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July 2011

112. Lipstick, A Tutu and a Smiley Face ......

Lipstick, a tutu and a smiley face ...... bwahaha .... the envelope pleeeeze .... wakka wakka ....

.... You can put lipstick on a pig ....

Lipstick_on_a_pig5

... and it's still just a pig.

You can put a tutu on a pug ....

  Puginatutu
.... and it's still just a dog that can't dance and it likely as not put the "U" in the word ugly.  (My kid owns a pug .. I should know).

And when a new student walks in the door and signs up while smiling broadly ....

  Happy-Face-Thumbs-Up

.... well, sometimes it's sincere .... and sometimes it ain't ...

Many years ago my Sensei/mentor and I were having a discussion on "newbies" and I asked what I thought was a really simple question.   (Bwaha ... simple my dead aunt Grace's very ample left butt cheek) ...

My question was essentially, "How do we avoid teaching Aikido and the power that underlies it to evil people?  Won't we be enabling evil deeds outside the dojo?"

His immediate answer (one that later that week greatly expanded into a full monologue on how the mat really works) was simple ... "Nope."

Sometimes when someone walks thru' the door as a monjin we get an immediate read that says this person is trouble.  An experienced Sensei can see the issues before they arise and generally difuse them before it becomes physical by being matter of fact, giving very short answers to questions and just generally discouraging any interest in what's going on in class. 

Sometimes I'll inquire as to what they want in the MA and the answer will be something totally alien to the Aiki-Verse so at that point I'll drag out my list of other local dojo and Sensei and make a recommendation (grappling, competition, board breaking, head banging, jumping off the roof, wearing black PJ's, etc.) as to what they think they are looking for.  No harm.  No foul.  And we both get what we want; I keep my tranquil training environment and he gets a school to go to.   Win-Win.

Occasionally tho' the person walking in the door isn't broadcasting the dark side

SmileyEvil2
or anything else that's really a face slapper and you decide to let them start simply because they are genuflecting all over the dojo and are repetitively stating how serious they are about learning Aikido because of ....blah, blah, blah ... all the normal things in the books and movies.  You don't sense anything untoward so take the check, wear the keikogi, bow-on and get to work.

Sometimes (most of the time actually) this works pretty well simply because (as it turns out) they were serious and honest.  What set off the alarm bells was just their being intimidated by all the strange people doing ukemi, joint locks and strangulation's and other weirdness commonly seen in a room full of budding Budoka inflicting mayhem on each other.

You were detecting their personal insecurities at work and their fear of the dojo shimmering thru' their interest.  And as it turns out after they settle in and stop being goofy and learn to focus and start building confidence, they begin to show all the signs of eventually becoming a real Aikido player with the potential of becoming a senior teacher someday.

When people first start a new activity they are trying to show their best face and convince all around them of their sincerity and potential value to the group they are seeking acceptance with.  This is pretty normal tribal and peer group behavior as they look first for admittance, and then for acceptancea and then begin working towards reputation enhancement and trust. 

It's only AFTER  the admittance & acceptance phases that they begin to feel really comfortable and at home and the mask comes off as they move towards reputation enhancement (thinking that who they are deep down inside has been fully accepted).  They just don't realize that the group accepted the "face" they came in with and not the true underlying character which they are now seeing in full for the first time.  They are sucha flawed person that they just can't see the truth even when confronted with it.

They can wear all the lipstick, pretty clothes and smiles you can think of but ... a pig is still a pig and a pug still can't dance and a person with evil intent or bad character and ethics is still ..... not a nice guy.

SmileyEvil
What Sensei observed (and probably your dad and granddad too since both of mine told me the same thing when I was a kid) is that the mask comes down when they feel at home and in control of their immediate environment.  They begin to feel so comfortable that they forget that others are watching them.  Sometimes, they become so comfortable that they begin acting arrogantly, as if they own the mat and begin telling everyone how to do waza that others have been doing correctly for years.  It's at that point the occasional bad joke crops thru' or the nasty snidness and snarkyness appears or the downright abusiveness shows itself.

The phrase is "You cannot hide your true character on the mat."

Two definitions that I see occasionally in newspapers and the like are:

  • Reputation - how we act when we know others are watching
  • Character - how we act when there is no one else in the room but us.

To those I would add the Aikido corollary:

  • Character - how we observe Budo and share our positive attitude with others in the midst of long practices and when we are tired and not carefully parsing our words and actions and how we take 5 more minutes to help someone else learn even tho' all we want to do is get out of our hakama and go home and how we act supportively and not in a denigrating fashion

This is the reason that Sensei said "Nope" all those years ago.  No matter how hard they try, at some point their true nature pops up for all to see and their egocentricity is hung right out there and just can't be missed even by a blind person. 

Someones true nature and character can be a force for good and for positive actions and outlooks ... or it can be evil or simply negative and destructive.

Either way, no Sensei (unless they are evil themselves) ever has to worry about producing high level players who will be abusive outside the dojo since eventually, well before they learn anything of real power, their true self will stand before you for judgement and they simply will not last long enough on the mat to learn anything of value that can be used against others.

L.F. Wilkinson Sensei

Aikibudo Kancho

Aikibudokan, Houston TX

July 2011