When you are young, it’s the thrill of doing something that gets you doing many things. Dheeraj was about twelve, when he enrolled in the Karate Classes. Three days a week, two hours per day and a lot of kicking – he thought. Only after joining did he come to know that there would be absolutely no sparing (Karate equivalent to fighting), while he was in the white belt stage, which was the entry level for new joinees. It would be vigorous exercising for 45 minutes and Khatta practice for the remaining time. (A Khatta is like a dance. The steps, moves, punches and kicks are all done in a sequence – Orderly way). After about six months, Dheeraj at last entered the Orange III level. (White, Orange III, II, I, Brown III, II, I, Black I, II, III…. Is the sequence in which you progress. The colour of the belt is different for different schools of Karate). When you reach the Orange belt level, you are expected to spare (fight). Dheeraj was well built, quite tall and have an above average structure. So, he was eager to do this. There were four points one needs to score to win over his opponent. The point awarded, depended on the quality of the hit.
The first day of fighting was a disaster for Dheeraj. He had to fight a senior. Before he could move, there was a high reverse kick, which landed straight on his face. Blood. He had seen blood before, while playing many of the outdoor games. But this was different. The next class got only worse. This time he had to fight the Sempai (Master). But there was no blood this time, Only a few kicks and falling down. Of course, Dheeraj was on the receiving end always.
He felt this was unfair. He had just started to learn how to fight and straight away he was pitted against his senior and master. There was this uneasy feeling inside him as this continued for some more time. He could no longer be patient. He asked the Sempai – “Don’t you think this is unfair? Why don’t you let me fight the guys from my batch? I might be able to hit them better and score more points”
Rohini was very good in Mathematics. Her love for numbers and problem solving always reflected in her results. She always topped the class in mathematics. The interest and enthusiasm she showed in mathematics impressed everyone. It came naturally to her. She was always proud of her marks in mathematics. Her Social Sciences teacher, who was also her class teacher, was not all that happy as she was not doing well in other subjects. She called Rohini to the Staff room and wanted to know what was the problem in other subjects. Especially Social Sciences.
“Its so hard for me to memorize. I mean, look at maths. If I practice solving a particular type of problem, the formulae and the methods get registered automatically in my mind. But in Social Science, I have to force myself to memorize. I find it really hard to remember the events and especially the dates. I am not interested in them.”
The teacher was shocked. She was from a different country and a different way of teaching altogether. She was new to the ways of urban India.
“Is this the way all the students learn?”
“Most of them, yes”
“Why do you have to memorize the whole syllabus?”
“Because we want to get more marks. That’s how you win in life – getting more marks. And you get more marks by reproducing the text book word by word”
“What you learn out of those lessons are not important to you?”
“Not If we get good marks. As long as we keep getting good marks, how we get it and what we learn out of it, doesn’t really matter”
The Sempai (Karate Master) asked Dheeraj – “Why did you join Karate?”
“Because a lot of my friends did. Many of my neighbors are already in brown belt.”
“What do you want to learn in Karate?”
“I want to reach the highest belt possible, in the shortest possible time. I heard that Black X is the highest. Or is it the red belt?”
“So, if I offer you the black belt immediately, would you happily take it?”
“Why not? But you haven’t answered my question. Why do we have to fight with you and seniors, and not our own batch mates?”
“Since you are curious, Ill tell you. In Karate, we train you to hit in self defense. But more importantly, we train you to cope up with the pain inflicted by an opponent who may be much stronger and larger than you. Being able to get back to your feet, even if the opponent has landed a powerful punch on your face, and getting in position to fight back is more important than the most powerful punch you can deliver. Irrespective of your strength and skill, you can always expect your opponents to be better in Karate. You cant always keep winning in Karate”
Perhaps so in life, too.
“You can buy education. But not wisdom”