I started martial arts training in Sacramento at “Arden Way’s Self Defense School of Karate” in the early 1970’s, under Hanshi Bruce Juchnik. And I loved it from day one. Martial arts schools back then were quite different from how they are now, at least mine was. Although Hanshi Bruce was an excellent instructor (he still is), the school was a little….”rough around the edges”. It attracted an interesting crowd. Let’s just say it wasn’t a real child friendly environment. I could be wrong, but it seemed like the majority of students were macho, tough-guy, adult males in their twenties.
At the top of the food chain was a guy named Steve. I wouldn’t necessarily call him mean-spirited, but he sure did like to have his presence felt during sparring class. Off the mat he was the ringleader, but on the mat he was the guy everyone was afraid to get paired off with. Fortunately for me, I was too young and little to pose any threat to him, so he always took it easy on me.
Steve was also a guy who loved to give people a hard time. I wouldn’t necessarily call him a bully, but if you were wearing a funny shirt, or had spinach between your teeth, he was going to tell you about it. For that matter, he would tell everyone about it.
Despite his external bravado, I always looked up to Steve and believed him to be a good guy. Burned into my memory banks forever is one incident that really helped to solidify this belief. One day, a bunch of us were sitting the lobby after an inter-school tournament. Because the karate school shared it’s entrance with a beauty salon, we would frequently see ladies coming and going. These ladies were often the subject of inappropriate comments. On this particular day, an elderly lady approached the door. She was hunched over, using a walker and moving slow. Upon seeing this, one of the guys begin to point and snicker. When Steve saw him doing this, he gave the guy a look that said “Don’t you dare”. He then proceeded to open the door, kindly great this lady and help her find her way….and he did so in a manner that would make any Boy Scout proud.
It doesn’t sound like much, but what I saw I will never forget. Here was this strong, leader of the pack guy, who also knew how to be kind.
Since then, I’ve witnessed this behavior many times from from similar types of people. To me, it’s proof that strength and kindness do go together. As a matter of fact, they are a winning combination.
Thanks Steve. Your actions that day made a positive life- long impression on me.