Friday, January 13, 2006

Flatulence and Tolerance: A Cultural Perspective

I'd like to say something.

Hopefully on this blog, I don't come off like I'm complaining about Japan or that I think Japan needs to change, should be different, or that I'm somehow above it. That's not what I'm ever trying to say. However, I realize that when attempting to be funny or make light of things, such sentiments might appear to rear their ugly head.

As a decidedly non-postmodernist person/non-reptile, I react to things in a humanly manner. It's natural, really. Sometimes things piss me off, but I try to keep things in perspective. It was kind've like when I was in the Marines. "I love the Corps, I just don't always like it." Same rules apply to Japan, as well as many things that, while I don't always like what's going on, they are near and dear to me.

I hate to generalize, but in certain situations it's unavoidable. Like I said, I'm not a postmodernist. In any case, one thing that I really respect about most Japanese people [in general] is their willingness (which sometimes seems like a desire) to saddle themselves with discomfort or trouble on the behalf of other people. The fact that so many Japanese people seem to have a willingness to be exploited is a point of contention with me, but at the same time I am shocked at what people will go through to avoid conflict, confrontation, or save people from embarrassment.

Grasping Ghastly Gastrointestinal Grappling

It's no secret that I have a high protein diet. While once-a-week alcohol abuse and a sordid love affair with Copenhagen disqualifies me as a "health freak," my weekday persona is, nutrition wise, a pretty healthy one. I limit my carbs to lunchtime, which is usually some sort of Japanese food, because we go out in town for lunch a lot. Pretty healthy stuff. If I don't go out in town, I usually enjoy a low-carb wrap from the cafeteria downstairs.

So my point is, I have a pretty good amount of gastrointestinal ... erm, exclamations?

Most of the westerner guys (like 2 or 3 of us) that attend the jiujitsu academy have similar diets, and sometimes things get downright silly. Here's where I tie in what I was talking about before with this unpleasant subject.

While rolling on Wed night, this is what I was attempting:

Now, a lot of times you end up in a position like the following picture, because the person is trying really hard not to end up like the above picture. So sometimes you get stuck like this:

You work their hands to get them loose, and then you hip out, kind've like a back extension, to stretch the guy's arm out.

Looking at the above picture, imagine if the person on the bottom was facing inside, instead of outside.

When I "hipped out," extending my body to extend his arm, he resisted by grabbing the arm being extended with his other arm. This caused me to hip out as hard as I could, putting a strain on all the muscles in my lower back and abdomen.

The results? Hmm, probably something resembling this.

In any case, he got a face full of bio-processed protein powder, and what do you think he did?

He did nothing.

No one reacted. No one batted an eye. No one said anything.

Rest assured, everyone heard it.

But as usual, no one said anything. Whenever this happens, and it happens probably every other time I go, I always apologize to whoever I'm rolling with. I simply say "Sorry bout the fart." They always seem embarrassed a little bit, and sometimes pretend like they didn't hear what I said. In any case, their reaction is, like many Japanese reactions, one that avoids unnecessary embarrassment for either party and restores harmony without much exchange.

Let's compare this to a typical reaction of Americans and other non-Japanese in the class:

And then about 10 minutes of intermittent giggling fits...While trying not to look like they're giggling fits....Cuz we're almost 30 or more than 30 years old.

I guess "Farts are funny" isn't a universal truth. Who'da thunk?

It's interesting to see how different cultures deal with potentially embarrassing situations; in the USA I think we often call attention to it as a method to get rid of an awkwrd situation all together, i.e. "hey man ur fly's undone" or "hey you got some food on your face," while Japanese people will pretend like they don't notice. They'll talk about it later and laugh about it with their friends, but these folks are freaking pros at not reacting. In the states, if someone pretends not to notice, you can still tell they noticed but are pretending not to. But here? Their skill level is honed to a point only made possible by a lifetime of pretending-not-to-notice, which, as you can imagine, can have major implications when it comes to pretending-not-to-notice certain social problems that are all but ignorable.

There. I bear my soul unto thee, my 6 person readership. I await your comments and cultural commentaries.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

how's this for cultural commentary: at least you didn't shart, dude!

high-mindedly yours,


3:54 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Mr Troff always finds the silver lining, which is why I love him so much.

I worry about that a lot tho, because I have a lot of close calls.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Cory said...

I would've made a big deal about it, going "Aw, GAWD! Awwwwwwwww, maaan WHat's wrong with you? Geez! GAWD!" making a lot of noise about it until you got off of me and prematurely ended the match. Then I'd walk away shaking my head like "Damn! Don't wrestle that guy! He stinks!"

Then once you left in shame from the dojo I'd find and wrestle the dude with the broken ribs and fart on his face, rubbing it in afterward expressing my dominance.

11:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, you remind me of Zorro (Steve's bulldog). When he's defensive, with every bark there's a fart.

11:53 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Sheesh, and who said an anthropology degree was worthless?? I can take busting ass in some poor guy's face and turn it into a cultural commentary.

3:03 AM  
Blogger Jinxy said...


Oy. I know that armbar.

Sounds to me like he got what he deserved after trying to get out of it.

You were using all your skills and abilities to subdue him.

I bet he quit struggling after that.


6:29 AM  
Anonymous brando said...

I'm impressed again Paully. I like how you contrast the reaction with Americans, because I know EXACTLY what I would do in that situation, and it has nothing to do with "pretending not to notice". I'm sure I would call you Farty McFarterton, 12 times a day, for the next 6 months. But it wouldn't be an effort to be cruel. Quite the opposite. I would be reducing your embarassment by making the face-farting incident less taboo. I'm such a good guy. I would probably hit you across the back/shoulders with a 2X4 just to help you cope with your mental stress of being so terrible. It's like a pennance of sorts. Sometimes I can't believe how great I am.

7:47 AM  
Blogger Hoss said...

How bad does that suck that Japs are so uptight that they can't even rag on you for one of the funniest things in the world.

You should have just said, so solly, but armbars and kimuras make my tummy feel funny.

12:01 PM  
Blogger Paul said...


they do kinda

but'cept when theyre done to me

then they make my arm feel funny

1:48 PM  

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