“Not at this time, no,” Sifu said and bolted off across the room to nothing in particular. The hasty departure struck me as a way to shut down any follow-up on my part, to avoid conversation, and therefore, confrontation. I learned a lifetime ago that “no” is a complete sentence. So though his unequivocal rejection of my request to borrow his key on my weekdays off momentarily made my eyes sting, I wasn’t planning on countering with an argument. If I had been, I simply would have gone into the office to talk to him again before leaving. But the thought didn’t cross my mind. I was too busy being angry and hurt.
Black sash teachers at the school don’t have to pay monthly fees anymore, and they have a key to the building. As an assistant teacher, I don’t qualify for either of these perks. This isn’t written in any martial arts manifesto or even in the school rules and regulations. In fact, the older teachers tell me that the founder of the school handed out keys to black sashes pretty freely.
While hitting up Siheng Steve for additional moves of the Pa Chi form, I was completely distracted by thoughts of how unfairly it felt like I was being treated, particularly since I “assist” for at least ten classes a month (all but one full-fledged teacher does eight classes at most).
What’s a dedicated kung fu lover and teacher – who’d like to win a tournament event or two this year – have to do to get a little extra practice time and space on the floor? I thought.
After wasting a bit more of Siheng Steve’s time, I put the petulant child in my head down for a nap and attempted to survey the landscape with an objective eye. The answer I arrived at pretty quickly was: nothing. There was nothing I could do to get what I need. The space is Sifu’s to manage, and he has his reasons for withholding. Perhaps all spare time must be reserved for our contender for the national team. Perhaps the man just doesn’t want to risk having someone else in the space when he might want to use it. If I were in charge, I’d likely feel the same way.
I’ve gotten so much better over the years at accepting what I can’t change or control, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. For now, I suspect this denial of a small favor may fuel the execution of my forms in an entirely new way. I certainly won’t have any problem with that.