What's in your Pocket?

September 14, 2021

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There are often many pseudo gyudosha (seekers of the way) that move from dojo to dojo,

seeking out guidance but never really finding it. It seems they seek, but already know

everything. They ask, but do not listen, listen but never put in the practice, practice but never with

sincere commitment.

Larry was one such fellow. He had a most impressive resume: Ashram in India, Forest Temple

in Thailand, Zen Temple in Japan, New Age retreat in the U.S., and Trappist Monastery in

Europe....several of each, in fact. He had also dabbled in Wing Chung, Tae Kwon Do, Pakua,

Taichi, Aikido and Goju Ryu Karate. At local parties, he was a smashing hit. At every new place

he went, he did well for the first few months.

It came to pass that Larry went to stay with a young bugeisha (traditional martial arts

practitioner). The bugeisha tended his garden and taught several uchi deshi (live-in students).

Larry did his thing and found little positive reinforcement to the stories that were told. Sensei

was generous and positive in his praise on the mat when Larry did something correct. Still, there

was not the usual reward in chatting with the uchi deshi. True, the newest uchi deshi had been

there some four years, but Larry had been in places where students had spent more time.

One day, about eight months into his stay, Larry hit a small plateau in his training. That night, he

commented to sensei and the group, after the simple dinner, that all the other places he had

trained were nowhere near as great as this one. In India, people trained perhaps 2 hours a day

and read novels the rest of the time. He started to go on about the weaknesses of each group,

when sensei told him to go help with the dishes.

It was almost a year into his training when Larry, after having words with one of the students,

approached sensei. He told him how unfair this practice around the dojo was and why that

practice was worthless. He verbally lashed out at the other uchi deshi. Sensei just listened.

When Larry was through, Sensei said; “Well, that is your opinion. However, if you note that

everywhere you have gone there is a bad stink (poor training), you have to ask yourself, ‘What

is in MY pocket?’ If everywhere I go it stinks, then perhaps the smell may well be in my

pocket!’ Go now to the dojo and do 100 kata.”

Sensei had never been less than polite. His words shocked Larry and the question stung him as

he started in the kata. For some reason, Larry managed to make it through the 100 kata and he

stayed at the dojo for 6 more years. He was a very different being when he left.

The question remains - what is in your pocket?

There are often many pseudo gyudosha (seekers of the way) that move from dojo to dojo,seeking out guidance but never really finding it. It seems they seek, but already knoweverything. They ask, but do not listen, listen but never put into practice, practice but never with sincere commitment. This is the story of one such student, who learned a lesson that would change him.