Having a part-time job at TGI Friday’s taught me to flare better than Tom Cruise (cool for party tricks), carry three glasses in one hand (cool for ordering 6 pints at the bar – no tray required), and my top trump – it introduced me to my wife. On the flip side Friday’s has also given me an unhealthy obsession for hot chicken wings and cheese nachos (wipes saliva from chin), but I am discovering new karate-related connections of late.
I mean, who’d have ever thought that there are connections between working at TGI Friday’s restaurant and Goju-Ryu? Ok, so truth be told some of the connections are extraordinarily tenuous;
- tying balloons together and my Mawashi Uke (round-house block)
- carrying three glasses in one hand and my grappling ability (Kumiuchi)
- carrying a stack empty dishes in both arms for 50 metres and Sanchin Kata
…are all about as connected as I am to William the Conqueror, but there is a connection. Some connections have a bit more substance than others but here is my favourite.
Swan theory and Zanchin
Friday’s is all about theories. Ask anyone who’s worked there – they have a theory for everything and you have them imprinted on your psyche better than your two-times table. Why? So that customers can eat their dinner in ignorant bliss, should there be any problems. Here’s an example, if you ever hear someone at Friday’s shout, “we are 86 ribeye steaks”, that’s not a self-deprecating reference to their bovine-like IQ, it is merely that the restaurant has run out of ribeye steaks (that’s the 86 / 68 theory by the way). It’s a kind of TGI Friday’s rhyming slang. They have the traffic light theory for customer service, the nodding dog theory for checking tables, the elastic band theory for door hosts – you name it, they have a theory for it. They swear by them – so much so that they’ve dedicated some of the memorabilia on the walls to these theories. Yep, the average TGI Friday’s has more coded messages on the walls than a Stone Mason’s lodge. Hang on, I’m off to call Dan Brown…I think I have an idea for his next novel.
Anyway, the swan theory goes like this – no matter how stressed you get, remain calm on the outside and internalise your stress. Like a swan gliding over the water, all you see is grace; but below the water their webbed feet are paddling furiously.
This theory, I have learned this week, needs to carry through to the dojo – for me at least. During the last class I sparred with Sensei. It was only light sparing but it was absolutely exhausting. If you were a fly on the wall that night you’d have seen 2 diametrically opposing images; Sensei, the image of serenity, moving deftly from one technique to the next, head absolutely still, eye’s fixed on me like a laser-sighted rifle, not even breaking a sweat. Me, the image of reckless abandon, swinging my arms and whirling my legs around like a sweaty Tasmanian Devil, lacking any devastating effect but making similar noises.
I’ve evidently got a long way to go with swan theory in the dojo. What Sensei was exuding in bucket-loads was his ability to apply Zanchin (combative awareness). I need to learn to clear my mind during sparring, not have it occupied with, “my sparring partner is going to open up a can of whoop-ass on me, oh no!”
I will happily take any advice out there on how to improve my Zanchin. I’m off to read another book – let’s see if Bodhidharma can teach me anything.