• Shihan Kendall

The Face of Strength (SPOILER: it's not a death glare)

"We confide in our strength without boasting of it.

We respect that of others without fearing it."

-Thomas Jefferson

If you’re a martial arts teacher, you better have strong hands. For punching and blocking, sure, but mostly because of all the people that want to try to pulverize your fingers with their hand shake.

The Bone Crusher is a common way a certain type of guy likes to greet me when I’m introduced to them as a martial arts teacher. The Puffer Fish is another, more alarming one (as an EMT I tend to get alarmed when someone suddenly swells up). And then there are the carefully-practiced tough-guy glares.

And these are just the people who want to be friends.

While I get a healthy dose of inside-giggles from the displays of men who want to establish from the get-go that they are tough guys, there’s something about these displays that really bums me out, too (and it’s not just my poor fingers).

As a person whose job description includes teaching young people what it means to be “strong” and “tough”, I get downright alarmed by how often toughness is confused with chest-thumping, and how often strength is confused with dominance.

When I tell someone new to our community what I love about our Dojo, it’s the attitude of the people. One thing I find myself saying often -- I quite likely said it to you when we first met -- is that I love how "no one is trying to be the toughest guy in the room." Quite the opposite. Walk into our Dojo for the first time, you’re going to be welcomed by a warm smile, to a bone-crushing shake. And the people behind those smiles? Trust me, they’re pretty damn dangerous.

That, my friends, is true strength. And our young ones are watching.

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