The snake is one of the animals studied in the traditional animal forms of kung fu.  It’s a challenging animal to study, as stances tend to be very low, and strikes sometimes look like blocks, and blocks are often strikes.  Movements can be both circular and linear.  Truly, one must work hard to masterfully show off this form.

But the snake has also, as all of the animals we study, been assigned a character-building trait, and  that trait is Respect.    …..seems like a difficult fit, right?    Well, let’s think about that from a couple of different approaches.

First, from an animal-kingdom approach, the snake commands respect, as it is generally able to conceal itself from its predators, yet is able to attack quickly from its stealth position.  If it happens to be a poisonous snake (and so many are!), the snake’s bite often results in a quick death for smaller prey, with larger prey suffering a longer, more painful end.  Even the very large snakes, which use a non-poisonous approach to subdue their prey, would, by most standards command the respect of animals larger than them.   Overall, though, snakes seldom attack for the sake of attacking.  They are either defending themselves against a real or perceived threat, or they need to eat.  Okay, enough of that scary stuff….

Let’s talk about respect from another perspective.  When we ask the kids what respect means, they generally read off the poster in the studio….and they quote “saying thank you, please, and yes or no, as opposed to yeah, or nah or nope”.   That’s a good start, but there’s more to this idea of respect than just that.  Yes, spoken language is an important piece of demonstrating respect, but it certainly goes beyond the “please” and “thank you” piece of it.   Tone, and volume, of voice is also extremely important, as these can convey completely different messages than the actual spoken word.  In addition, body language is important, too.  Meeting the eyes of the person you are speaking to, looking at and really seeing them, not slouching or turning away or showing other body movements that can be interpreted as anything but respect.   Finally, actions can demonstrate respect.  Opening the door for a loved one, doing something without being asked to do it, encouraging effort as opposed to saying something uncomplimentary about results—all this can show respect. 

Wow.  All of a sudden this respect stuff is starting to sound complicated.  It can be.   But, it can also be simplified to what is often referred to as The Golden Rule.  Every culture has some basic understanding and acceptance of this concept…..treat others as you would wish to be treated.   Would you want someone to be sarcastic to you?  Or, would you want someone to laugh at your appearance?   Probably not.  So why do that to another?  It’s disrespectful.   Would you want someone to simply take a gift you offered and walk away without a thank you or any other appreciative response.  Again, probably not.  So, don’t do it to another.   Would you want someone else to take, or use your property without first asking to do so?   Doubtful.   Then, why think it’s OK if you do it? With those kinds of thoughts and examples, respect becomes a little more simple.  But again, we can push it even a little further.  EVERY person, every living thing deserves to be approached with respect, even those we believe beneath us (and why do we believe that?—something else to explore).  In today’s world, with the media bombarding us daily with images and examples of disrespectful behavior, it is sometimes hard to find good examples to follow.  Why not be an example?   Strive to be respectful in all your daily dealings, and it will become ingrained in your very being.   If we could all do this, our world would be a much nicer place.   Be a Master of Respect!!