I’ve trained with more martial artists over the decades than I could ever possibly hope to count… Different schools, different styles and different personalities notwithstanding, not everyone views what they’re doing the same way. For example, I’ve often noticed that children and teenagers will often be quite proud of being in karate and may occasionally even brag about their skills and prowess.
But it’s important to remember that there’s a big difference between pride and ego. Ego is one’s sense of self-importance or self-esteem. It can be an important part of a person’s overall existence but becomes a problem if it inflates beyond certain healthy levels. It’s possible for one to have an inflated ego where they genuinely believe they’re better than everybody else or have greater skills than everyone else.
Honestly, there’s no room for that shit in traditional karate. I’m well aware that some school shave students like this; I’ve even TAUGHT students like this but it usually never ends well. I was reminded of this recently when I was training at. The Shotokan dojo. I’ve always been very confident in my skills, even in recent years. But I was quickly reminded that time and age are rarely kind and there will always be others who may be more skilled. Squaring off against another student who happens to be half my age and weight but skilled to the same degree was all I needed as a sobering reminder.
Another fantastic aspect that reminded me of this, is when one of the instructors came to me after class ended last week and asked me to teach him one of my Uechi Ryu katas. I was more than happy to oblige and he patiently worked through the beginnings of Sanchin, which is ironically the first and last karate that we learn. We got to discussing how, if one is willing to set aside their egos and learn, rank meant nothing and there was always something more to be gained. Especially when experienced practitioners from different styles are willing to share with one another.
It brought me to believe that I made a good choice in choosing this school as the next leg of my martial arts journey. But it also reminded me of all the times that I’ve dealt with someone who bragged they were the best and had a better style, only to get flattened when they faced me. And maybe a few times when people practicing something I thought less of, flattened ME in much the same way. There’s no room for ego.
The important detail is to go in with an open mind. Check your ego at the door and be willing to listen, learn and absorb. This is truly the only way to be successful in one’s martial arts training. As the old story goes, it’s hard to add to a cup which is already full. If you walk into a dojo with a bunch of pre-conceived notions or opinions, regardless of your rank or skill level, you’ll fail before you even begin. And THAT would be a loss to everyone concerned. Food for thought… ☯️