Monday, February 15, 2016

Futsutsuka (Inexperienced or incompetent)

(Rude, inexperienced or incompetent)

The Ballad of Doug Peters

Luke:  Is the Doug side stronger?
Yoda:  No.  Quicker, easier, more seductive it is.
A (perhaps mis)quote from Star Wars Episode V:  The Empire Strikes Back

It needs to be said that I've never (within memory at least) trained with anyone named Doug Peters; the moniker was coined by my older son in response to an anecdote* so apologies to anyone that it may offend. While it is a male name and male pronouns are used, it is meant without gender; anyone who would escort you to the far reaches of sanity is Doug Peters.  Finally, the name is a catch-all/composite of a number of people (including, unfortunately, me.)

Doug Peters needs for you to understand some things.  Sure, he may be a novice at your system, but his period of training, often with well-known teachers (seminars count, right?**), has been fruitful.  He has a 'martial' CV as long as a leg and filled with accomplishments.  Or, Doug Peters is super interested in your school- he'll call you to ask you the some handful of semi-esoteric questions, schedule a visit, not show-up, fall off the radar for a year or two, then reappear to repeat the process with the same questions that you've already answered.  Or, he'll question the relevance of Kihon (fundamentals) for him because, while he works out at the gym every day, it's hard to find time or space to fit those in,  and besides, he knows how to "do something like that anyway."  Or the Doug Peters who doesn't train outside of class because he, "doesn't want to do it wrong" but never takes notes or integrates suggestions made in class by seniors and teachers.

In every case, Doug Peters requires exceptions to the standards of your school, but that's okay- his situation is singular; he's not like everyone else... just ask him.

A handful of things characterize the Doug Peters Experience TM:

1) The want/need to have (possibly legitimate, if irrelevant) experience acknowledged as expertise- for example, just because you have real training in karate doesn't mean that you should teach sword without proper instruction, same for taking a few misunderstood drills from Filipino arts, and teaching stick and knife. . . that dog won't hunt.

2) The ability to quote chapter and verse on how other arts do things, but failing to make the effort to see things as new or allow them to exist outside of that filter... despite (theoretically) undertaking to learn a different method.

3) Hearing in a way that twists answers to 'match' his preconceptions (which are often, just plain goofy.)  This can lead to some clarifying questions that are so wacky and out of left-field that it's like he's in some other class .

4) Your problems are your problems, whereas his problems are . . . also your problems. This often comes with 'plug your ears and run'-levels of oversharing.

5) His time is precious.  Yours, not so much.  He'll blow-off class and go off the reservation for weeks, then apologize with (nigh-unreadable) missives (overlong and rife spelling errors and missing punctuation) that require a Doug/English translator.  Or, as bad, long, painful telephone conversations, usually right when you're in the middle of something else (like work.)  Expect for things said  to not match objective reality, as they have been through a mental 'fun-house mirror' (see item number 3.)  Also, don't be surprised to find out that that 'sick relative' or 'work emergency' was actually just some sporting event or party for which he blew off class... he may even post photos on social media. . .

6) A deep abiding love of talking about how important 'the arts' are to him and how strong their influence, virtually no reflection of this in his conduct or affect; not surprisingly, very little actual time is spent working on or off 'the mat.'

7) A lack of sensitivity to the environment- this includes failing to pick up on cues or even overt instruction.  Details matter***, but not to Doug Peters; except for the ones that he remembers from somewhere else, to which he will ardently cling .

8) Possibly most injurious to his own development and drag to those around him is a fundamental inability or refusal to participate or engage honestly****, he's easily offended with a strong negative reaction to critique, no matter how mild (see number 4.)

In the early- to mid-1990's, two friends/training partners and I attended a school with a Doug Peters  The three of us would get together regularly outside of class to work on material; the approach that we took stood in contrast to the formal classes at that school (we made contact, hard and often.)  That Doug Peters spent almost a year talking about how much he'd love to join us.  When he finally did, it took about 43 minutes into our three hours together before he suddenly remembered that he had to be . . . elsewhere*****.

What did that Doug Peters take away from this?  That it was a "cool experience" and that he'd, "let us know when his schedule opened up" enough to come back. The underlying message was that he liked his mat-time much more without being made to feel uncomfortable, let alone punched in the head, choked unconscious and/or joint-locked and thrown 8-ways from Sunday.  He eventually quit the school******, and moved on to other endeavors, but he lost out in a big way that day, and not because of any skill that we had.  What he missed was a chance to investigate his fear and bruised ego and work to get better with people who were willing to provide honest feedback.  Unfortunately, many Doug Peters (Dougs Peters?  Doug Peterses?  How about just Futsutsukamono [rude people]) tend to be drawn to the trappings of accomplishment (things like belts, ranks, titles, etc.) but aren't compelled to undertake the arduous work of refining themselves.  Those
Futsutsukamono want to hobnob with people who've put in the effort, (because . . . um, osmosis . . .) but they're only willing to wait for so long- at some point, being around skilled people often compels one to enter their world through practice... not good for the business of being a Futsutsukamono.

Acquiring skill, or even laying the groundwork to do so, rarely happens in a 'bolt from above' that many
Futsutsukamono of the world cling to with a fervor.  Embracing the struggle of incremental progress through consistent training and practice, lacks "magic."  The results though are concrete and repeatable (of course, good training partners are worth their weight in gold and tossing in a bit of study never hurts, either.)  The process of finding places where we are stuck and working at them can be slow; it certainly doesn't have a convenient "resting position."  It is far easier and more seductive to keep things in the realm of the theoretical- the kingdom that Futsutsukamono can rule without annoying things (like objective indications of inadequacy) entering the equation.

When confronted by the possibility that we aren't good, or worse yet, have been mistaken about a whole art or method's efficacy (and have wasted untold resources of time, effort and often, heaps of money), humans either accept and move on or seek creative ways to cope.  The person who knows that he is, or used to be, awesome and/or from a school with "all the answers" is a tough nut to crack.  Here's the thing though, those who never allow themselves to reach that point of discomfort (realizing how much more work there is to do) remove a chief impetus for growth, after all, why work hard if you are already perfect?  Ironically, though, struggling to push beyond wanting to be recognized as "good" or needing to be praised for minimal effort, offers untold richness, texture, and detail which will always lie out of reach of those who opt to delude themselves. 

We are all, to some extent (unobservant of details, rude [sometimes without meaning to be], inconsiderate of others' time, lazy, boastful, untrustworthy, etc.)
Futsutsukamono.  If training is to be transformative, can we spot those habits and curtail them in ourselves?  Can we make alterations to our own patterns, and at least set better examples?

So, every once in a while, just ask yourself, "Am I being Futsutsuka?"  If the answer is no, excellent.  If the answer is even remotely, "maybe," breathe deeply, relax, be present, forget your narrative (of who and what you think you are), allow for a outcomes outside of your expectations and expand your awareness to see what's actually happening- there's big beautiful world just waiting to be seen.

Yours in the struggle,

Jigme Chobang Daniels, instructor
Aoi Koyamakan Dojo

*A fellow who trained at the dojo briefly asked (with a straight face) if when I say every class that everyone ought to practice basics every day, that included him.  To add emphasis, he said, "So to be clear, are you saying that I, 'Doug Peters,' should be practicing kihon?"  The name stuck and it's hard to imagine life without it now.

 **Hint:  Nope, it usually doesn't.

***E.G. The ways in which one wears clothing is important for some- tools have their 'homes' and dressing correctly for one's tradition puts those tools to hand in a way that are part and parcel of the art.

 ****Looking at that list, it seems to hinge on two key issues. . . weird.

*****That training session itself wasn't vicious, though in general we tended to abandon politeness to see if we could make that art work under pressure.  Our goal was to offer each other training with an eye toward finding genuine physical competence under duress.

******As did those training partners and I, though for different reasons.