Look for the Lesson

In any interaction with Sensei I assume there is a lesson – that Sensei knows exactly what he’s doing, and there’s a point to it.

In a recent class we were doing an exercise, each walking straight toward Sensei and turning tenkan to avoid his bokken swings, sideways at our midsections. I did OK the first time through, and got back in the end of the line.

The next time I was up I was ready. Was it going to be right or left? Watching for any sign… a shift of weight, tightening of an arm, or settling of a hip. I knew what was coming, and was ready for it. I tried to be equally ready to tenkan out of the way to whichever side, depending on the direction of the swing. When it was my turn I moved toward Sensei trying not to favor either way. Trying to not anticipate one or the other, left or right…

And he tsuki’ed directly into me.

I’m sure he had to pull the thrust to keep me from impaling myself, even though I folded in the middle and backed off. And the class and I had a good laugh. Dammit. I didn’t see that coming.

I can’t say whether he really meant it as a lesson, or if he was bored with going to the left and right, or was just having a little fun. But I took it as a lesson – although it didn’t quite sink in until a couple of days later, when I sort of got the joke and started laughing as I was feeding the horse and donkeys. I had been ready for something I “knew” was coming. I was planning what I was going to do, based on my expectation of what I was sure would happen. I was not open, perceiving, and responding to what was actually happening. Now I get it!

As far as I’m concerned, the exercise was a direct, intentional lesson in what can happen when I think instead of feel. Sensei knew exactly what was going on in my head, and pointed out the potential consequences in an immediate and visceral (or eviscerating?) way that I was sure to remember.

Did he really mean it that way? Maybe not. I don’t actually believe that teachers always do everything so deliberately. It’s just that it’s most useful for my own training to assume that they do, and always be looking for the lesson.

It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if he did do it very much on purpose.

I’m grateful for having “gotten the point,” in any case.