When I was in college, my psychology professor told us there was no definition for love in our textbooks. This was the very first minute of his class in Pysch 101, and I cannot recall if he even explained why. If I were to guess today, it is that not all things are quantifiable by science. Looking at a definition of love, we see the following: affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness. In short, I see love as a feeling where two or more people resonate over their similitude. Not unlike the Hindi greeting of “namaste”, or recognizing the divine in you. People want to be known, accepted, and loved.
In order to be known, it helps to know oneself first. It is the very first thing we tackle at White Tiger Dojo. Self-knowledge leads to self-control and self-control leads to a life filled with more harmony and less conflict. Coincidentally, it also leads to being easier to love.
Love is something we do not talk about much in the dojo, but we do express it often. Anyone stepping on the mat, that is comfortable with hugs, will naturally gravitate towards me, the assistants and each other for a hug of acknowledgement that they are “home” with their martial kin. This happens at the beginning of most classes, but can inevitably become a big group hug at the end of a class. We also express love of what we’re doing through rigorous and cooperative teamwork to solve the problems of physical conflict.
To be accepted, we express our love and joy for learning about conflict with an exercise we call “See, Say, Do: Ask, Tell, Yell”. This is an exercise where two people, who like and respect each other, inhabit characters of con artists, sneaks and wrong-doers so that their partner learns to visually, vocally and physically protect themselves from their “attacker”. Then the roles are reversed and the challenge is reciprocated. Typically they end with a bow and usually a hug of affirmation. Our students recognize that conflict and empathy are two sides of the same coin and in order to be a good student, they must understand both perspectives.
At the end of the day we end up learning about ourselves and loving ourselves a little bit more through the educational lens of conflict. Seeing yourself in the long and tall mirrors on the wall and through each other’s eyes builds respect, knowledge and a strong bond of friendship that only insiders would blush at when outsiders recognize their love.