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 oppression in all forms, they
continued to survive, even in our supposedly enlightened
and more civilized era.
Talgos was a renegade proponent of Kajukenbo, a powerful
hybrid style employing moves and techniques from 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 tied directly to the core of our
being, wherein lie the base animal fears. No doubt, he
liked to stare at goats. He was dangerous, and as he
passed stillness and anticipation followed. There were
clearly no limits to his audacity or what he would do to
accomplish his objectives. Before he uttered a word, all
knew that whoever crossed him would risk paying a
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 once
stationed with the Army on Okinawa.
"I am a strict traditionalist. My students practice
under the same code that I learned, under the same
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 flawed, his balance poor, and his technique
wanting. That’s not a judgment. Many Black Belts are
like that. It often takes decades for the art to refine
within a person. He weighed approximately one hundred
sixty pounds, and stood to the level of my eyes,
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 angled
directly 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
I was startled, perhaps even stunned. Rarely had I
witnessed such an arrogant display of such unmitigated
lies. Sadly, it had become more common. Liars
spinning their fabrications have all seemed to learn
that forgoing restraint made everything all the more
credible. Certainly all present recognized he had
grossly distorted the truth, conjuring up his own
Yet, all remained silent, some even impressed by his
audacity. Until that moment, I has no idea what brought
him to our midst. Originally, I thought he was an
invited guest, as was I. Now, I feared to be witnessing
a power play.
Talgos turned to Blake,
"Who is your instructor?" Blake murmured some barely
audible 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 license 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 stood 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 any Hall of Fame. He was lying
about that too, 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 head until I observed that Blake
had finally regained 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, where you are from, and why you are
here." 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 told me.
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 lining
his cheeks. “Can’t somebody do something,” he whispered.
With experience, a martial artist develops a special
"eye" that enables him to see the true 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 his skill could top mine.
"It's not your problem," I thought. "Leave before
something ugly happens here, and you get involved in
something that’s not your business." My years of
training had give me a spectrum of built in alarms, all
of which were ringing wildly at this point. Could I
leave with the situation as it now stood? Could I walk
out and abandon Foley, this stranger instructor for whom
I now felt close kinship and concern? If I did, how long
would it before the problem followed me to some other
though reading my thoughts, Talgos turned and focused
his burning gaze onto my eyes, "Do you have anything to
Bitter day! The chalice had fallen into my lap before I
could safely rationalize leaving. My escape now blocked
by ill fate. 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 leave? Do you
intend to back up those words? Are you ready to pay the
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, now backed against the far wall, "John,
this gentleman has entered the school uninvited, has
offended its ideals, and has refused to leave when
asked. He has already committed an act of violence.
Phone the police. We will need their assistance in
resolving this criminal intrusion."
Talgos was notably 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. Even
with experienced attackers, four feet separation could
just as well be a canyon. This was a skill I had
mastered through years of internal discipline and
practice of bodily movements. As my eyes returned to
him, John 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 she
better "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 leads on 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 firmly stood his ground, sporting a new
found aura of confidence. Now it was two against two.
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 vitals as he made his
move. Having a plan always came first. There would be no
holding back. "What do you intend to do now, tough guy,"
he snarled at me.
Recovering my distance, I answered, "The way I see it,
Sifu Talgos, is that one of four things will happen
before we're finished.
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 on me, as it is not in my
art to ever attack without provocation. 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
“Second, and I probably should allow 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 a dear price that
will permanently linger in your memory. I warn you. I
have the requisite skills. 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
criminal 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. It’s only
natural a restraining order will follow."
"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 here."
"I don't like you," Talgos growled, "We'll meet
again...," the threat all too obvious, yet not
unexpected. Its what bullies do. Outside in the cool
distance, nearing sirens howled. To me it was like the
spring breeze blowing after a storm, and came through
the open door like a welcome mantra. I knew they
probably had nothing to do with what was happening at
the moment, 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 lackey, "Let's get out of here. We don’t
need these guys."
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
impressions 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."
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 taught how 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 fine dance