Had an interesting experience at cutting practice in the Kudanshita Dojo this evening. I arrived about 8:30, changed out, and hit the floor to practice and help teach. The first class ended about 10ish I think, then the second class started. Mostly the same folks; a few went home, a couple new people joined.
One of the guys, whom I shall call Racist Ass ("RA"), was cutting on the center stand and not succeeding too well. It was quite obvious what he was doing wrong, so after several minutes of struggling and not seeming to understand what he was doing incorrectly, I approached him and give him a word of advice, as is both my tendency and my responsibility, being the senior ranked instructor on the floor. He casually waved off my advice in a way I considered fairly rude, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt; many people would rather struggle through figuring it out themselves. So I stepped back and let him whack away. Elvis mentioned to me that this was the racist guy who doesn't like advice from non-Japanese, and I recalled being told about the kid.
I've been living in arguably the single-most homogeneous and xenophobic country the world has ever seen for nearly 15 years, so I wasn't too frazzled by him.
Later in class, Elvis was cutting and RA walked right behind him, to the other side of the room, and started putting bits of cuttings into a trash bag. That was just plain dangerous and stupid, and I immediately confronted him.
The setup: he was squatting on the floor, scooping small bits of trash into a bag. I was standing in front of him. It is also important to note that I outrank him, significantly. This is important not because I like to throw my call-me-sensei weight around (in fact this is the first time I have ever done so), but because while it is perfectly acceptable for me to speak to him using both informal and casual language, it is completely unacceptable for him to use anything other than formal, polite language when addressing me directly, on the dojo floor, during practice, and not having any personal (aka friend) relationship whatsoever. (Even Elvis knows to address me, in Japanese, in the dojo, during training, with the correct formal polite Japanese, though he can call me his beotch if he speaks English.)
In fact, in accordance with proper old-school tradition (like if we were at the main Honbu Dojo, or if Gosoke were around), he would be required to sit formally in seiza when I addressed him.
me: "Heah, you can't just walk behind someone like that when they're cutting, it's dangerous."
RA: [doesn't look up from his trashbag] "I checked that it was safe."
me: "You what? Who are you? A shihan? Some kinda expert?"
RA: "Shihan..."[chuckles, still looking down]
me: "Yo, do me the courtesy of LOOKING at me when I address you, huh?"
RA: [looks up at me with the best evil-eye he can muster]
me: "Are you listening to me?"
RA: "I hear you."
me: "Wise-ass, I asked if you are LISTENING to me, or do you just hear the sounds I am making?"
RA: "Yeah, I'm listening."
me: "Get changed and leave. And I don't ever want to see your face again. Leave. NOW."
At this point Moriya-san and Sakaguchi-san also chimed in and told him to get changed and go home. Sadly, my feeble English translation does not even begin to describe the utter contempt and smugness practically steaming off of RA.
The funny thing is, though the racism generally pisses me off, what really got me was his blatant disregard for both safety and the fundamental respect system inherent in Japanese martial arts.
Maybe he felt only a Japanese person can properly convey the finer nuance of Japanese martial arts, maybe he just don't like the White Man; I don't know and don't care. And I find it sad that he will never, ever learn a single thing about any legitimate Japanese martial art, ever. For his attitude is the absolute embodiment of everything that the arts do not stand for.
On the surface a traditional Japanese martial art appears to prize and favor appearance, formal etiquette, and show over substance. But the fact is: it does not matter how old you are, what sex you are, what country you come from, what color your skin is, what gods you worship, how much money is in your bank account or who signs your checks or anything. All that matters is what you have achieved in the art; the art, and your accomplishment in it is everything.
So I find it generally sad that this kid, who probably thinks he's some purist Japanese national with great pride in His Country and His People and His Traditional Arts, simply and fundamentally does not understand the first thing about what makes Japanese martial arts so wonderful.
But even beyond all that, I don't care if you are the emporer himself; you do something that I consider dangerous in my practice when we're swinging live blades, and you don't listen to me when I call you on it, you are out. End of discussion.