White Belt class at the Spring Branch DoJang

 

The DoJang is our temple.

Keeping our training hall clean and functional requires a lot of effort - ideally, all students should be involved…

But this rarely happens.

Grandmaster teaches us that maintaining the DoJang is an important part of our training. He tells us that martial arts is much more than just kicking and punching. Technique without discipline is dangerous. The mind must be trained as well as the body.

But it is usually the same group of folks that does most all of the work.

Grandmaster reminds us of the meaning of the bamboo pictured on our system patch; humility, honesty, purity, loyalty, and sincerity. Without these, he tells us, the best technique in the world can turn on the practitioner and lead to self-destruction.

But still, not all students avail themselves of this opportunity to be of service and to learn an important lesson.

This has always frustrated Grandmaster because he knows that herein lies the key to becoming a better martial artist. His main goal has always been to produce 'true' martial artists, balanced in both mind and body, to carry the system forward.

Maybe it's an "American" thing? Students think, "I pay to train! I shouldn't have to sweep and clean!"

Grandmaster knows that students with this kind of attitude are only sabotaging themselves. The work gets done and many reap the benefits of a deeper understanding. Others can not see the point - which is the point!

A well known organizational dynamic states that "20% of the people do 80% of the work." This seems to be true, even in the DoJang.

Grandmaster can only take us so far, and I know he gets tired of having to bring this up over and over. But a wise teacher must repeatedly remind us to look within.

Those that hear him are the better for it.

Those that don't will never understand.

The Patchwork Monk

by Frank Jaubert (From a parable told by Grandmaster Kim Soo)

The merchant stood outside the temple yelling, "Send out the monk! I want Tae-an! Tell him I wish to speak to him!"

A passerby, puzzled by this behavior, makes a suggestion, "Sir, why don't you go into the temple to see the monk?"

"Because I am too mad! I can not say what I have to say in a holy place!" Turning back to the temple, "Send out Tae-an! I need to speak with him!"

At that moment Tae-an appeared in the door to the temple. Arms spread wide in supplication, "Brother merchant, you wanted to see me? Be quiet, I am here."

As Tae-an comes down the steps, the merchant comes up to meet him halfway.

"There you are! Dressed in rags again! I'd heard as much!"

"This has nothing to do with my robe," says Tae-an.

"Ah, but it does! Why do you prefer to wear rags when I have given you such a fine robe? A robe of whole cloth. A beautiful robe I had made just for you. Why do you choose to insult me? Why…"

Tae-an holds up his hands for quiet, "Be at ease my brother. Walk with me while we talk about this."

Together they turn and head down the steps, walking in silence towards the town. But it is easy to see that the merchant is having a hard time containing himself…

He breaks the silence, "Why do you insist on wearing rags?"

Tae-an stops walking and turns to face him, "I do not wear rags, perhaps you should look closer at my garment and tell me what you see."

"We've been over this before! What I see is an old, tattered robe that embarrasses me!"

"Is that all you see?" asks Tae-an, "Perhaps you can look closer."

"I see hundreds of pieces of cloth patched together to form the whole."

"What else do you see?" asks Tae-an.

"No more! I am growing tired of this game!" he says, "I have bought you a fine robe, one befitting of your station, one you should be proud to wear…"

"One that you would be proud for me to wear?" Tae-an asks.

"What? What do you mean?"

"I will tell you, but first you must look even closer at the robe I wear and tell me more about what you see."

The merchant grumbles to himself, but he knows that the only way through to the end of this is to do as Tae-an asks, "Yes then, one more time…"

"I see scraps of cloth, each different. Some fine, some course, some smooth, some rough. All have been sewn together in a crazy patchwork because none had a piece big enough to make a whole robe."

"Is that all you see?" asks Tae-an.

"What more is there to this? I buy you a fine, expensive robe. One you should be proud to wear, and yet you insist on wearing this patchwork that embarrasses me.

"And why would you, such a rich and famous businessman, be embarrassed by anything that I, a simple monk, would do?"

"Because I represent, that is, you represent this town." He says, "People look to our temple and our Monk to see what we are made of! It is not fitting that we have such a fine temple and that you look like a beggar!"

"This fine robe you have given me," Tae-an asks, "It was at great personal expense?"

"Yes it was, but I can afford it. It's important to show the world the kind of town we have here."

"My robe, it was a great sacrifice then?" asks Tae-an.

"Of course not! I am perhaps the richest merchant in town. I know how to dress!"

"And so, the robe I am wearing now," asks Tae-an, "what does it say of this town?"

"It says that we could not afford whole cloth for our Monk and that you must depend upon the donation of scraps to make a robe!"

"And where did these scraps come from?" asks Tae-an.

"I'm sure that they came in bits and pieces from people all over the town," answers the merchant, "each giving what he could."

"Because?"

"Because none had much to give. Cloth is expensive, as I well know."

"And what sacrifice was this to them?" asks Tae-an.

"Probably great. What peasant has cloth to give away? Anyway why should they sacrifice themselves when I have given you…" suddenly he stops to think.

"Wait! This is what you've been trying to show me, isn't it?"

"What is it you see?" asks Tae-an.

"Your robe! It represents the sacrifices of many. Each scrap was important, a bit they could ill afford to part with." said the merchant, "But they did anyway, because… Because it was the only way they could contribute to the temple."

"It was all they had to give." adds Tae-an. "You have already admitted that the robe you gave me was no real sacrifice."

"Yes, I am beginning to see…" said the merchant.

"And what of pride?" asks Tae-an.

"I suppose each should be proud of his contribution."

"And your pride?"

"Yes, I was proud, and I wanted all the world to see what I was able to contribute. I see this now. It wasn't for you as much as it was for me."

"Good, my brother," says Tae-an, "so, summarize for me all that you have learned."

"I now see the sacrifice of many in the robe I thought was only rags. My pride blinded me. There are finer robes, for sure, but that is not the point. The robe you now wear is more important, by virtue of the true spirit of each scrap of cloth that makes it whole. It's meaning is far deeper than just it's appearance."

Tae-an can only smile and nod politely. Perhaps the point has been made.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The next morning, the merchant is again outside the temple yelling…

"Send out the Monk! I must speak to him!"

Behind him a crowd has gathered. They seem to be having great fun, pointing and laughing.

Tae-an appears in the doorway, "Not again. Please, I thought we had finished all this yesterday…"

But this time it is the merchant that raises his hands for silence.

"Tae-an, you have taught me a valuable lesson." He says, "I must now ask a favor of you."

Reaching into his pocket, he withdraws a piece of cloth and presents it to Tae-an with a bow.

"Please Master, I would be greatly honored if you could add this to your robe. Make no mistake, it is a fine and expensive piece of cloth. For me, no great monetary sacrifice. But a great sacrifice non-the-less."

Tae-an was puzzled at this. How could this be both a sacrifice and a non sacrifice at the same time? Then the merchant bows and turns to go…

It is then that Tae-an notices that the piece of cloth he has been given was cut from the seat of the merchants pants.

Copyright (C)1999 by Frank Jaubert, Houston Texas. All rights reserved.