Who would win in a fight between a samurai and a hippy? I suppose, as with the question of God’s existence, we can never truly know the answer. Why would I even propose such a conflict, you ask? Let me explain.
This year I started teaching jujitsu to my youngest son, who just turned five. Jujitsu, unlike watching too many cage fights might have you believe, is a fairly brutal martial art—one employed by the samurai, who were a fairly brutal lot. But polite too, oh they were considerate. I’ve read that before a battle they would burn incense inside their helmets so that—should their heads be taken in battle—they would smell nice for whomever ended up with those gruesome treasures. I guess they do have something in common with hippies: the love of incense. As any jujitsuka can attest, Japanese martial arts are studied in a rigidly formal manner (this formality varies from school to school, I’ll admit), a formality that I rarely encounter in my own American culture. Anyway, I feel it’s important to subject my son to this, and ask him, for an hour a week, to put aside his childishness (luckily he doesn’t know I can’t put aside mine).
The last class went particularly well: he learned to stand in a painful, leg-burning manner, to keep his GD tongue in his mouth, and to roll, slap, kiai, get up and repeat quickly all while I bark at him. I am far harder on him than I am on any other student. And as if the general sense of well-being that studying combat brings wasn’t reward enough, I buy him a donut if he listens and trains hard. Pretty much a win-win situation, I’d say.
We finish class, he devours said donut, and I stop at Reno’s finest head shop on the way home to pick up some incense to burn in my helmet next week. Inside, my boy and I discuss whether he has enough money saved to buy a sweet black light poster (that happened to coincide with my own religious and musical beliefs), and he doesn’t, but I say I’ll take all he owns and he can owe me. Cool. I’m proud of my boy: he’s falling out of tomoe nage, sitting seiza, meditating, and learning firsthand how Capitalism works all before noon.
We head for the register and my son sees the glassware gleaming from behind a beaded curtain, and like a seasoned stoner he beelines toward the shiny stuff. I can hardly blame the kid, right?
“Don’t go in there,” I say. When I’m in Reno’s finest head shop, I obey the rules. Out of respect, of course, not out of love for non-Japanese rules.
“It’s okay,” says the aging blonde behind the counter.
“He needs to do what I tell him,” I respond as politely as possible. He is my kid after all.
“Well, you know, they like see all that bling and they’re like ‘wow’”, she says, holding her hands up like two star fish and fixing her popping-balloon eyes on me. “The more energy you give it, man, the more they fixate on it.”
Now, I pride myself on striving to not be a complete asshole, so I smile, pay, and leave. I can’t combat stupidity and disregard for basic respect wherever I find it: I’d never get back from 7-Eleven (by the way, we drive on the right side of the road in America, even if you have a Slurpee in your crotch). But what I might have said to her was, “Shut up, hippy!” Does she even have kids? I doubt it. If she did she would probably know better than to tell me how to raise mine. If I don’t want my kid in the bong room, he doesn’t get to go in there, no matter how cool you are for flying in the face of house rules. Way to stick it to the man! And don’t tell me to mellow out because I won’t. I can’t; I’ve tried. A lot.
At least my five-year-old received an important takeaway from this affair: they probably play shitty music in Heaven.