by Jenifer Tull-Gauger

A while back, the mom of a karate student came to me with concerns that her daughter was not being given as detailed instruction as the boys.  I asked questions to try to get to the root of this issue.  She told me that she thought it was me giving the boys more individual attention than her daughter.  I could not agree that I, of all people, would favor students based on gender.  But I knew there was a reason for this mom’s observation.

After much thought, introspection, and soul-searching, I figured out why I might treat this student different from the others.  I learned from this.  You can learn from the root of this issue too.  It was not that she was a girl.  It was that she did not come to class presenting herself as a student ready to seriously learn.

All the other students in her class dressed as per the dress code: gi pants, gi top or dojo t-shirt, belt, no jewelry, and bare feet.  The young lady in question, however, came to class and lined up 80 percent of the time with a necklace, bracelets, watch, tights, or other clothes sticking out from under her uniform.  I asked her repeatedly to remove the jewelry; disrupting the class and her own learning.  When she would rush in at the last minute wearing tights, I did not ask her to remove them, figuring that if she had to go change, she would miss most of the warm-up.

I thought back to other students’ accessories.  In the past I have been bemused to see students wearing long sleeves and even jeans (jeans!) under their uniforms.  I have had repeat offenders who seem to forget to remove their jewelry every time they attend class.  I have had people who claim a strong preference to wearing a special piece of jewelry, for various personal reasons, despite the risk of damaging it or themselves.

I realized that yes, I do see these students differently.  Apparently I teach them differently too.  If you come to class as per the dress code, symbolizing your open mind, ready to seriously learn, I’m going to seriously teach you.

If you come with various memorabilia clinging to your person, you are telling me you are just going through the motions of a karate student.  You are not really willing to focus on your class time or train hard.  It’s difficult for me to teach you seriously when you, by appearances, don’t take your own training seriously.