The Strongest Lion or a Crippled Monkey?

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I’ve been watching Cobra Kai a lot these days. (I just finished watching season 2.)

Cobra Kai is based on Karate Kid, a classic ’80s film. Cobra Kai’s story is set 34 years after Karate Kid. The story’s protagonist is not Daniel LaRusso the karate kid, but Johnny Lawrence, who was Daniel’s rival in the original movie.

I hadn’t watched Karate Kid until very recently, even though I was aware of it & its cult following. I didn’t have huge expectations about Cobra Kai. But it turned out to be quite fascinating, and I’ve been enjoying the series so far.

At the beginning of the series, Johnny is a total loser left behind in his golden years of the 1980s, but he starts picking himself up through meeting and mentoring his neighbor, Miguel. He revives Cobra Kai and teaches Miguel the Cobra Kai way of fighting: strike first, strike hard, and no mercy.

Eventually, Johnny realizes that this original Cobra Kai way makes no distinction between mercy and honor and even encourages his students to win at any cost by fighting dirty, which is not what he wants anymore.

In one scene, Johnny asks his student whether she wants to be a cobra that beats the strongest lion or a cobra that beats a crippled monkey.

The correct answer is the former.

That’s how you become a real badass in Johnny’s view.

Johnny breaks away from the old Cobra Kai’s way, and he tells his students that he doesn’t want them to repeat the same mistakes he made in the past.

I believe this is a good trait for any martial arts teacher to have. We all make mistakes. If you are serious about learning, you should not be afraid of making mistakes and instead should work on learning from mistakes (that’s what’s mistakes are for, after all).

And when you’re in a position to teach, you share your mistakes with your students. These mistakes may not be directly presented as mistakes, but your teachings are often (and indeed should be) based on your own experiences, including your own mistakes.

BJJ (or everything else, for that matter) is a collective project because your teachers made many mistakes and teach you how to avoid making the same mistakes.

When you are in a position to teach others, you will do the same: you share your mistakes with others so they will become better more quickly and effectively. And “being in a position to teach” doesn’t necessarily mean being a black belt running classes. You could be just a bit more experienced than your peers in your class.

On that note, I think it might be fruitful to keep mental notes on what not to do in various situations. What to do can be tricky to teach, but what not to do can be easier to share with others even if you are relatively inexperienced, and this kind of knowledge is indeed significant.

My point here is…

While learning BJJ might feel like an individual project, keep in mind that there are also many collective learning elements. We make mistakes, learn from these mistakes, and pass our knowledge to the next generations.

You’re an essential part of this collective & collaborative learning project.