OSU everyone! So we here at the Forge are located near Washington DC, in a nebulous area that’s often referred to as “the DMV.” If you’re at all familiar with the area, then you probably know that driving around here is the worst. Traffic is bad, roads are confusing, and the drivers are universally terrible. (Except for me, of course. And Sensei does OK too.)
One thing in particular that I hate-hate-HATE with a capital “H” is how many drivers just DON’T use their turn signal. Instead, they’ll just, like, GO, without warning or pretext. Or they’ll position their car next to a “gap”* in the lane they want to merge into, and then wait for the space to open up so they can merge.
I refuse! I do my best NOT to let these people in, and I will honk my horn in righteous fury if they should try to cut me off. You may be thinking that this is rude or unsafe of me - after all, does it really cost me that much to let these people in? Aren’t we taught in the dojo to be compassionate to others? In some ways you’re correct - I’m not being as nice as I could be. But I think the greater flaw is in letting the attitude and thinking of the non-signaler flourish.
Let’s consider what not using a turn signal really implies. First, if you’re not using a turn signal, you’re stating that you’re so very busy that you can’t move your left hand THREE INCHES to hit the lever before you make your turn. You’re assuming that everyone around you is paying attention to your actions and will respond accordingly and correctly in a way that accommodates YOU (a particularly dangerous assumption to make on a highway). But mostly, you’re proclaiming to everyone that YOU’RE the most important person, it’s all about YOU, and YOU don’t need to inconvenience yourself in any way for others.
It’s this last attitude in particular that I can’t stand, because it’s not only incredibly selfish, but it’s so THOUGHTLESS as well. It’s one thing to be selfish in your day-to-day life (and some amount of selfishness is to be expected, we’re all only human of course), but driving in particular is a communal activity. Rarely, if ever, are you alone on the road; even if you are, that situation can change at any time. Your actions have direct consequences on those around you, and vice-versa. To be clear, it’s not the act of turning that is bad - people need to turn and to change lanes to get to where their going. It’s only a problem when you aren’t communicating your intention and are instead expecting everyone around you to be a mind-reader. That’s when people get hurt.
This concept can also be applied in the dojo.** Proper signaling in the dojo can be hugely beneficial for yourself and others. While your instructors are always watching you, they aren’t mind-readers. They can only interpret your actions based on their own knowledge and experience. So if you want something specific out of your training, you need to signal. Want to be perceived as a serious student of the way? Signal this by always observing the rules of the dojo (stand in yoi dachi, always answer with OSU, address people by their rank, etc.). Want to show that you’re grateful for the instruction you’re receiving? Signal this by LITERALLYSHOWINGGRATITUDEWITHTHEWORDSTHANKYOUORSOMETHINGLIKETHATTHISREALLYISN’TTHATHARDPEOPLE. Do you have a question about a technique or exercise? Here’s where proper signaling comes in. If your question is not related to what’s currently happening in the dojo, then save it for later! If it IS related, then hold your hand up high! If your instructor doesn’t see it, say “OSU Shihan/Sensei/Sempai excuse me I have a question!”*** Say it loud enough so that they can hear, and so that EVERYONE can hear! You may have the same question as others and by asking it you’re helping everyone out! But only if you’re signaling properly!
Perhaps most importantly, where are you trying to go? Karatedo is a long road. You may think you’re heading in one direction, but if you haven’t properly signaled, you might be going the wrong way. Your instructor knows the rules of the road and they have the map. So signal! Ask for help! “OSU, here’s my goal. Am I on the right track? What else can I do to get to where I want to go?” I promise you that your instructor will LOVE this question. Even if there’s no easy answer, the fact that you’re asking says a lot.
So, how can you improve your signaling to help not just yourself, but those around you? Give it a try, and I think you’ll be presently surprised by the results. And of course, USE YOUR TURN SIGNALS. OSU!
*- IT’S NOT EVEN A GAP THEY JUST ROLL UP LIKE “OH HEY I’M ENTITLED TO GET IN FRONT OF YOU BY VIRTUE OF MY EXISTENCE KINDLY ACCOMMODATE ME” GAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH
**- Seeee, this wasn’t JUST a 1000-word-rant on people not using turn signals. I mean, yes, it is that, but it’s also the other thing
***- When they’re done talking of course, don’t interrupt people what’s the matter with you gee-whiz