The Higher My Rank, The More Humbly I Behave
The higher my rank, the more humbly I behave. The greater my power, the less I exercise it. The richer my wealth, the more I give away. Thus I avoid, respectively, envy and spite and misery.”
Sun Shu Ao (Chinese minister the Chu Kingdom, Zhou Dynasty, c.600BC.)
I have had the good fortune of interviewing some of the very best martial artists on the planet. It seems that being at the top of your game, whatever that might be, is conducive to being humble. There is not one person I have interviewed, met or trained with who is amongst the best at what they do who conducts him or herself in an arrogant manner. Why do you think that is? I have spent a lot of time thinking about humility in reflection of everyone I have been inspired by. And my guess is that anyone who is at the top has gone through the same internal and external battle that we all go through. It’s just that they have done it for longer and with greater intensity. Think about how many times you have overridden your passing thought to quit training and turn up anyway. Think about how many times you feel like a fool when you’re trying to learn new things. Think about how many people are better than you and you still dare to participate. Think about how many times you finish class thinking that you’re crap at this or that technique but you come back the very next week to attempt it again. If you go through all of these, and many other, struggles to become a better martial artist you can’t help but be humble. The martial arts are a journey to make you a better person - not to be the best person. The day when you think that you’re best is the day you stop growing and stop improving. Always be on the lookout for people who are better than you are and work towards that. Because here’s the secret: that person that you aspire to be as good as is doing the very same thing.
Use of Power
There is no question that a great deal of internal and external power comes from studying the martial arts. Power in any form must be handled responsibly. So how do you do that? Well fortunately the culture in our school is such that I don’t really have to tell you because you all do it anyway. But for the sake of this article, I will refresh your memory.
1. Always look after students with less physical prowess
If you are sparring, grappling or even hitting pads with someone who is obviously not as big, strong and physically competent as you are, be mindful of their safety and well-being. Be respectful and compliant to their needs. Help them as you were helped when you were standing in the same place as them. No good comes from you smacking people around and turning them inside out just because you can. If you can’t use full force, use that time to perfect technique and strategy. It will feel good and your partner will appreciate it.
2. Never misuse your skills
Physical self-defence is always a last resort. Whenever you find yourself in a sticky situation, exhaust all non-physical means of defence first. Avoidance, verbal defence and creating space all take the place of a solid preemptive strike in the initial stages of conflict. Is this always appropriate? Of course not. Sometimes you will have no option but to hit someone. But in the ideal world this should only be the case if nothing else has or will work.
3. Celebrate other student’s victories
Get in the habit of congratulating your fellow classmates. If they land a good shot in sparring say “nice shot”, if they make you tap on the ground say “nice submission”. If they achieve a new belt, shake their hand. Your classmates are not there to compete against you but rather to help you compete against yourself. This is an individual sport practiced as a team. If you celebrate your classmates’ victories, they will celebrate yours. The more that happens, the happier you and your training partners will be. If you’re happier you will train more. If you train more, you can’t help but get better.
Have a Giving Attitude
One of the greatest gifts that the martial arts give us all is self-confidence and consequently happiness. Self-confidence and happiness is a wealth that we can all accumulate and just as easy share with the world. By simply being nice to everyone you encounter you elevate the consciousness of those around you. Walking around like you’re king of the world because you can throw a great punch that would take half the planet off their feet is not the attitude of the elite. Being friendly and sharing your internal happiness and confidence with the world helps others achieve the same. Even people who will never step into a martial arts school will reap the benefits of our work. Not all of us have the financial means to give away money to those who need it but we can all give away happiness. Just start by giving a smile to those who don’t have one and you’re on the way to being a black belt in life.