We are what we eat, or so they say. Given that we’re not speaking of food here it would be more appropriate to say, “We are what we think” or, “How we think is how we act, and what we become.”
This should be of little to no surprise to anyone so I want you to think about it for a second.
How many times during your life have you known people who, for some unknown reason, had the ability to attract everyone to them? You liked being around them all the time. Being around them made you feel like you were a battery and just got plugged into the charger and now you were glowing with a full 9 volts; maybe 12 depending on whether you are running a flash light or a station wagon.
Funny thing is, these individuals probably weren’t voted “Most Popular” or “Most Likely to Succeed” since those are political accomplishments and generally have little to do with success in life. These individuals were just ordinary people who might play sports, maybe did drama or debate (or not), who might have been the person at the water cooler at the office that everyone asked advice of or enjoyed sharing coffee with.
The thing that made them different is that they had a truly positive attitude and a big smile about 95% of the time (all of us deserve that 5% of just having a bad day on occasion because the planets are out of alignment). That consistently positive attitude made it easy to be around them and better yet, they glowed with positive “vibes” to such a point that if you felt bad or down in the mouth then they always had a supporting statement or gesture for you that helped just a little bit.
Now think about your life outside the dojo. Think about each and every person that is a burden to associate with; that has a negative attitude most of the time; that enjoys, that loves, that revels in discussing politics or complaining about their boss or neighbor or co-worker; or just likes to get in some kind of hairy discussion about ANYTHING because they get to express themselves and voice opinions. For them, the act of engaging in the discussion and drawing other people in validates (in their mind) their existence as a human being and if confronted with that accusation/reality they simply deny it.
That’s the really obvious version of the negative personality. Now how about the not so obvious?
The not so (obvious) is what I described to my Sensei many years ago (probably about 25 years back) as an “emotional vampire”. I coined the term when Sensei and I were discussing up and coming high Dan promotions (4th to 6th Dan and up) and one specific person’s name popped up. The discussion pertained to why no one liked that person even though they were very competent and a highly skilled technician. I told Sensei that I considered them to be an emotional vampire because their self-esteem was so poor that they needed other people to both validate them and to support them emotionally every time they had their weekly drama. They were someone who so severely drained your energy by requiring your support and your continual positive comments (needed to outweigh their negative outlook) that when you finally parted company with them you just felt tired and drained (“Hey! Is it Happy Hour yet? Is the sun over the yardarm? NURSE!).
I was impressed that Sensei was impressed. It had never occurred to him to consider the issue in that aspect and we both agreed that it was pretty accurate. I had just come off-the-cuff with that description and he took it into a couple of full discussions both off and on the mat. He had just then formed the opinion that these “emotional vampires” negatively impacted his entire teaching effort and began to discipline deshi (or expel) those who couldn’t maintain a positive line of thought and behavior.
I really need to acknowledge here that all of us on occasion will come to train and have just had a really bad day and that’s ok. Even as Sensei I’ve done that on occasion too because after all; Sensei, Mrs. Sensei, the Hatamoto, all the Yudansha and each and every player on the mat are all human and sometimes the daily struggles and life’s vicissitudes just get to us every once in a while. And that’s just part of life.
The personality that I am referring to here as being the issue is the one that exudes negative vibes EACH AND EVERY TIME THEY WALK INTO THE DOJO. They just bleed negativity, and neediness, and their shoes slosh with self-pity with every step taken as the need drips off them.
So the bottom line is this.
I, as Sensei, could really care less about anyone’s family life, business problems, or personal issues as it is likely not my business (unless you care to share and unless we have a close personal relationship outside the dojo and off the mat). All of us, myself and Mrs. Sensei (my other half) included, have issues that we deal with everyday and that we never bring into the dojo or onto the mat with us. Doing a “dump” so-to-speak is completely unfair to everyone in the dojo who comes only train and not to be my or your emotional counselor. We are, after all, here to teach martial arts and not be your support group.
As Sensei however, I do care about the impact on the mat and on the other players that an “obvious” or a “not-so-obvious” negative person can have on everyone around them.
So, I’ll give everyone the self-same advice that my father and my Sensei both gave me way too long ago (time flies, one day you’re a cocky teenager and the next you’ve lost your hair and what’s left is turning grey). My father was right and funny thing is; so was Sensei. So please consider this:
“Go into each and every moment of your life with a positive attitude, positive outlook, and a positive & optimistic view of the future. If you at least try to think, be and act positive all the time, even when you are in the throes of deep depression, you will eventually find that the positive begins to outweigh the negative. Acting positive will, over time, actually produce a positive person. You will create your own positivism and it will push away the negative vibes. You are what you think you are and what you want to be.”
And once you get this positive way of life (“do” if you like) down pat, the dojo will become (for you) the way in which you create it. During periods of my life when I was the most depressed, overworked, underpaid and under loved, the dojo literally became my only sanctuary because I knew that the second I walked into the door, that I would have my hair blown back by all the positive vibes coming off the mat and the smiles of people who were happy to see me and who wanted to train. Funny thing is, more of the time than what I want to admit, I didn’t even know their last name. We were just friends and training partners and that was all that mattered.
The positive attitude enabled me to learn faster and to actually enjoy class much, much more than I ever had before. I looked up one day and was 7th Dan and still can’t remember how I got here. It just happened in the midst of everything.
Let the dojo become that one place in your life where the positives throw down, pin, and then choke out the negatives.
Or to paraphrase Forest Gump, “Positive is as positive does”.
L.F. Wilkinson Kancho
The Aikibudokan, Houston, TX