Air and water will do

After a month off from the dojo, I finally came back last week. I can only teach at this point. So there I was, reminding students to breathe, position themselves in the best Kamai (fighting stand) possible. Finding a stand that suits them might be one of the most difficult exercises. One of the yellow belts smiled at me when I was encouraging them into discovering and deciding what feels right for them: he and I had spent a full class working on his own fighting stand. From dilettante to frustrated, he eventually reached the balance he needs to engage into sparring situations.

That night, we did some cardio. The warm-up completed, we jumped into some groundwork, ne waza style. It was B.’s third class: his Gi was still rough and creased from the packaging. He had not sweat in it just yet, and got super excited to take part in the exercise. He did, with all his heart, eager to find how he was going to do facing a rainbow of more experienced belts. He gave everything he could, or so he thought. He started gasping for air and ran out of the mat to get water. I guided him on calming his breathing down, and invited him to the next sparring rotation. Same script: he pretended everything was fine, got overwhelmed and had to tap out. Back to the water-breathing ritual: almost typical.

Within our dojo environment, it is quite respectable to tap out: it does not mean anything, and it is rather recommended when one feels s/he cannot take it anymore. We only want to stay safe and respectful, so we can learn, grow and challenge our humility skills: recognise that our position was not the most appropriate in that instance, and adjust to be stronger and more solid any next time, reevaluating any previous judgement. This is everything but an admission of weakness. In a martial arts sparring situation, one cannot lie: it is just irrelevant to even try (I have tried… many years ago, and I learned).

In a work environment, although some rules might be slightly different from martial arts, I believe it is fine to say “ok, I was wrong.” A client of mine used to want to always be right, even when proven otherwise: his hierarchical position, apparently, had to look good. Well, sensed people cannot be fooled for long, and this client gradually lost credibility. The spiral dragged him to lose support and some respect from his audience. I had suggested him to tap out, get some air, and even water. He kept limping around, with a scratched ego, refusing to give up on the image he had built over time. Because, really: it is ok to tap out, it actually hurts less in the long run.

Photo credit © Olivier Borgognon Photography – “42.195km plus tard”