When I was a young Aikido teacher, we were running four beginner’s classes each year at my Dojo. The first day of a new class always was particularly interesting:
Some of the new students were shy and seemed to prefer hiding in a corner, nervous of what might be expected from them and anxious to do nothing “wrong”.
Others wanted to make clear to everyone their martial arts background by performing kata or exercises on the tatami before the class started, wearing colourful belts reflecting prior grades in Judo or Karate.
The intellectual sort gave uninvited lectures about the philosophical background of Aikido to interested listeners even before setting a foot on the tatami for the first time in their life.
And my more advanced students (including last quarter’s beginners) tried hard to make sure not to be mixed up with the newcomers … everyone was busy to be seen and recognized by the others and by the teacher.
After class, all of us sweating together for 90 minutes, joined for a coup of tea. By then, usually everyone was happy and relaxed, no sign of tension, no more insecurity and no more showing off. We all shared the same tea, sitting on the same floor, and it did not matter any longer who brought which package of wisdom or insecurity into the Dojo.
Once two monks visited Joshu, the famous Zen master. He asked them both:
“Have you ever been here before?”
One monk said “yes”. Joshu said,
“Have some tea.”
The other monk answered “no”. Joshu said,
“Have some tea.”
Joshu’s attendant monk wondered about his master’s answer and asked him,
“Why do you say, ‘Have some tea’ to a spiritually advanced monk and then
say, ‘Have some tea’, to a monk who has still no understanding?” Joshu replies,
“Have some tea!”
Advanced student, experienced guest or beginner … please all enjoy a coup of tea!