Talgos

TALGOS

The dojo door swung wide as the dark eyed stranger entered. With him was a companion, who, mirroring the attitude, expression, and posture of the dark eyed one, proclaimed to all he was a trusted student and disciple. The dark eyed one was Talgos, and his reputation fell like a shadow before him. I knew of rumors about a martial artist who came to the mainland from Hawaii and had "singlehandedly" shut down schools of instructors who failed to give him allegiance. Such strong arm tactics were rare in the martial arts, but, as does evil in all forms, they continue to survive, even in our "enlightened" era.

Talgos was a renegade proponent of Kajukempo, a powerful hybrid style (employing moves and techniques form Karate, Judo, and Chinese boxing) and he purported to be a master of Kung Fu.

A curtain of silence fell as he stalked into the room. He had invested years developing a mixture of body language and countenance which tugged hard at that loop of human consciousness which ties directly to the core of our being, wherein lie the base animal fears. He was dangerous, and as he passed, stillness and anticipation followed. There were clearly no limits to his audacity and what he would do to accomplish his objectives. Before he uttered a word, all knew that whoever crossed him would pay a terrible price.

I was visiting the school that particular evening. A friend, who was a student in the class, knew of my long time interest in the arts and invited me to the class to give my impressions about his Sensei. I met the instructor before class. His name was Blake Foley, and he presented as a gentlemanly thirty five year old with a slightly receding hairline. He was a daytime office worker, who managed to attain a Black Belt while stationed with the Army on Okinawa.

"I am a strict traditionalist. My students practice under the same code that I learned, under the same rigorous conditions."

He tried to impress me with his Bushido, but I could see as he moved during the early part of the class his stances were weak, his balance poor, and his technique, wanting. He weighed approximately one hundred sixty pounds, and stood to the level of my shoulders, approximately five foot eight inches tall. "He's terrific," my friend had told me, and with the innocence of the unknowing, believed all this gentleman had to say regarding the martial arts.

Talgos, entering, focused immediately on Blake. Like an eagle homing on its prey, the dark-eyed predator descended toward the front of the room.

He landed before Blake and turned to the class, "I am a master of Kung Fu. I am three times World Champion Full Contact Karate Fighting, and am in the Martial Arts Hall of Fame. I have worked with Bruce Lee, and with other masters. I am a ninth level Black Belt in Chinese Kung Fu, and a tenth dan in the Filipino stick fighting arts."

I was startled, perhaps even stunned. Rarely had I witnessed such an arrogant display, or such unmitigated lies. Certainly all present recognized he had grossly distorted the truth, conjuring up his own reality. Yet, all remained silent. Until that moment, I did not know what had brought him to our midst. Originally, I thought he was an invited guest, as was I. Now, I was witnessing a power play.

Talgos turned to Blake, "Who is your instructor?" Blake murmured some response to Talgos.

"How long have your studied? What right do you have to be teaching Kung Fu here?...Where are your credentials? Anyone who teaches Kung Fu answers to me. Did I say you could teach Kung Fu?"

He turned to the class, "I am a master, and it is my right to ensure the true heart of the martial arts is preserved and not watered down as it is being done here. I revoke this man's right to teach. From this moment, I am your teacher, and he is not. He'll do as I say, and you will learn what I teach."

I was witnessing this monster usurping the class of a lessor skilled martial artist. I knew his representations were false. Though I had heard his technique was powerful and his abilities genuine, it was certain he was never a champion and had never been nominated or elected to a Hall of Fame. He was lying about that, but no one had the courage to call his bluff...including myself.

If one freezes in the presence of such dark forces, where is the value in the years of training. The thought raced circles around my mind when I observed that Blake had finally regained control of his composure and declared to Talgos, "Sir, I am prepared to tell you who I am, and who my teacher is,...but first, I'd like to know who you are, who taught you, and where you are from." It was a poor effort to play turnabout with Talgos, and pushed him to flashpoint. Like an animal possessed, Talgos leaped at Blake, right hand grabbing Blake's neck, lifting him off the ground and pinning him to the wall. I scarcely believed what my eyes had witnessed. Talgos, who at first appeared to be about the same size and weight as Blake, suddenly had grown two feet taller, and fifty to sixty pounds heavier. The physical transformation confounded me. Did it really happen, or was I being victimized by my own hysteria?

Blake shook with terror, dangling by the neck from the wall. The students of the class stood motionless, perhaps hoping some miracle would undo all that was unfolding before them. The young ones were staring down at the floor...the adults, at Blake, in horror. I glanced at my friend and saw the glimmer of pained tears rolling down his cheeks.

With experience, a martial artist develops a special "eye" that enables him to "see" the skill of an opponent before the first blow is ever thrown. I "saw" that Talgos had generated tremendous power in a move toward Blake that was virtually flawless. I knew that I could not do likewise, and though I had never seen this man fight, was already sure that his skill was superior to mine.

"It's not your problem," I thought..."Leave before something ugly happens here, and you become involved." My years of training had give me a spectrum of built in alarms, all of which were ringing wildly at this juncture. Could I leave with the situation as it now stood? Could I walk out and abandon this stranger instructor for whom I now felt close kinship and great compassion?

As though reading my thoughts, Talgos turned and focused his burning gaze onto my eyes, "Do you have anything to say?"

Bitter day! The chalice had fallen into my lap before I could safely rationalize leaving. My escape was blocked. I held the gaze and carefully circled the dojo, walking to the headspace, when, as I approached, Talgos released the hold on Blake's neck, letting him drop to the ground gasping for air. As I closed, I vowed that whatever happened, Talgos would pay a price for targeting me. I knew that I could not exercise restraint against a force this powerful. My only hope would be to bar no holds, attack all targets, and seek to maim, kill, and destroy. By the time I stood before him, approximately four feet to his front, I was committed. I began, "It seems to me you're trespassing here. Quite obviously, whatever welcome you had when you came through the door has been exhausted. Clearly, the time has come for you and your friend to leave."

Talgos barked, "Are you telling me to lave? Do you intend to back up those words? Are you ready to pay the price?"

I held his stare with my eyes. It was like staring into a deep well. Though he appeared still and at ease, I knew instinctively that any moment, he could explode at me. I would be tested merely to react before going down. With an air of supreme, deliberate confidence, I turned to my friend, backed against the far wall, "John, this gentleman has entered the school uninvited, has offended our ideals, and has refused to leave when asked. Send someone to phone the police. We will need their assistance in managing this problem."

Talgos was visible impressed I had the wherewithal and discipline to move my gaze from his, completely turning my sight from his direction, without transmitting fear or uncertainty through the language of my body. This was a skill I had mastered through years of internal discipline and practice of bodily movements. As my eyes turned back toward him, someone left the floor to make the call. Talgos was beginning to lose control. Staring, I pointed at the nearest student and half jokingly instructed that he "run outside and jot down the license number of the vehicle our visitors came in, just in case (forcing a laugh), after my demise, the police needed to know the identity of my assailant." Behind the left shoulder of Talgos, I could see his associate becoming nervous, and his eyes darted back and forth between me and the front door. A siren sounded in the distance as Blake got off the floor and stood his ground, sporting a new found aura of confidence.

Talgos edged closer towards where I stood. I expected an attack at any instant, and in my mind, had already exercised strikes to his eyes, and vital organic areas as he commenced his attack. There would be no holding back. "What do you intend to do now, tough guy," he snarled at me.

"The way I see it, Sifu Talgos, is that one of four things will happen before we're finished...

First, I may defeat you in a fight. I should warn that if you make a move on me, I'll do whatever I have to do to end the encounter. If I beat you, it will only be after you have executed the first strike at me, as it is not in my art to ever attack another human. Undoubtedly, if I am able to overcome your technique, you will sustain serious injury, as my focus will be to destroy you. On top of that, when the police arrive, we will no doubt press charges against you and your colleague as trespassers and for creating a disturbance on the premises.

Second, and I probably should stress this is the more likely outcome, you will execute a surprise move similar to what you did earlier, and establish a sequence which will ultimately end in my defeat, but hopefully not my demise. Again, I must warn you that I will do whatever I have to do to slow, distract, weaken, destroy, resist or hinder your attack. Suffice it to say that if you make a move on me, I expect to make you pay dearly with a price that will permanently linger in your consciousness. Furthermore, if I lose after you attack me, you will have even more explaining to do to the police than with the previous outcome. Not to belabor the point, but I should point out I have a high paying job, and a house full of kids, all of whom rely upon me for their sustenance. If I am victimized by your brutality, I intend not only to press charges, but also to pursue you for those expenses and damages which I would be entitled to by law.

The third possibility is we will not fight, and you will continue to exercise your mental dynamics and power plays with me until the police do arrive, again, at which time we will ask they remove you from the premises, but only after Blake has had ample opportunity to report your physical assault on his person."

"And last?" taunted Talgos.

"Last...the last option would be for you to simply leave, and not ever return to this place...for I assure you...you are no longer welcome."

"I don't like you," Talgos growled, "We'll meet again..." Outside in the cool distance, sirens howled close by. To me it was like the spring breeze blowing after a storm, and came through the open door like a floating mantra. I knew they probably had nothing to do with what was happening at the moment between myself and Talgos, but their very sound heightened the tension of the moment, and tilted the politic to my corner. Talgos' companion was visibly agitated. There was silence once again, as when Talgos first entered. Talgos turned to his partner, "Let's get out of here. I don't want to deal with the police."

After he left, the dojo nervously returned to life. Blake had lost considerable face, and as my friend came toward me, he reached for my hand, shaking it enthusiastically while whispering,"I just want you to know I'm glad you came."

Blake was downcast, and said that he had no future if things like this were still happening in the modern world. I turned to Blake and told him that in all my years experience in the martial arts, I had learned only one hard and fast rule. I was a student. As time went by, I was becoming a better student. Some people were masters, but I was not one of them, and I did not want to be one. Some people called themselves teachers. Again, that was their choice. I was merely a student, and with luck, good fortune, and the grace of God, I would be a damned good student by the time my life drew to a close. I turned to Blake and suggested, "Maybe you should go back to being a student." Of course, you'd still be free to work with your class as a student among students, but your class wouldn't have to reckon with expectations of you and your abilities that quite possibly could prove to be unrealistic."

Blake smiled and responded, "I'm just going to have to think this through."

Author's Note:

The story of Talgos is completely fictional, but reflects actual situations I have witnessed or heard of during my long career. More importantly, Talgos is a metaphor for those challenges sure to come in every person's life when they are confronted by an overwhelmingly powerful antagonist, and have to take a stand. It could be against the school yard bully, an abusive spouse, or a tyrant supervisor, the challenge is always the same...if you don't rise to the oppressor, you become his victim. Underlying the story is the importance of strategy or "politic" in every crisis. My teachers were careful to emphasize every confrontation was steered by a "politic" and controlling this politic was precursor to controlling and ultimately overcoming the situation. Go back and revisit the story. See if you can trace how the protagonist finds a successful politic within the otherwise impossible challenge, and ultimately makes the entire stage dance to his tune before he is thru. A darned good dance indeed!

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