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 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 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 fighting arts."
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 reality.
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 place?
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 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 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, 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.
“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 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 premises.
“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 indeed!