Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Taibatsu-- this letter to the Japan Times really shook me

Trained to just put up with it | The Japan Times

Taibatsu, or corporal punishment, has been in the news a bit recently.  Can you imagine a coach slapping a junior high baseball player and getting away with it?  It happened to Hideki Matsui and kids in my English Club just read a brief bio of Matsui where he praises his junior high coach as "demanding," with the strong implication this is why Matsui achieved professional success in Japan and the U.S.  The slapping part of being demanding is left out, but if you're an athlete in a Japanese junior or senior high, you probably know a lot more about these kinds of demands than I do.  You don't need to be told about Ichiro Suzuki being forced to kneel with his knees on the rim of a trashcan for the minor infraction of burning some rice.  You may have done this yourself, or have watched someone else being forced to do it.

What really disturbs me is to read quotes from players crediting this abuse for helping them achieve, without realizing they may have achieved despite the abuse.  It's like crediting a lucky coin or some other totem.  In the absence of evidence to the contrary, it probably seem reasonable.  I was slapped, I threw a great game after being slapped, therefore the slap was the cause of my great game.  Is there any thought to what might have happened if the coach had simply talked to the player without resorting to violence?  Maybe, but the coach didn't use words; he used violence and it apparently worked.

This one letter gets to the heart of it in a way I can't because I was never abused by a teacher or a coach.  My middle brother was.  He came home from football practice with cleat marks all over his back, part of his punishment for not giving "110 percent" or some stupid ass sports thing.  My parents went ballistic, as they should have.  But he kept playing.  Why?  He had his reasons.  Maybe they were somewhat the same as this 53-year-old man's.  I can't know what they were.

But what I do know is I do not want to be part of a system that condones or in any way appears supportive of slapping kids around.  And I can't even fathom adults-- professional adults-- being slapped on national TV and reacting with sheepish smiles.  This may be a cultural split between my upbringing and that here in Japan, but I'm not going to get with this program.  Respect for others includes not laying hands on them.  This shakes me to my very core.

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