I recently read a post from a individual who used the title Shihan on his facebook page. (This is a Japanese title utilized for high ranking instructors.) He was lamenting (and rightly so) that there is
I read a post not too long ago from a Facebook acquaintance who listed a number of reasons why if your uniforms didn’t look the same, your bows weren’t done the same way, or if you called your patterns something else (.. ad infinitum) you weren’t doing Taekwon-Do ... you are doing something else. I generally try to be politically correct and don’t enter debates, but given the fact that I am a 9th Dan in Traditional TaeKwon-Do and as of this post I have been practicing the art for over 46 years ... I think I am entitled to voice my opinion on this one small subject.
There is truth to the assertion that our society has changed significantly in the last 25 years. Some attribute these changes to radical improvements in technology while others take the stance that our societal moral compass ceased to point north. Both statements take an extreme stance and paint with a large brush stroke yet neither provides any definitive proof of symptom or illness.
I am not tackling the big picture in two pages. I do not want to debate whether or not we have become desensitized to violence because of video games, nor do I want to talk about the decline of our youth intellectually, morally, or spiritually.
Is rank really that important? Is one black belt rank more valid than another? Are standards fixed or mutable? I tend to write a lot about this topic because it is plays a significant role how we understand our arts and helps shape our journey paradigm through our specific art. The answers to each one of these questions will vary by the person answering it. I know several high ranking martial artists that put significant importance on the achievement of rank. While I agree that rank is an external motivator and is intended to be representative of progression through a specific art, it is an often corrupted by commercial schools in order to increase profits.
For the real instructors out there a bit of hard earned wisdom…(and to the one instructor who needs to hear this today) I know you don’t want to hear another lengthy lecture from me, but I think it helps to put things in context. You are unique and your love of the arts (of what you do) is laudable. Still none of us are completely perfect, although there are days when I come close.
Relationships are difficult at best and the martial arts student-teacher relationship can be extremely complex. Not so many years ago martial arts instruction looked very different from what it does today.
There are cycles to everything. There is always a beginning, middle, and an end. Sometimes the cycles repeat and sometimes … sometimes they justend. This is a truth that cannot be altered or changed. When we look at life from this perspective, then it takes on a whole new flavor. The expectations are clearer and so is the destination.
Although everyone’s journey through the martial arts (like life) is different they always have the same components. We begin, we learn, and at some point we stop. I have had three encounters over the last few weeks that have caused me to reflect, to smile, and to feel sad. Each of them surrounded the truth of this never ending conversation.
Integrity is a quality that is often espoused but is as rare in the modern world as it was when Diogenes searched ancient Greece for honest man. Ambition, greed, and self-absorption have always lessened a light that was meant to a beacon of the human spirit. Perhaps it is the rarity of this virtue that makes it so special and powerful. "A man imbued with the qualities of courage, integrity, and hope can change the world." - Anonymous
Those of us who train in the martial arts are supposed to be part of a rare breed who understand this concept and who foster its development. Unfortunately, we as a whole are no better than any other group.
When we first start a martial arts class we are filled with unrealistic expectations. We believe that we will pick up physical skills faster than is humanly possible and many of us compare our progress with images we have seen in the mass media. The fact of the matter is we are all human. Each of us has a unique set of attributes that makes us who we are. Some of us are naturally athletic and others are more analytical. No matter what are strengths (or weaknesses) we will continue to grow in the martial arts and life as long as we preserve.
This summer will mark my forty-fifth year as a martial artist. In that modest amount of time I have been fortunate enough to meet a number of the contemporary legends and leaders of the martial arts world. Great men and women who through their sweat and sacrifice have accomplished amazing things. These visionaries helped shape a generation. While keeping their roots firmly planted in the past, they helped define a new paradigm for the practice and growth of their individual styles.