As martial artists we should be proud of our accomplishments and lineages. We work hard, we get tested, we measure ourselves against other martial artists when we spar. We accomplish a lot of things that are worthy of pride. However, when we focus on solely on our pride and accomplishments, we get into trouble.
I was inspired to write this article by some of the negative chatter I’ve seen on social media. There is a lot of negative chatter about different martial artists online. Some of it is warranted, some is not. The one commonality I found in the recipients of these negative comments is that they suffer from self-importance. They post about how great they are and what they have accomplished, sometimes with exaggerated rank. Some of it is so blatant that it reads like a cry for help and I actually feel bad for the people. There is one martial artist that boasts so much about their humility that I like to say that they take pride in their humility.
Self-importance is not one of the tenants of martial arts. Following the path of humility, respect, and discipline can keep us from getting self-important and arrogant. It is an honor to be a blackbelt and a privilege to be a teacher. Even if you are the worldwide expert and the greatest thing since sliced bread in the martial arts, humility is always the best policy. Performance is noticed. People will talk about how good you are. You don’t need to tell people how great you are.
When one continually boasts, they will just get people asking why they have to talk about themselves, they annoy their peers and leave themselves open for people challenging their rank or ridiculing them online. It also puts the students in an awkward position.
We are taught to respect our teachers. When teachers make outrageous claims or constantly talk about how great they are, it can put their students in an awkward position. When students train, hard and go through rigorous testing, they shouldn’t have to go through the distraction of peers questioning them because of the online claims of their teachers. Self-important posts do a great disservice to students.
The problem self-importance poses can best be expressed by taking out the factor of respect traditionally afforded to martial arts instructors, let’s switch the profession from martial arts instructor to salesperson. If we have a salesperson that is telling everyone how great he is, how does that affect your opinion? Do you listen to the sales person and agree that they are great or are you feeling annoyed or uncomfortable? By pushing a self-important agenda, the teacher is causing a conflict in their students between the respect we are taught to exhibit and the discomfort self-importance can bring.
I have always believed that if you have to tell people that you are a “bad-ass”, you probably aren’t. The same goes for your training. Don’t feel that you have to boast about your talent or rank. Show pride in your lineage, your students and your style. Don’t get wrapped up in self-promotion or rank. Your students will respect you more if you are truly humble and have not exaggerated your accomplishments. Train, teach and spread the benefits of your art. Let you students, teachers and peers sing your praises.