Saturday, November 17, 2007


I've gotten nothing done for hours. Spent forever online looking up places nearby for my son to train. He'll be back around Jan 18 or so. Wants to do BJJ, but also the whole MMA spectrum (mixed martial arts). The place I train is strictly BJJ, and it's getting a bit pricey for what my boy wants. He has a problem with the fact that the black belt isn't there on a frequent or reliable basis. Well, I do too. It's the only criticism I have, in terms of policy.

There's a place quite nearby that does BJJ but with a heavy focus on MMA skills -- stand-up (strikes) and take-downs. There's another place quite nearby that does muay thai, which is reputed to be the most effective striking art. There's a place in Hollywood that focuses on BJJ, with black belt instruction. So it seems. So there you go then.

For a while there I was thinking he might train where I am. The studio where he usually trains when here has relocated 15 minutes further down the line -- which will be forty-five minutes during traffic, which it always would be. So he's closed that door. I'm a bit conflicted, since I could influence him to train at my place. But my honest opinion is that it doesn't match his needs. Think of my boy as me, 4 inches shorter, 20 pounds heavier, 25 years younger, and a lot stronger, faster and more aggressive. Then remember that I do sometimes have a problem finding guys to roll with. I've got one reliable partner, good old R -- he's due for his brown belt. But part of training is the challenge from a variety of competitors. My first loyalty is to my son.

It causes me no small degree of internal conflict. I don't have any friends, in a meaningful sense. That's on me. Plenty of guys are friendly. It seems that I just need to protect myself more than I need to be sociable. That's a shame. I wish I were different. But I'm not really a boot-straps conservative. Self-transformation is possible, but it's like magic. Decisions get made not because we will it so, but because the time has come. Until then we flounder and float.

I've known some of these fellas for over two years. They are the closest things to friends that I have. But we do know that, romanticism aside, one person is on average pretty much the same as another. People make new friends. I suppose I could go back for a month every once in a while. That's what I've been thinking. People seem to do it. Something to explore, maybe. It's really the only way I see of maintaining any contact. I wonder why I'm like that.

Loyalty of course works two ways. Our black belt has not met his obligation, of consistent instruction. Some time ago there was a mass defection for just that reason. In a service-for-fee business, there aren't two sides to the question. It's business. Meet the need, or lose revenue.

The situation hasn't really changed. My son just emailed me an opinion that he didn't get from me, based on information he didn't get from me: the black belt "doesn't run that place as a business. He runs it as a passive income generator. That's what I don't like. He found a dedicated guy, invested some time in him, and then just used him to teach. It seems dishonest in a vague way and it's just bad business." Well, that's as it may be. Stated so starkly, it's pretty harsh.

But fees are going up, and that does send a message. You figure out what that message might be. Honestly, I do think that if it were not for this supposed implied or inferred message, I'd do both, stay where I am and go with my son. What's money for? To promote happiness. I'm a loyal guy. But it does have to go both ways. I've spent too many years being stupid.

As it is, I'd be paying for the fellowship. And my son is coming back. So why should I pay for it?

I'd like to think I could drop by now and again and roll with the fellas. But I have the impression there'd be a mat fee, and not a small one. I paid it for my son, once. No reason to think I wouldn't have to pay it. If my consistency and dedication, and whatever of my personal qualities that brought benefit to the school -- if these didn't buy me the courtesy of letting me roll once gratis with my son during his rare and brief leave, I don't suppose I'd get any special consideration once I'd left the school. The idea offends me. I notice these things. Maybe I have a sense of entitlement. But if I'm not entitled, who is? And it does seem that some are ... entitled. I understand running the place on a business-like basis. But that runs both ways.

Something that bothered me. Maybe it offended me. For over two years I'd come on time only to sit outside on the sidewalk several times each week waiting for the place to open. Ten, fifteen, twenty minutes. Well, people have scheduling conflicts. I understand that. But after a year and a half or so of this, I started to make my little complaining jokes about how maybe I should have a key, the way so many other guys did, especially considering that I was the first to arrive and the last to leave. It was the sort of joke designed to be easily laughed off, unless someone decides to take it seriously. Seriously, as in seeing that it was a very good point, and a matter of both efficiency and courtesy. The answer came down as no. "Oh, too many guys have keys."

Ah. I see. So when one fella handed in his key, the immediate response was to give it to someone else, never known to have sat outside waiting for the place to open. Hm. Thoughtless. Fortunately this fella had the brains and decency and sensitivity to observe that maybe it should go to me. Astoundingly, for some reason, he ended up with his own key post haste. Hm. Did I demonstrate an irresponsible or untrustworthy character? Would it have been bad policy to utilize my manifest qualities as a tangible asset to the school? Is the demonstrable inconsistency with regard to the key-handing-out policy something other than tacit disrespect? Is there maybe just a little favoritism to be found in this?

Yeah. I notice these things. I realize that I open myself up to seeming petty. Keys, for heaven's sake. Like Queeg and his strawberries. But it went on for two years. If we didn't have pride, do you think the world would be better? I'd disagree. Pride is how we enforce our demand for earned respect. There is a difference between a human doormat and a selfless saint. The difference is not found, however, in the manner in which they are treated.

There are a few things that I'm touchy about. Not many at all, but of the few, very touchy indeed. Respect is one of them. Probably that way with most people. A few times someone will have made some joke about me, and it felt like disrespect, and my response has always been a quiet and wry observation: "That feels a little like disrespect." That has always diffused the situation. If it weren't diffused, I believe people would see my ego for the first time. I'd be likely to get emotional. I might step out of the harmless little doofusy persona that I affect, into some other, more objectionable one, that doesn't feel the need to be so careful and go so slow -- one that doesn't apologize for submissions. I've had enough disrespect in my life.

But I haven't earned any personal loyalty, or very little, there. I've striven to be a positive influence, calming, patient and mature. But that's just what I owe to myself. And I've received the rough courtesy that is all I have the right to expect. Don't take my reference to pride as a complaint. I hardly have one, and you've heard it. Well, I do have one more. I won't miss the vulgarity. At all. It's a major factor not in my leaving, but in easing my mind about leaving. Of course, if the black belt were there more, there wouldn't be the vulgarity. So there you go then.



Will C. said...

"Then remember that I do sometimes have a problem finding guys to roll with. I've got one reliable partner, good old R -- he's due for his brown belt."

R? Your BJJ partner is Dr. Rey!!! from Dr.! Is he as nice in person?

Jack H said...

Dang. I should have remembered there's only one name that starts with R. Dang. So much for my prized anonymity. Is there no foiling your diabolic perspicacity?

Yeah, he's cool. Gave me a discount on my boob job.


Will C. said...

R. Dang? Vietnamese guy right? Got over here after fleeing the Vietcong via boat that landed in Thailand? Didn't know he was into BJJ.


Jack H said...

That's pretty culturally insensitive of you, insisting that Mr. Dang put his patronym last rather than first, per the Eastern custom. You, sir, are an imperialist! Fie! Imposing your narrow bigoted ways on our little yellow brothers! Fie I say, and fie again!