When I walked in the door last night, I bowed to the room, took off my coat and shoes, slung my sword over my shoulder and headed for the basement… right behind the beginner class just back from break that I should have been teaching. Sifu was covering for the missing green sash instructor, and I bowed to him as I passed. He returned it with a smile. It was a smile I’d seen before and precisely the kind I would have expected to get from him upon telling him of my tournament win. It was a smile of genuine happiness mixed with a hint of pride.
I was there, head held high, despite the devastating dressing down on Tuesday. I was there at a time that required I face the teacher who’d replaced me, knowing they’d been told of my removal. And Sifu appeared to be happy about that, though I certainly didn’t do it for him.
Once downstairs, it did my heart good to see one of my favorite students not only light up when he saw me but lightly clap his hands and hop up and down a couple of times. I winked and smiled at him without saying a word and took a spot in the corner to stretch and warm up.
I noticed Sifu come downstairs while I was practicing front and back sweeps as far out of the way of the class as I could manage. His presence in the basement meant he’d left a bunch of sparring pre-teens to their own devices. I’d never seen him do that before. It made me wonder if he’d come down just to make sure I wasn’t lending my two cents to the class. I know that’s paranoid, but at this point, looking over my shoulder seems appropriate.
I can’t wrap my brain around all this, try as I might. The more hours that pass, the more I find myself feeling sorrier for him than myself. If I hadn’t angered him with my comment about his reaction (or lack thereof) to my win, I might never have known that he’s considered it disrespectful every time I’ve taken whatever empty space was available to practice staff while another class was going. Never mind that the sanshou instructor has explicitly told me I’m welcome to practice in the empty space during his class; never mind that Sifu himself has told his tai chi students to move down and give me room when I’ve come looking for it. Sifu’s explanation is that it was easier to just make room for me then to call me out in front of a class and embarrass me with an order to move. It was easier to just avoid conflict.
What conflict? I didn’t even know we had one! When I have a conflict, I say something so it can be resolved as quickly as possible – which is exactly what got me into this mess. Call me crazy, but I don’t like to be uncomfortable if I think I can do something about it. I don’t understand preferring to stew. It seems like such a waste of potentially precious moments in a life that’s doesn’t last forever. And I refuse to be robbed willingly. After all, I’m a black sash in kung fu!