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You Never Know...

When you meet someone, you never know what they are going through in life. They could be suffering from an illness, caring for a parent with Alzheimer's disease, raising a child with a learning challenge, having problems at work, just lost their home to a wild fire, hurricane or flood, been the victim of a crime, or any number of situations. It is even hard to really know what a person is experiencing when you know that person well. Many people keep their difficulties to themselves.

At the same time, it might be hard to know if a person is a chronic alcoholic or abuser of drugs. Did he forget to take his medications today? Is he a criminal or even a terrorist? On the surface, most people appear to be "normal" (what is normal anyway?).

But so much goes on, just under the surface. Many people are walking around with great pain, anger, and suffering.

My point is that everyone is not the same. When someone yells at you, he might not only be reacting to something you did. There might be much more to it. You might have triggered his reaction, just like a little loose stone could cause a landslide. This is why some people overreact. Sometimes it just takes a little nudge or prick to make a person lose control.

The person might not be mad at you -- he might just be mad.

I know a man who used to abuse drugs. He mentioned to me that when you see an addict talking to an imaginary person, that person is real to him. The addict actually sees him! That "imaginary" person might even be telling him what to do!

You never know.

When you correct a student at the dojo you might find that she trembles when you touch her arm. Is she the victim of abuse at home?

When you throw a punch at a child in the dojo, he might cower rather than block. Has someone abused him?

When a student does kumite, is he trying to properly hit you (with control) or striking out wildly against someone haunting his mind?

You never know... but it is better to be aware of the possibilities.

I think that this is one reason that courtesy is stressed so much in the martial arts. Courtesy can sometimes diffuse a volatile situation, or at least not aggravate it. On the other hand, a gruff, angry, or arrogant attitude can make a bad situation much worse.

The martial arts also teach us to be patient, and to have a very long fuse. We should not be easily angered to quick to fight. We should not be part of the problem. The techniques of Karate are a solution only as a last resort.

You never know. It is important to realize that you never know. There is much more to people than can be seen on the surface. Some people are juggling hand grenades, so to speak. You can't see the hand grenades, but they are there, and ready to explode!

You have to be careful and aware. And still, you never know.

You can only control yourself. What is going on under your surface? Karate training gives us the self discipline to control ourselves and the opportunity to better understand ourselves.


Charles C. Goodin