Before I even get into the actual content of my post, I have to say that Star Wars’ prequel trilogy is largely underrated. And the Emperor’s line in Episode III, when Mace Windu and senior members of the Jedi Council finally approach him and recognize him as the Dark Lord of the Sith is iconic. If I was facing a number of skilled, experienced Jedi, I might not be so bold and calm as Emperor Palpatine was. But the line was fantastic, no less. I’ve often made a case for the fact that Jedi are basically just martial artists with modern, energy-based weapons. Even their robes are reminiscent of a karate gi… But I digress… Let’s get on with the subject of today’s post…
There’s a strange phenomenon that occurs for martial artists; it happens when one begins to gain skill and experience and begins to believe that they’re actually “good.” Now that I’ve achieved the age, wisdom and experience level that I have, I understand that being “good” is simply a state of mind and that one is genuinely never done learning the martial arts, regardless of one’s rank. This is something I came to learn the hard way, with some unfortunate happenstance, which I was recently reminded of. That brings us to the here and now, where I’ve come to see that the phenomenon is still quite prevalent and exists in some way, shape or form.
When I was in my early 20’s, I reached a point that I consider to be the pinnacle of my physical skills. I had speed, skill, accuracy and knowledge. Because of these factors, I became arrogant and boastful; something that isn’t becoming of a traditional martial artist. I reached a point where, even when I taught others, it was done through the lens of someone who knew better than they. It reached a point where I became frustrated and even angered by Sensei’s continued scrutiny of my knowledge and skills. It reached an unfortunate point where I thought I knew better. It reached a point where I even skipped on classes where I felt I was being slightled.
Sensei felt this change in me, probably before I even felt it in myself. It didn’t help that his son, one of my best friends, was in the same position as I was. We had conversations about how tired we were with the repetitive training, the constant drills that we’d already mastered, etc… It got to a point where for the first time, I did something I had never done before at that stage in my life; I started to skip out on training in favour of trivial things. I shot pool with friends. I went swimming in the forest. I hung out with my girlfriend. it last almost three months before I snapped out of it and realized I needed to go back.
When I finally returned to the dojo, Sensei acted as though i had never left. It wasn’t until I managed to get him alone after a class one night, when I asked him about what had happened. he explained that he knew what I was going through and had, in fact, gone through it himself. He knew that there would have been no convincing me that I needed to go back until I realized it myself. A part of my inner ego had to be permitted to inflate and pop on its own before I would recognize that this was exactly what I was dealing with; my ego. only once I realized that I didn’t know everything, didn’t know BETTER, could I start to recognize that martial arts is not a journey one can walk alone.
And that’s the lesson… Sometimes, one has to allow oneself to become built up before one realizes the only solution is to break it all down to allow yourself to grow. As the old saying goes, it is hard to fill a cup that is already full. Ego takes up a lot of space. If one is unable to set aside one’s ego, one will never truly be able to successfully learn and progress within the martial arts. Food for thought… ☯️