May 22, 2011

Night of the Living Groupons

So, last Friday night we had arranged a special night of training - I was calling it 'Better Half' night, when all the guys were free to invite their "better halves" - wives, fiances, girlfriends (and family and friends, of course) to training for our 'Taijutsu Primer.'

I figured it was about time we create an opportunity for others who don't train regularly to gain insight into defending themselves and protecting others as well as perhaps see us and training a little differently. The plan was to introduce the Primer, setting up a grand experiment for all of us to test the durability of this contextual training. I didn't plan on training all night and figured we’d be across the street clinking margaritas before long (we eat tacos every Friday night after training - it's like a thing). The night was also to give opportunity to watch delivery of the concepts – important because I want the senior guys to have a firm understanding.

So, the plan, if there was any plan, was for a fun night all of us could remember, a night when we passed on the training to those we want to have it most.

And then a 'Groupon' happened. No, not a 'grope on' - a group coupon. For those living under rocks, on Mars, with earmuffs on, here's the Wikipedia entry:

Groupon (a portmanteau derived from "group coupon") is a deal-of-the-day website that features discounted gift certificates usable at local or national companies. Groupon was launched on November 2008, the first market for Groupon was Chicago, followed soon thereafter by Boston, New York City, and Toronto. As of October 2010, Groupon serves more than 150 markets in North America and 100 markets in Europe, Asia and South America and has amassed 35 million registered users.
The idea for Groupon was created by now-CEO and Pittsburgh native Andrew Mason. The idea subsequently gained the attention of his former employer, Eric Lefkofsky, who provided $1 million in "seed money" to develop the idea. In April 2010, the company was valued at $1.35 billion. According to a report conducted by Groupon's marketing association and reported in Forbes Magazine, which was reported by the Wall Street Journal, Groupon is "projecting that the company is on pace to make $1 billion in sales faster than any other business, ever".
Got it? Well, I didn't got it. 

When we showed up for training we found, like, 15 people waiting for their Groupon lesson - my Groupon lesson. Turns out the Center had signed up with Groupon to offer classes at - you're going to love this - a 95% discount where $1 gets you $20. And our little Bujinkan class was first to bat.

Read the Fine Print.
Now, granted, it would have been nice if someone had, like, let me know, or something. But, whatever - Banpen Fugyo! Ichi go, Ichi e! I only regret that I have but one life to - you get the point.

So, with around 30 people in the room, we quickly realized that our little Friday night get together just got real. This was not a punishment, it was an opportunity. See, almost all these new folks had zero experience - no training background whatsoever; this was to be their very first time. I thought that fortuitous. And before starting, I had a chance to go around the room, shake hands and chit chat - these were nice people. Clearly interested, they had spent their whole dollar to take a chance on what it would get them. It bought them time with me. And I gotta tell ya, I let'em have it. 

Who's here for martial arts training, I boomed at the room. They raised their hands. Great - we're not going to do that. They looked at me like, huh? Instead, we're going to look at what makes martial arts work.

Martial Arts weren't invented for self-defense, I said. For the last 100,000 years mankind has had a very effective form of self-defense ... it's called running away. Martial Arts were developed when we couldn't run away, when we had to protect others.

I told them this was easy, and natural, that they could already do it, and we were here to coach it out of them. We trained for about an hour - the room was raucous and exciting. With just a little coaching, these new folks - our better halves and our new friends - settled in. With a welcoming and respectful attitude, we had everyone moving with coordinated goals in short order. People who had never trained before were soon taking balance, gaining leverage, and downing partners with their maneuvering. Smiles were wide and laughter came easy - these folks were having fun and recognizing something no one had ever pointed out to them. And ... no one got hurt - always a bonus.           

After an hour, they were done - I could see the shift from enthusiasm, the quiet onset of fatigue signaling the brain is full. With everyone still smiling, still having fun, I brought it to a close -remember, less is more.

At the end, I told them this was a gift from us to them, but that it was now their responsibility, and it would not get better without training. I also told them it was their choice as to what they would do with it - would they use it to bully others or would they use it to prevent such? And I told them Jack Hoban's "Bully" story. 

We bowed out and thanked everyone for coming and they thanked us. Turns out, some are planning to come back. And if they do, that's great. They really were good folks.   

And then we gathered up our little group, now with few new faces, went across the street and had a taco.

Man, was it good.


Jason said...

I hope all works out well for you and your group.

Sean Ambrose said...

Hey James,
That sounded like a wicked good time! Excellent way to make the best of the opportunity!