Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cheap Therapy

I have been battling against the tidal wave of technology.  I'm lucky that my cell phone can make phone calls AND text.  The idea of blogging, and scheduling time to do so, made my head ache.

But, here I am.  Typing away.  Why?  And why now?

So the saying goes: "I am woman, hear me roar."  When I have a problem or frustration, I need to talk it out.  Not necessarily to come to a solution (much to the chagrin of my husband), but to release emotion .  Apparently, this is just the way it is when you come from Venus.  So I've heard, it isn't this way on Mars.  Not so recently, I started thinking that my Martian needs a break.

I teach martial arts, and while I love that I have made martial arts my life, it is emotionally charging and draining.  I have 100-some pseudo-children (in the martial arts world, this also includes adults) over whom I am concerned.  I have my hands in their education; physical, mental, and spiritual well-being; social and moral values; future planning; and successes and failures.  They are not just students; they are part of my "family".  As such, I am emotionally vested in each and every one of them.

My world revolves around martial arts and my students, and my mind is constantly evaluating, planning, scheduling, scheming, re-evaluating, and screaming.  Screaming?  Yes, screaming.  And here we start getting to the answer of why I'm blogging, and why now.

Martial arts has been a part of my life since I was 10.  I grew up in martial arts.  As any psyscho-therapist would suggest of most children, they are affected not only by their family environment but by their social environment as well.  My views, opinions, character, personal and external expectations, dedication, and personality have all been affected by my experiences in martial arts. 

I would categorize most American youth as having been formed by three cultures: familial, social, and Western.  While "Western" is really a part of familial and social influences, I think it is necessary to be clear about the insinuated behaviors attached to these cultures.  There are some families who are very close to their heritage and therefore have other cultural influences as well: Greek, Italian, Indian, for example.
I have been formed by my family, my social interactions, my being born into Western living, and Eastern philosophy.  To an extent, my social interactions highly revolved around the martial arts, therefore I would give a 50/50 split of how much Western social influence I had compared to Eastern social influence.  While I do not begin to proclaim that I am the end all and be all of Eastern behavior, I am a product of the parts of that culture to which I was exposed.  I have had nearly 30 years of having these cultures ebb and flow through my actions and thoughts; they are a part of me.  As an adult, I have come to an understanding of how these cultures have affected me through the years.  My students, however, are still children and are at the beginning stages of this Eastern influence.  In this generation, though, there is even another culture vying for influential space.

I do not believe that I am the only person to realize that there is a growing gap between the Western Culture that I grew up in to the Western Culture that is mentoring today's children (back in MY day we walked to school in the snow in our bare feet both ways!).  I use "mentoring" on purpose here, as with the continual exposure to technology, and therefore a vastly greater social environment, today's kids have a lot of more input into their development.  Even adults have a lot more social environment input these days from how "best" to raise their children, what fads on healthy eating and living, gossip over which star fell off of his/her pedestal.  With the growing differences in our Western generational cultures, we, as martial arts instructors, have come to a new hardship: bridging the gap not only between Eastern and Western cultures but between Western and Digital Western cultures as well.

My grandmother, now 92 years old, tells me all the time that my generation is not as strong as hers.  Her generation was at a time when physical labor was the majority of the workforce.  And while I hate to admit to it, as I sit here for hours in front of what she calls the "dummy machine", she's right.  Advancements in technology have done wonders, and I am thankful, but at what costs to our own well-being?  Are we becoming the future "dummy machines"?

I am certainly not name-calling here, and I do not believe that the people of the world are intellectual inferiors.  I am simply referring to the growing standard of "need to know" living.  I don't "need to know" where Canada is, I can look that up on my smart phone.  I don't "need to know" the history of the United States, I can look that up on Wikipedia if I'm interested, besides, that's the past, who cares?  I don't "need to know" how to subtract numbers in my head, my phone has a calculator or the cash register will do the math for me.  (Or, if you were lucky enough to have an experience like I did, have the clerk forget to punch in the exact change you managed to scrounge from your wallet during the transaction then use her cell phone to recalculate the correct change because it was faster that way.)

I seem to be fighting this "Clash of the Cultures" on a daily basis: inside and outside of the dojang.  In the dojang, it rears its ugly head through (not an exhaustive list): apathy, mediocre effort, increased immaturity, and mastery of mimicry.  Again, don't get me wrong, not all students demonstrate all of these traits; however, a majority demonstrate one or a combination of them, and all affect the future ability to succeed in martial arts and in life.  These are extremely difficult learned behaviors to contend with when my time with students is limited.

"Need to know" is killing our sense of "why".  In essence, it is dampening our ability to understand...anything.  Even in the corporate world, understanding is being replaced by "hit the ground running" tactics.  My last job was with a company that was growing in work very quickly yet losing employees at nearly the same speed.  I was given a job to answer emails from clients; however, I was given no information on "how" to answer questions.  When I asked for information, I was given exact answers, not how to logically progress to an answer.  Each time a similar question came up, I had to ask for help again and again; I had no basis on which to form any kind of answer with which I felt secure.  Of course the managers felt stressed - they were constantly interrupted.  I'm assuming that many employees felt the same as I did - lost and inept.  So they left, just as I did.

If I am honest with myself, I consider myself to be of average intelligence.  I like details.  In  my mind, it's all about the details whether I'm writing a document for classes, creating a gift, or practicing a form.  I am constantly rethinking how to do tasks to make them better.  I like to understand how to solve problems so that I don't need to ask for help.  I like to help others understand how to solve problems so that they don't need to ask for help.  It's not about ego... I call this "learning".  As a side effect comes "efficiency".

So therein lies my frustration.  Digital Western culture is equalizing familiarize and learn, dabble and skill, mediocrity and excellence, apathy and dedication.  All those traits that I have worked so hard to gain, that have been so valued by my family, martial arts family, and my employers, that have helped me to persevere through life's battles, are being trivialized and negated.

There is no easy answer to this cultural dilemma.  It is not easy to watch happen to our students.  It is not going away any time soon.  But here I am... and I'm thinking here are others, too... trying to build a bridge across an ever-increasing gap.

Enter the blog.  You can call it virtual screaming.  I call it cheap therapy. 

Don't complain! Remember: you picked the lock!