🎧 Bedtime Story Podcast #36
Chapter 5 – The Bully Named Arthur Muldridge
The next morning, Myasako was woken up by Martin’s mother.
“Myasako! Time for breakfast, and then it’s time for school.”
Myasako was not used to going to school. He was normally home-schooled by his father. The idea of going to school with other children was very strange to him.
“The bus will come to pick you up in one hour,” she said as they sat and ate breakfast together.
“Do you not run in the mornings?” Myasako asked.
Martin’s mother shook her head as she drank some orange juice.
“No dear, never.”
Myasako felt uncomfortable. He thought he would feel so relieved to not need to run in the mornings, but without his normal regime, he felt slightly uneasy.
“What about meditation?” he said, looking at all the food she had prepared. He was not hungry.
“I meditate sometimes,” she said, “but I’ve gotten out of the habit recently.”
“Ok,” he said, eating something out of politeness, but wishing, strangely, that he was just back home in his normal routine.
“Cheer up, Myasako! Are you missing home?”
“Not home,” Myasako said. “But my way of life.”
“Well, you’ve always got time for a quick meditate before school if you like. Actually, no you don’t, we still have to pack your bag and your clothes for PE and your lunch. Meditation will have to wait.”
And then Myasako’s father’s voice rang in his ears. It said:
“Myasako, meditation is for here and now, any time and any place.”
And so Myasako looked around, breathed consciously, and felt a little less lost.
“One thousand punches,” Kuyasaki said.
“What?” Martin said. He was used to throwing three or four and then doing something else.
“One thousand punches.” Kuyasaki said. “Not full power. Just work on technique. Like this…”
Kuyasaki walked up to a punch bag in the dojo, stood in his ninja stance, and threw a lightning fast jab of a punch at the bag, which left a dent in the side. Martin nearly didn’t see it.
“That was fast!” Martin said, excited. “How do you get to be that fast?”
“Repetition. Skill is built by repetition,” Kuyasaki said. “One thousand of those. Five hundred on each arm. If you throw them with full power, you will get tired too easily. No need to be so powerful yet. Just throw them like this…”
Kuyasaki demonstrated much more slowly how the punch would explode out from his body like a snake, and then recoil back after impact.
“Throw the punch, through the bag as if the bag is not there,” he said, demonstrating again. “You try now.”
Martin got in his own ninja stance. He threw a punch. It was rubbish, he thought. It felt weak and slow and soft compared to Kuyasaki’s.
“Be careful of your comparisons with others!” Kuyasaki warned. “They can deceive and discourage. Just be yourself.”
“But I’m so slow compared to you!” Martin insisted.
“Everyone must be a beginner at some point,” Kuyasaki said. “The difference between a master and a student, is that the master has practiced more times than the student. That is the only difference. He has pushed through difficulty, the beginner stage, the intermediate stage and beyond. He continues to dedicate himself to his craft, and as a result his craft rewards him with greater skills. But you must accept where you are, without getting stuck there. If you resist where you are, you will be stuck.”
Martin stared at the bag. He still had nine hundred and ninety-nine punches to throw.
“You can only throw one punch at a time. You are obsessed with speed and flashiness so that you can feel better about yourself. But correct technique is learnt through slowness. A great master once said that slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. We must begin slow. We must learn to love the punch, love the movement, become friends with it, and it will begin to yield to us its secrets.”
Martin settled slightly and threw a little more slowly.
“Slower!” Kuyasaki demanded. All Martin wanted to do was get through this exercise so he could rest and do something else.
“The more you strive away from yourself and what you are doing, the more you will suffer. Surrender to the process.”
Martin felt annoyed. He expected to be doing kicks and flips and weapons training by now, climbing up walls and jumping off roofs and landing with ease. This isn’t what he thought it would be.
“Your expectations! Leave them at the door!” Kuyasaki barked. Martin just kept punching, more slowly than he had ever punched before.
Myasako was waiting for the school bus. It felt good to be outside. When it arrived for him he could sense Martin’s mother moving away from the window of the house, and moving her attention back inside. He was aware of so many things that other people weren’t aware of. He could feel someone looking at him from many houses away, he could hear things that were too far away to see, and he could see things in such detail, that everything seemed to have a personality of its own.
The bus that arrived seemed tired, old and grumpy. It didn’t like being painted yellow. The bus was loud and arrived on the road by his feet. The door opened and the smelly driver was sitting there, chewing gum and staring at Myasako blankly. He didn’t smile at all.
Myasako climbed aboard and looked at the children. Everyone looked at him.
He walked past children who were whispering and pointing, and eventually he found a seat by himself. But he didn’t feel as if it was a safe one.
Behind him was one of the school bullies. His name was Arthur Muldridge, a boy with a rich dad who gave him anything and everything he demanded. He was bigger than the other children, and fatter, because he could not stop eating puddings and sweets. Myasako could feel Arthur looking at him from behind, and he felt he had to adjust himself so he didn’t have his back to Arthur. He put his back to the window of the bus, away from the chair.
“You’re Martin’s replacement aren’t ya?” Arthur said, appearing over and behind the chair of Myasako. “You look weird, not like the rest of us. Why do you look so strange?”
Myasako didn’t have an answer.
“I asked you a question!” Arthur yelled at Myasako, and before Arthur even knew what he was going to do, Myasako could feel a warning that his shirt was about to be grabbed. Myasako moved himself, and as Arthur went to grab him, Myasako wasn’t there. Arthur became confused.
“Come here and answer me!” Arthur said again. This time Myasako didn’t have any more room to adjust, and as Arthur’s big greedy hands reached in to grab his shirt, Myasako took Arthur’s hands and twisted them into a wrist lock.
“Ow! Ow let go!” Arthur yelled. The whole school bus was watching and starting to laugh. Arthur was twisted around so that he was lying on top of the back of the seat, his arm and wrist twisted behind him by Myasako.
“Get off!” Arthur yelled again.
“You must leave me alone,” Myasako said, calmly. “Do you agree?”
“Yeh, yeh sure,” Arthur said.
Myasako released him, Arthur cowered back into his own seat, and for the rest of the journey Myasako sat on the bus, alone.
When he arrived at school Myasako was greeted by a girl his age.
“Hi Myasako!” she said. She was blonde and pretty. Myasako had never interacted much with girls before.
“Myasako my name is Laura. I’m one of Martin’s friends and I normally meet him here when he gets off the bus. Are you enjoying your time in England?”
“I’m not sure,” Myasako said. “Not as much as I thought I would.”
“Well, hopefully you’ll enjoy today,” she said. “Come on, come and meet some of my other friends.”
Laura took Myasako by the hand, and led him off to meet some other children.
“I’ve still got eight hundred to go. This is so boring!” Martin said. “Can’t I just throw these punches quickly and get it over with?”
Kuyasaki sat down cross-legged, next to Martin on the floor of the dojo.
“Why are you here?” he said to Martin.
“To learn to be a ninja.”
“Why do you want to be a ninja?”
“So I can do cool stuff and fight people off who bully me like Arthur Muldridge at school.”
“You get bullied?”
“Sometimes. I don’t know what to do if someone grabs me or tries to punch me.”
“What’s more important to you…” Kuyasaki said. “Learning how to fight someone off, or doing cool stuff?”
Initially Martin thought of doing cool stuff, of being praised by his friends, of Laura thinking he was so cool. All of that felt very nice. Then he thought of being able to defend himself. That felt even better.
“How to fight someone off if I have to,” Martin said.
“Ok!” Kuyasaki said. “We have found your ‘why’. Now we know the main reason you are here. Before you thought you wanted to be a real ninja. Really you just want some fighting tools. Are there not any places near your home where they teach you things like that?”
“Maybe. My mother has suggested it. But I always thought I had to go to a proper ninja place…”
“Hmmm…” Kuyasaki said. “Ok. Then we will tailor our training to what you want most. The true ninja way can be learnt later. But for now, this is what you do if someone grabs you by the shirt…”
At lunch time, Myasako was playing football again. He still didn’t quite understand it, but he found that he enjoyed it more when he didn’t take it so seriously. Suddenly his ninja senses started to tingle, and he could feel a threat coming from behind him. He ducked and covered his head and he felt the weight of Arthur Muldridge come flying over him. Arthur had tried to catch him by surprise, but Myasako moved around Arthur, and crouched down low.
“The element of surprise is crucial to the ninja way,” his father said in his mind. “The best attack comes from nothing.”
Myasako relaxed his stance. He looked more normal, standing there with one arm folded across his body, and one arm folded on top, with his hand looking like it was picking his own nose.
“Come here!” Arthur yelled, and he trundled towards Myasako, who darted off to the side and kicked at Arthur’s knee as he ran forwards, leaving Arthur to crash into the floor very hard, and cut his face.
“An enemy must be reasoned with until he can no longer be reasoned with,” Myasako’s father said in his head.
“Can we not just be friends?” Myasako said.
“No way,” Arthur said. He now had a bad leg and a cut face but he ran towards Myasako, and just as a teacher appeared in the distance, to the right of them, with kids beginning to crowd around and shout, Myasako kicked Arthur straight in the gut, and when he did he felt something burst inside of Arthur’s stomach, and Arthur keeled over, and started to cry.
“Myasako!” A teacher came running out and grabbed Myasako by the wrist. Without thinking, he reversed her grip and flipped her over so that she landed softly on her back and let him go. And then as more teachers started to run out of the school to stop whatever fight was going on, Myasako ran, faster than any child had ever been seen to run, and he disappeared into the woods behind the school.
“Ok, thanks, I’ve learnt that now, what next, what about if I get grabbed from behind?” Martin said to his new teacher, Kuyasaki, back in Japan.
“Hang on, not so fast,” Kuyasaki said. “You’ve only done it twice. The key to this is repetition. You cannot escape it. We have to do it many times so that your muscles remember it, not just your thinking mind. It needs to be automatic, a reflex that gets built into your system so that you don’t have to think. In a real fight, there is not enough time for thinking, the reflex has to be there.”
“Ok, fine!” Martin said. He didn’t realise how impatient he was.
“You must realise that for any skill to be obtained in this life means that you must fall in love with the process of practicing it. If you want a magic spell to be done where you suddenly have all the powers and skills of a ninja, then you will always be frustrated while you are here. This takes work and commitment and dedication. There is no way around it.”
“Do you know any spells?” Martin said.
“Maybe,” Kuyasaki said. “But they are only for the experienced ninjas.”
Later that day, Martin’s mother received a phone call. It was the voice of a disgruntled teacher.
“Hello, Mrs Davies, I’m afraid your exchange student, Myasako, has gone missing. He was caught fighting in the playground and ran off. We can’t find him anywhere. Would you mind coming in?”
“Ok,” Martin’s mother said. “But you do realise he’s a ninja? If he doesn’t want to be found, he won’t be found. Who was he fighting with?”
“The one that bullies my son who always seems to get away with it? The one with the father who gives the school money?”
There was no response.
“I will come in,” she said, “but I’m very well glad that he gave that bully a good beating. He deserves it.”
She slammed down the phone and went to fetch her coat, and Myasako was sitting on the stairs. She nearly jumped out of her skin.
“Oh! Myasako! How did you get in the house?”
“Have I done a bad thing?” Myasako said, ignoring her question. “The teachers began to chase me.” “Not at all,” Martin’s mother said, going over and putting her arm around the boy. “Not at all.”
Story written and read by Adam Oakley, Copyright © Adam Oakley