come back and bite you on the butt. Your own sensei may be reading and laughing at the things you manage to get into your head. He may even come to your defence but never, ever assume that he does that because he supports your silly comments. He does it because that’s his job and trust me, if you continue the rediculous statements in the mistaken impression that he wants you to speak for him, you will be causing him grief and eventually you may be looking for a new place to practice.

Those backyard fences are not high, and they’re everywhere.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s