December 2009

In the film, "Ramen Girl" a young American woman finds herself in Tokyo looking for purpose in her life. After dining in a ramen restaurant; ramen is a special Japanese dish, broth, noodles, meat, vegetables, put together in a very special way, she decides that she wants to make people happy by cooking ramen for them. She approaches the chef and asks to be his student.

In typical Japanese fashion the first part of her training has nothing to do with actual cooking. She must wash the dishes, scrub the toilets and take out the trash. Just like traditional Karate training the first step in learning is the crushing of ego and proving your dedication. Similarly, in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) the first step is to tear you down in order to rebuild you, the right way. Of course, the trainee has difficulty understanding the process. Not fully trusting the instructor the student eventually lashed out and says, "But you are not teaching me what I came to learn!" 

The Japanese have a concept that is difficult for Westerners to comprehend, "Acceptance". Trust your teacher totally and accept whatever terms and conditions are being offered. This is not yet the time for questions.

In the film, the student, Abby San, is frustrated and lashes out at her instructor, the head chef. She storms out of the restaurant. Next morning she humbly returns and says, in Japanese (big effort on her part), "I want to be your student."

During the entire training period leading up to his point we see Abby constantly on her phone. At every free moment she is trying to make up with her boyfriend or complaining to someone about something. That morning, when she humbly returned to the restaurant, the master chef puts out his hand. He wants her cell phone. He puts it on the floor, she covers her face not to see the horror that is about to unfold, and he smashes it with his wooden shoe.

Now she is ready to train.   

What just happened? Why was this necessary? Couldn't she just turn off her cell phone? 

As long as her mind was on the cell phone, and all the people she could reach with it, she was not totally here in the moment. She was not and could not be totally focused on this experience. Perhaps it is a Zen thing, no multi-tasking, no being two places at once, no dividing your attention. No, you want to train, you shut off the outside world, you must be totally here, totally involved with what you are learning. The smashed cell phone is the breaking of the ego, the focus on the here and now, the total dedication to the task at hand. You are here, and nothing else exists. You have just entered another dimension.

The same principle applies to combat training and Krav Maga training. Are you here to train? If so shut off the outside world, smash your figurative cell phone, be here in body, spirit and soul. This is the only way to learn.

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