It would be funny if it weren’t so embarrassing, the thought of a grown man like me hoping that the teacher is going to come tell me I’m doing a good job.

By “teacher”, of course I mean “Sifu.” Lord, how I love Kung Fu. I love it a surprising amount. I know I’m a little bit of a dilettante — I love to pick things up, but I don’t always follow through. Hence the odd musical instruments that litter my apartment (and my closet).

I think and hope that this time is different. I think about Kung Fu all the time, I dream about it, I practice kicks in the hallway at work.1 I want to earn the black sash some day, I want to move like they do; I want that physical joy that comes from a well-executed kick to be a permanent part of me.

Of course, some of the attraction is having a large, strong man around to tell me what to do. I don’t mean that in a sexual way. He’s good-looking enough and he has a contagious enthusiasm, but — it ain’t like that. It’s just that he’s the Sifu.

People think that men don’t like authority and don’t like being told what to do, but it’s not true, not even when we’re young. It’s only that we don’t like being told what to do by just anyone. When we’re younger, “just anyone” is usually our fathers, later on it’s the boss — but give us someone who’s got the right light in his face, the right nobility in his movements and his words, and we’ll be all his.

There’s something in a man that wants to submit. The key is finding someone who’s worth submitting to: someone better than us, who values our love and service. We want a master, a king.

Trouble is that most men aren’t kings. It’s easy to put a man on that pedestal, just like it’s easy for some men to set a woman up as a goddess. Disappointment follows, and so do hurt feelings. Not every Sifu is Ip Man2 — heck, even Donnie Yen probably isn’t like that in real life.3

So I have to remember, when Sifu Gary doesn’t notice how hard I’ve been practicing my form, or that I managed to stay in horse stance for a very costly extra five seconds this time — Lord, how it burns — that he’s not my father and he’s not my king; he’s just a good man who can teach me a lot.

Meanwhile, I have to keep on searching for, and following, and searching for all over again, the real King. Morning Mass tomorrow. Hope I’m not too sore to kneel.

1 Heh, and today somebody came out of another office just when my foot was pointing at the ceiling. Hard to play that one off. Yeah, I was just scratching my nose. With my toe.
2 You’ve got to see Ip Man 2! (And the first one, too.) It’s like the Chinese Rocky, except Donnie Yen is priestly instead of thuggish. Not that thuggish doesn’t work admirably for Stallone. Also the Westerners are evil, but that’s par for the course in Kung Fu flicks. At least in this one it’s evil Brits instead of evil Americans, and everyone knows that Brits really are evil.
3 Although I’m sure he still kicks a significant amount of ass.

10 thoughts on “Servants of the King

  1. Br. Andrew

    If you find yourself getting discouraged by not receiving external praise, I’d recommend genuinely praying the Litany of Humility. Just forcing yourself to actually mean the words that you’re saying is difficult, but worth it.

    Reply
  2. Viajero

    I do need to start praying the Litany of Humility regularly again. It was recommended to me by a priest I greatly admired a while back. I also need to focus more on the real King myself and not on those who act in His person. Similar to what Steve seems to be saying, I would get overjoyed (but of course, tried to remain cool and not show it) by any morsel of praise or compliment I got from this priest. When he got transferred, I felt kinda depressed, as if I was dealing with (spiritual) father abandonment issues. But God will always be there for us until the end of time. “That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.”

    Reply
  3. Ron

    On the Feast of Christ the King back in November, the theme for my examination of conscience was “Who, or what, is my King?”. A good question any time really. A good human king is a reflection of the eternal King, as human fathers at their best are reflections of God the Father.

    Reply
  4. British plant biologist

    Yes, we Brits can do ‘evil’ more convincingly than Americans. Evil and charming, surely that is terrifyingly evil?

    I see how the Kung Fu is putting the advice of ‘Growth in Manhood’ into action after reading the book myself. I’ve a Mexican friend whose offer to learn some Brazilian Ju-Jitsu I may take up.

    Although the extent of physical contact required in BJJ is enough to put most British men off, let alone one grappling with SSA. (Pun intended, by the way).

    Reply
  5. Babs

    Just as a girl observing the male sex, I totally get what you are saying. In our house it’s called “looking for the Alpha”. Women look for this in men too. And it’s not an aggression thing, its a leader thing. And now that we have a son, I see that need manifests at a very young age.

    Reply
  6. albert

    Wow, I’ve read it again and I just appreciate the depth of this piece even more. And I love your comments, Ron and babs.

    Reply

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