Sensei…why isn’t the water free?

A couple of weeks ago I watched as a student took a water out of the dojo fridge and just walked away without putting a buck in the water can. It is clearly marked that water is a $1 in my dojo and I have witnessed this happen quite often so this time I reacted accordingly. I stopped the student and asked them for a $1 for the water. He looked up at me and asked “Sensei, why isn’t the water free?”. Being the Sensei I said because it isn’t and put a buck in the bucket and next time pay before you take a water.

Funniest thing is that I have had to explain to many students that the water isn’t free…and it shouldn’t be. Over the course of time I have even had arguments with parents over something this trivial. Some of the things I hear are “we pay tuition so that should include water” – uh no…that covers your lessons; “Water shouldn’t be a buck, it should be cheaper” – uh no it costs more at the gas station than here…and many more. Quite simply the water at the dojo isn’t free because it cost me money to buy it, pay for the electricity to run the refrigerator it is in and the gas to go get it…all so it is available out of a customer service aspect to my students.

It is important to note that I do not have to supply water and everyone could bring their own, and many students do, but sometimes they just need it so I have to make sure it is there in supply. I think the lesson to learn from this is a much bigger problem in our society. Today people think they can do whatever they want, whenever they want. It is clearly marked that water costs a $1 yet every day in my dojo someone takes a water and doesn’t pay for it…completely disrespecting the sign and all the others that do pay. I am sure they intend on paying it later but the fact is most don’t and guess what…they take another one the next class without paying to. You can’t do that at a gas station. If you did you would be arrested for shoplifting. This is the entitlement society we live in today and I am here to say it is completely ridiculous.

In the martial arts, especially in a good dojo, students are held accountable for their actions. Something as simple as taking a water without paying for it may seem trivial to most people but if they stood in the shoes of the Sensei and realized that they are stealing from the dojo I am sure it would no longer seem a little deal. Stealing is stealing. There doesn’t exist a grey area with this action. Martial artists are supposed to be honorable and stealing, regardless of the reasons, is the action of a person who has no honor. There are more lessons to learn from the water issue too such as responsibility, loyalty and integrity.

If a student comes to the dojo they know they are going to sweat. Either they should be prepared and bring a $1 for a water or bring their own. If a student doesn’t have either then the lesson they need to learn is that they should go without. The next time they will remember it is their own responsibility to be prepared. This leads into other avenues of life such as college, a career and family. It is important that our children learn they are responsible for their actions before they reach adulthood. If not then how will they achieve anything? Quite simply they won’t.

Being loyal to one’s dojo goes beyond just training there. We, as students, have a responsibility to keep our dojo clean, build it up by bringing in new students and supporting it the best we can. Sure the piddly change we make off of water may not seem like much but over the course of a year it does add up to a lot. Taking water from the dojo without paying is selfish and demonstrates a lack of loyalty to be good to one’s Sensei and dojo. In my opinion more people need to learn this trait in our society today because the children do not learn it in the public education system any longer.

Integrity is a major part of being a martial artist. Taking a water without paying for and thinking you got away with it says you have ZERO integrity. Integrity is doing what is right even if no one is watching. It may not seem like much but I actually flunked a student during a belt exam once because I asked him if had paid for all the water he took over the last three months to which he answered no…so I flunked him because he should not have to be asked to what is right.

In conclusion it is important to note that the water isn’t free and neither is anything of value that one gets in their lifetime. Sure this may seem like a trivial blog post to some and others may scoff at it but you aren’t me, you don’t pay the bills and you don’t walk in the shoes of the Sensei who has a duty to provide for his students and the dojo. Thanks for reading and remember…do the right thing.

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