Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Be Nice

You wouldn’t think of that advice as relating to martial arts, but indeed, that is what the teacher taught us this morning. Oh yes, and also be generous and be patient.


All true, as the teacher proceeded to demonstrate. On me. For thirty minutes.

Be Nice

If I made any sort of aggressive move towards the teacher, I found myself immediately in a disadvantageous position. Force equals defeat. Got it. He was always nice.

Be Generous

If I wanted to move in a certain direction or occupy a certain space, the teacher yielded and quickly moved into unclaimed space, again to my disadvantage. He would smile and say something like “Oh, you want this space? Okay take it.” He was always generous.

Be Patient

If he took hold of me in some way, my instinct was always to try to escape the hold immediately, which never worked. But if I took hold of him, he would be still…and wait to see what I would do. At which point, well, see “be nice” and “be generous” above. Let’s just say it was never to my advantage. He was always patient.

Throughout this training, he was always smiling, always reminding me to be nice, be generous, be patient. We think sometimes that following this advice makes us weak, pushovers, vulnerable. But when he was done with me (not much of a challenge), I watched this small man, maybe 5′ 2″, take on the best martial artists in our school, teachers themselves from a variety of martial arts traditions. All of them were bigger than he, and two of them were at least 6′ 4″ or 5″. They had no more success than skinny old me. The teacher never even broke a sweat.

Once again, martial arts lessons teach me lessons in life. Being nice, generous, patient, could get me through many situations better than my tendency to try impatiently to force a particular outcome.

So when faced with challenges, I’m going to try to remember his advice — be nice, be generous, be patient. And keep smiling.

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. ~Dalai Lama

8 thoughts on “Be Nice”

  1. Thanks, Martha. You are right–you can learn these lessons in all realms. I find that learning something in a non-intellectual way, like through my body in martial arts, often imprints the lesson on my life more deeply and broadly.

  2. Through the years I have enjoyed watching a few times martial arts competitions. I think there is a lot to learn from this art.
    I liked reading about your teacher's reactions of always smiling, being nice, generous and kind. These are wonderful qualities and can often disarm contention or aggression
    Sending warm thoughts and hugs your way! .

  3. This is so true LeAnn. I have fortunately never been in a situation where I was actually physically attacked, but I have been a a few tense situations that could have escalated in that direction. In each case, I was able to defuse the situation with words–always my weapon of choice–ha!

  4. Yes, you sort of had to be there. Hard to describe the physical interaction in words. But his lessons seemed to me to be universally applicable in many noncombat situations.

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