A Teacher's Staff
December 14, 2010
A brash young warrior on patrol in the woods meets a teacher along his path. The warrior all polished and stiff, the teacher, relaxed and time worn.
Amid the conversation the warrior shows off his staff. Straight and true, polished and gleaming a sight to be seen. "This is my staff. With it I had conquered many soldiers. I once even knocked a General from his horse". The teacher smiled pleasantly and told him that was nice.
The young warrior clearly annoyed that the teacher wasn't impressed. "What about you "Teacher" your staff cannot even be considered a stick.
The teacher calm and serene looked at the staff in hand. A smile crossed the teacher’s countenance. A glimmer in the eye. "Warrior, your staff is truly a sight to see. It means much to you as much as my staff means to me. As pleasing to the eye as any weapon could be. But with such sight, sadly you do not see"
The warrior shifted uneasily not sure what this teacher could mean. Surely this couldn't be an insult from such a person.
The teachers smile gleamed as eyes viewed the crooked stick. Heavy on one end thin on the other. Knots and burls and lines galore. Though hardly possible the smile gleamed some more.
"Young warrior your staff is a tool to you nothing more, to me, you see a staff is not a weapon or a tool it is... something more. A tome filled with lessons, a box overflowing with tools. It is a thing to be cherished."
The teacher eased down to the ground leaning on the staff. Settling on a stump. The warrior glances around nervously then sat, stiffly with his back against the tree. Looking at the staff and this teacher with curious eyes.
Down at the base where the staff is thin there were traces of bark. Some brown, some green and other places worn away. As he looks towards the top there are knots and bends, rough spots and smooth. At the top where the staff was thickest was a word UPKUDO etched into the oak. Darker spots looked as though fire had licked the words. The warrior, no fool knew of the style, but nothing of its people.
The teacher pointed at the bark. "This reminds me of my students. Raw and unfinished. As a teacher I shape and mold my young charges stripping away bad habits, teaching them the ways of martial arts. The wood itself starts out green, reminding me to always stay green, thus always growing in knowledge and wisdom"
The warrior nods understandingly.
As the teacher points further up the staff dark spots are noticed. "These spots represent doubt that a student has. With time they fade and become part of the mosaic that is the students’ life".
The warrior thinks back to his own training and of the bumps and bruises he'd received. How he can now push past the things that once stopped him cold.
"The bends and curves represent the path. Not straight and true but curved and angled. Sometimes you must go around; other times you cut an angle. In essence creating and finding the opening". The teacher continues. "These knots and bumps represent the challenges of being a teacher, from finding ways of teaching to the parts that make continuing seem as though you must climb an insurmountable hill. They represent strength, motivation, frustration and yes even the mundane things like money and shelter. These knots though not worn smooth become strong points, where wisdom can overcome adversity. The grip you see is worn smooth. It is the support, not just of students, but of friends and family. It can represent the love that God gives us in everyday things"
The warrior, now clearly impressed with this unassuming teacher looks eagerly and begs "tell me more".
"The top of you is firm and true yet slightly dark and scorched, tested by fire. Is this fire combat, tournament or lessons only for my eyes? This is my staff and it supports me and I in turn support it.
The warrior ponders this for a time as the teacher closes tired eyes.
After a time the teacher talks this time not of the staff as it is but as it can be used. "My staff is a weapon much as yours yet mine serves so many more purposes. As I travel it supports me, letting me rest my weary back. As dark nears I use my staff to get things that would be out of reach. My staff is used to support my shelter to protect me from the night air and rain. To ward off animals that might wish to do harm. When at home, I can use my staff to plant vegetables, tie a string and add a hook and a fishing pole appears or even carry a heavy load with the weight distributed across my shoulders".
With that the teacher pulls up on the staff regaining feet on a solid ground. The soldier knowing that this lesson must come to an end smiles and reaches out his hand. Grasping the teachers warmly and says "friend you are wise, perhaps when you pass this way again we can talk some more?"
The teacher smiles and says responds "yes my student that will be your next lesson”
William Blanton, Black Belt Instructor Lafayette Community Center