Differences in Cultural Principles

Many years ago, a mom of one of our students came to me with a complaint. We love complaints because if it is a concern for one person, then there are probably others who have the same concern but won’t discuss it or bring it to our attention. So, I asked her what was the problem.

“You are always telling the kids not to drink, smoke, do drugs or use vulgarity,” she said.

I smiled, listening patiently, waiting for the problem. She just stood there, like that was the problem. “So, what is your complaint?” I asked.

She was very annoyed, arms crossed and furrowed eyebrows, “Joey comes home from martial arts class last week and tells my husband and me that we should quit cussing, stop smoking, stop drinking and stop smoking pot. He keeps correcting our language now. We can’t have our son disrespecting us like that.”

I wasn’t even sure how to respond to this. But I think I did the best I could. I took her into the office so we could talk privately, “You’re right, he shouldn’t be disrespectful, and I will address that with him, but he loves you and is just showing that he cares.” Without pausing I continued, “And I’m sure even though you might use those things, that you would love for him to grow up free from the dangerous qualities of alcohol and tobacco as well as the negative effects, not to mention illegal aspects of smoking pot. Also, wouldn’t you rather he used more socially acceptable language than profanity?”

“Are you saying there is something wrong with those things?” she asked.

Now I was really at a loss. I was desperate and quickly referred to my old student creed. “Ma’am, as martial artists we make a vow specifically to never do anything that could reduce our mental growth or physical health. Pot, alcohol and tobacco are all scientifically proven to be bad for you and pot is illegal here. The use of vulgarity may have its place and be prominent in the entertainment world, but my lessons on using good language is just a matter of being a proper gentleman or lady. We encourage the students to behave in an honorable and noble manner. Is that not something you want for your son?”

That was it, she had enough and lit into me, “That’s the problem with all of you *insert unrecognizable profanity here*. You think that you are better than everyone else. There is nothing wrong with us making the choice to do those things and use whatever f***ing language we want and we don’t need some goody-goody telling us what we can and can’t do. And I definitely don’t need you to make my kid think we are bad people,” and she stormed out of the building, kid in tow.

So, maybe I could have handled that better, but I’ve had similar situations occur since then, and tried various things to defuse the situation and have failed in every attempt. I have learned that there is a contrast in cultures that sometimes arises as it did in this case.

The martial arts culture I grew up in, and live in today is like a bubble, a sheltered place where people are respectful, polite, hard-working, goal and success oriented with a passion for living life without compromising our ethics and principles. We constantly strive for excellence and we graciously accept our failures as important parts of what will help us to our eventual success.

On the other side of the coin, imagine being a member of a street gang who never uses profanity. You aren’t going to go very far if you don’t communicate in the way the others in your culture communicate. It’s not just acceptable, or expected, but preferred. Imagine being a motorcycle gang member who doesn’t drink. I’ve actually been told by a member of a motorcycle gang in our area that he doesn’t trust anyone who doesn’t drink and get high. Again, it’s not just acceptable, or expected, but preferred.

I’m not better than those people, they aren’t better than me. I just choose to live my life in a different manner than they do. At least I think it’s a choice, maybe it isn’t. Maybe we just reside in the culture we were raised in and never really move from that place of comfort. Unfortunately, even though I accept that their culture is no less legitimate than my own, in this particular area, I’m not willing to budge. I will continue to encourage my students to live their lives free from the potential dangers of drugs, alcohol and tobacco products, as well as to practice good mental and emotional hygiene and keep their mind and language clean.

Request information

Request Information Now!