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KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 23 Feb 2008
Posts: 14613
Location: Houston, TX
Styles: Shindokan Saitou-ryu [Shuri-te/Okinawa-te based]

PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 6:30 pm    Post subject: The Martial Arts: Where Egos Go to Die! Reply with quote

Today should be no different than yesterday, nor should it be the same today, and tomorrow shouldn't be any different than the past. What I'm referring to has very little to do with whatever happens on the training floor or does it. What I'm referring to is the brass ring of the martial arts: integrity! Some clutch onto that brass ring much more easily than others. A martial artist's journey is suppose to be as pure as the driven snow; unadulterated in any way, shape and/or form.

I wonder, however, just how often a practitioner of the martial arts trades their integrity for the tangible rewards that are being expected and/or demanded in the future? More so than we'd like to admit. But that's alright, because the layperson knows quite well what a martial artist is capable of. However, the layperson isn't speaking towards the practitioners honed abilities of the martial arts. Rather, they're more concerned with the infallible things that a martial artist does without any concern towards their own integrity on and off the floor.

Is ego a good thing, or is ego a bad thing?

I suppose that depends on the individual to ascertain on a more personal level. I honestly believe that ego tends to get in the way of any potential progress. One's ego must be channeled toward the things that are good and not toward the things that are bad.

Ego needs a leash! I sincerely believe, within myself, that I'm complete in my totality as a martial artist. Is that, what I feel, good or bad?

From The Reasoner:

5 Reasons Your Ego is a Bad Thing

1. It makes you feel other people are stupid.
2. It makes you feel others are not as good as you.
3. It makes you unreceptive to new ideas.
4. It makes you feel anything bad you do is justified.
5. It makes you focus on being better than others and on competition, thus resulting in you never liking the idea of helping anyone, except yourself, in any situation.

1 Reason Your Ego is a Good Thing

1. Ego gives you self-confidence.

5 reasons the ego is a bad thing versus 1 reason the ego is a good thing. Seems to be that the tables have turned; tilted so much that one might have to fight their entire life in the battle against themselves on a daily basis in order to stave off one's own ego. That seems quite tiring and without an end to the means.

Let's briefly examine what I believe are steadfastly seen as models of ego in many martial artists and in many martial art schools, in such a way that their pretentiousness interferes with their capability of greatness. Not to the greatness that is their martial arts abilities, but to their greatness as individuals.

Are these my opinions or is it my ego speaking? I believe it is my opinion, but hopefully not an opinion that's fueled by an ill-tempered ego.

How helpful is an ego? How destructive is an ego? How beneficial is an ego? How demanding is an ego? The battle is raging. In the midst of the torrid storms, the egotistical have made their stand against the moral side of the martial arts.

The Id, Ego and Superego

Before we go any further, I must refer to Simply Psychology's article on id, ego and superego. Please give it a read and then come back.

Those aren't my words - they are the words of experts in the field of psychology. You can decide how valid they are.

Negative egos are running rampant through the martial arts, even more so nowadays than yesteryear. For some reason, I don't think that things in this regard will ever get any better. However, I do pray that, in time, things will change for the best.

This is what I perceive has been happening throughout the martial arts, and it's not a newly found infection, unfortunately.


Rank! Rank! Rank! What else can one possibly say about rank that hasn't already been said on either side of the subject?! Not much, I suppose.

Rank has been treated with anything but exaltation by the masses. If nothing else, rank has been held in contempt. And for good reasons!

Rank isn't what it used to be. It might never mean what it once did. One example: double grades. They do happen, but should be exceptionally rare.

A lack of satisfaction with your current rank invites self-promotion, one way or another. What's wrong with the 7th dan or the 8th dan that your Sensei awarded you? Or, for that matter, the 3rd or the 5th dan, awarded before his or her untimely death? Nothing! Vanity can cause one to discard integrity - therefore adopting ego to cure their feelings of inadequacies. They want to have that 10th dan wrapped around their ego so desperately that they're willing to create something impure.

Their martial art resume isn't impressive enough, so they manufacture one platitude after another as to pad their resume with impressive sounding accomplishments. Mom's grocery list pales in comparison to the ego-driven martial artist's resumes. They thrive on self-aggrandizement. It grows like a weed that's choking your integrity until you can no longer discern a martial arts journey built on integrity from one that has become a long, twisting road.

Students are there to learn. Not to wallow in the self-serving attainment of rank. With rank, it seems that some martial artists are never satisfied. It reminds me of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, a children's book, authored by Laura Numeroff.

According to Wikipedia, the author hits the nail right on the head with a whimsical truth that speaks right to the martial artist - not all, but some, who never seem to be satisfied one way or another.

The book is known for its playful, circular pattern. A boy gives a cookie to a mouse. The mouse asks for a glass of milk. He then requests a straw (to drink the milk), a mirror (to avoid a milk mustache), nail scissors (to trim his hair), and a broom (to sweep up). Next he wants to take a nap, to have a story read to him, to draw a picture, and to hang the drawing on the refrigerator. Looking at the refrigerator makes him thirst, so the mouse asks for a glass of milk. The circle is complete when he wants a cookie to go with it.

Testing Cycle

The evil twin of ranking: testing cycles!

I just want to think out loud and wonder for a moment briefly: just when did the student become the chief instructor (CI)? When did the student decide when one is to attend the very next testing cycle? When did the student assume that position? When?!

Students seek training in the martial arts style of their choice. In their search, they must find the most capable and effective instructor to impart unquenchable knowledge upon them. Students learn, drill and practice an untold amount of hours in the quest of hoping to become the most effective martial artist that they can be. Students lend their unconditional trust to their instructors with the task of teaching them every nuance of every technique; the instructor is the guardian of the students' martial arts time capsule with an unbridled consciousness.

But, more often than not, that ends in the processes of any testing cycle.

In Shindokan, all students must be invited by their CI to attend testing cycles, which are held four times every year. Then, the CI submits the student's request to the Hombu for final approval. Only then are students allowed to attend any testing cycle.

If a student is denied attendance in an upcoming testing cycle, for whatever the reason(s) might or might not be, either the student, if an adult, or the student's parents, become quite vocal in their disapproval. An ego laced tantrum is directed to the CI, and demands are leveled as well.

Just because a student is invited to participate in a testing cycle, that does not mean that they will be promoted. If they are failed by a CI, a similar level of disappointment is often voiced by the student or their parents.

Where, just seconds beforehand, the student was praising their once adored and trusted CI, they now the bane of their existence.

Who is more qualified to pass final judgment during a testing cycle than the CI? Surely, not the student! Nonetheless, the student or their parent(s)/guardian(s) sometimes take it upon themselves to question the abilities of the CI. This is done with the vain of impunity.

Your Ego Can Write Checks That It Can't Cash

Your style is inferior! Your martial arts skills are inferior! Your lineage is inferior! You're a fake! Your sensei is a fake! And so on and so forth! It's easier to attack your fellow martial artists than it is to teach them or for them to teach you effectively applied knowledge that might end up being the meal that saves them in the long run.

If you give them a fish, they'll eat for today. But, if you teach them how to fish, they'll eat for a lifetime.

- Chinese Proverb

We are the keepers of the style, but we don't own the style. And what we know, we should share willingly with our fellow martial artists without any ambiguity and/or selfishness. Why aren't martial artists much more forthcoming with others on the same path? I just don't know - or understand!

Where is the brotherhood and sisterhood of the martial arts? Where one uplifts their fellow martial artist, no matter rank and no matter the style. No matter the differences, we are a band of martial artists.

We're supposed to be tightly woven, unshakable, unmoving and undeniable in our quest as martial artists thriving to reach the unreachable goals; one and all. But, at times, it appears that we'd rather stifle one another than encourage. Why? It is better to tear down things that we don't understand, nor approve of, than to take the effort to learn and accept that which is different.

Ego can be the bane of the martial arts! Ego is the stain of the martial arts! Ego is without thought, care and wisdom! Ego cripples the soul! Ego binds the individual; chains that aren't easily broken. Ego refuses to play nice! Ego refuses to share the floor, including teaching responsibilities.

Merriam-Webster defines ego in this manner:

1: the self, especially as contrasted with another self or the world

2: a) egotism
b) self-esteem

3: the one of the three divisions of the psyche in psychoanalytic theory that serves as the organized conscious mediator between the person and reality especially by functioning both in the perception of and adaptation to reality

Ego, if it's respected and held in check, has the propensity to do great things. Merriam-Webster goes on to use ego in this sentence: "I have enough ego not to want to give up easily in any contest or competition."


Aloofness, audacity, ostentation, conceit, conceitedness, insolence, contemptuousness, haughtiness, nerve, vanity, pride and disdain... however one labels it, ego smiles at its synonyms just as a mother knowingly smiles at her offspring.

Capitulate the good ego and discard the bad ego, if the martial arts and the martial artists are to be respected at all.

Can we martial artists turn the tides on our own egos? Time will tell, but until then, we have to manage our own egos first before we can worry about temperance of others.

This might be true of myself because just how else could we senior dans, in and out of the Shindokan circle, receive all that we've accomplished, the honest way, unless we possess some good, measured ego ourselves?
**Proof is on the floor!!!
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KF Administrator

Joined: 01 May 2001
Posts: 27145
Location: Los Angeles, California

PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 6:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the submission, Bob.

Patrick O'Keefe - Administrator
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Black Belt
Black Belt

Joined: 27 Aug 2012
Posts: 1875
Location: Wales
Styles: Okinawan Karate, Aikido, Ninpo.

PostPosted: Mon Dec 15, 2014 8:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, very good. On joining my present club which has hundreds of years of experience on the mat I was given the simple instruction; "Put your belt in the bin, hang your ego in the cloakroom, you are welcome."
Look to the far mountain and see all.
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KF Sensei
KF Sensei

Joined: 31 Mar 2006
Posts: 27942
Location: Hays, KS
Styles: Taekwondo, Combat Hapkido, Aikido, GRACIE

PostPosted: Tue Dec 16, 2014 10:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I enjoyed this article, and I think it can generate a lot of discussion. I don't necessarily agree with everything, but I think there are a lot of good points here.

I'm not sure if things are quite as bad as the article makes out, however. I think there are some cases out there that do merit a rant, but I think there are far more good people out there training and teaching the Martial Arts than there are bad.
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