It was Friday night and the class was full. Over in the far right corner of the dojo, two students were giving each other a hard time, and I knew this was going to upset Sensei. Sure enough he growled at them a couple times telling them to lighten up, but if anything they only became more aggressive. Finally Sensei had had enough and he called the class to a halt.
“Go to the front of the room,” Sensei said to the two aggressive students. “I want you to perform for the class.” Once they got there Sensei turned to the rest of us, gave a wink, and said “Now let’s see which one of them is better than the other.” He then told them to perform a specific sequence of moves.
Immediately, it looked like they were involved in a mud wrestling contest rather than Aikido. Both of them moved awkwardly, neither one of them had good footing, and it was hard to discern who was the attacker and who the defender.
After a couple minutes of watching, Sensei told them to stop and sit, as he moved to the front of the room. “There are so many things wrong here it’s hard to know where to begin,” he said. “The two of you perform as if you were identical twins. You look alike and have the same bad habits. I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me you grew up in the same household.”
“The first point that sticks out is that both of you act like righteous victims. Acting as if you’re better or more correct than the one who’s attacking you. With the mind of a victim, you’re focused on getting attacked, rather than correctly focusing on nothing in particular. As I’ve tried to tell you many times before, you energize and strengthen whatever you focus on. So with your focus on the attack, you make the attacker stronger than he’d normally be. Needless to say this leads to your self-fulfilling prophecy of performing poorly.”
“Next,” Sensei said, “Convinced you’re not as good as you think you should be, you set about proving your various dojo partners are even worse. When attacking neither one of you attacks correctly. In fact, you both usually do the opposite of what you’re supposed to do. When a specific technique calls for the attacker to overextend themselves by leaning forward, both of you under- extend and wind up leaning backwards. This makes the called for response to the attack more or less impossible to perform. You’re not proving the incompetence of your partner, you’re only proving how foolish you are.”
“The last point I want to make for today is the following. It’s amazing and sad to watch how strongly both of you critique each other, while at the same time neither one of you seems to have the ability to properly critique yourself. You each strive to increase your self-image, by demonstrating how much more you know in comparison to your partner. You both have a strong desire to prove the other person wrong, as a way of proving yourself right. This leads me to understand that both of you have little self-confidence, and low self-esteem. Not only is neither one of you learning anything by practicing, you’re instead strengthening the bad habits and lack of self-confidence you both had when first entering the dojo. I ask you now to bow and apologize to each other, bow and apologize to the entire class, and then please leave. Don’t bother to come back again unless you’re ready to change your mindset and cooperate.”