Well, here's the completed shodan paper for tomorrow night. We were to pick a topic to write about, and I chose ego and self-esteem and how they relate to the martial arts.
The butterflies have landed....I'm nervous, but I'm ready. I'll post as soon as I can about how the test went. Yay!!!
We know the warrior by his presence and the healing he automatically gives to everyone he meets. ~ Erle Montaigue
“There are many people who, even when studying the Way of the Martial Arts, think that these skills will not be useful in real situations. In fact, the true Way of the Martial Arts is to train so that these skills are useful at any time, and to teach these skills so that they will be useful in all things.” Miyamoto Musashi, “The Book of Five Rings”
When we meet someone else who does Karate differently than we do, we seem to have a knee jerk reaction and immediately begin attempting to dominate the other person instead of listening to what they have to say and thinking about it with due consideration. Rob Redmond, 24 Fighting Chickens blog
Ego, Self Esteem and the Martial Arts
What do you think of when someone asks you about the martial arts? If you were to ask a person who does not do martial arts, they might mention Chuck Norris, Steven Segal or even Jackie Chan. All of those men encompass what is known, in my eyes, as the “movie martial arts”. The egos involved tend to be inflated and evolved to the point where the practitioners may feel as if they are indestructible. This, however, is only my opinion. The martial arts you see in movies are very far removed from what the actual martial arts represent. Ego and self-esteem play a very large role in the evolution of a martial artist, and I write about those two aspects of our personality because they have played a very important role in my martial arts practice and my growth as a person involved in the martial arts. All of the opinions expressed in this paper are my own, and they are far from being the norm with all karateka. The three quotes at the top speak to me about ego and self esteem and how they pertain to the martial arts and I will touch on all of them within this paper.
How does the ego pertain to martial arts and where, exactly, does self-esteem fit in? When talking about the ego you need to look into how a person reacts to having gained a significant amount of knowledge in martial arts technique. Martial arts provide a very powerful source of self-protection and can therefore lead to a very powerful increase in a person’s ego. This is not necessarily a hindrance, if the ego evolves slowly and does not gain control. The opposite of that is an ego which becomes so inflated that the martial arts practitioner feels as if he or she “know it all” and proceed to show this knowledge off to all who will watch. Self-esteem, on the other hand, can only increase in such a way as to compliment the ego. When you feel confident about yourself, your ego will inevitably grow stronger since you have more confidence in yourself and what you know. That being said, what happens to the self-esteem if the ego takes over? Does it become weaker in the sense that the person has now “become” the ego? This is a very interesting question, and I feel that if the ego becomes too strong, then self-esteem becomes weaker. Ego is a very strong trait, and can quickly take over all other personality traits if left unchecked. To be all ego is to be weak, which is not something karatekas want to be. Self-esteem is a much stronger trait to have, a much more reliable source of courage. Courage with too much ego becomes carelessness.
The first quote at the beginning of this paper is first for a reason. To me it represents the humbleness the martial arts can bring to all those who practice it. Being a healer requires a great deal of self-confidence and self-esteem. If you do not have those aspects of your character in a solid place within yourself you cannot provide healing to others. When training in the martial arts a certain amount of healing happens within you, which slowly builds a solid sense of self-esteem. Too have too much ego in this sense would not only be detrimental to yourself, but also to those around you who recognize your healing capabilities. Being a massage therapist gives me a unique perspective into this idea. There are many massage therapists who allow their egos to become too strong, which degrade their healing capabilities. Receiving a massage from someone who’s ego has become too inflated is not a pleasant experience and you often leave the session feeling more stressed than when you felt at the beginning. Ego must be contained; self-esteem must be stronger than ego. The martial artist who has strong self-esteem is capable of great healing and great martial arts. To me it’s all about allowing this to happen within yourself and not letting your ego get the best of you. There will always be someone stronger, faster, and more capable of striking from hara. It’s a wise thing to remember.
Miyamoto Musashi’s quote touches on believing and trusting in your techniques. This has been the toughest battle for me throughout my eight years of training. Trusting in yourself and the believing that the techniques you know will work boosts self-esteem in amazing ways. To not trust the technique means you are not trusting in yourself. This can be the “death” of a karateka’s self-esteem. The more you fail at performing, the more you mistrust what you know, both about yourself and your techniques.
I put in the last quote because I’ve seen this happen in our own dojo. There are often times when Sensei Bottomms teaches us one thing and either after class or during application of what was just taught others from another dojo interject what they feel is the “right” way to do the technique. This bothers me to no end. When entering another’s dojo, their “way” is to be respected and learned, not critiqued and criticized. That is not respectful and is purely coming from ego’s point of view. A dissolving of the ego must occur when entering the dojo, whether it is where you train or not. If you do not agree with the Sensei, speak with them after class, not during the time he or she is teaching. In my eyes there is nothing ruder than someone who speaks out against what Sensei teaches. Everyone has the capacity to learn, no matter how much training they have had. Having respect for other’s teachings shows not only humbleness, but a strong sense of self (self-esteem). To not respect someone else’s teachings shows only the ego is present, one that is far too large to allow for any further learning.
When I think of self-esteem and how it relates to the martial arts the picture inside of my head is of an elderly Asian man slowly performing kata with a serene smile on his face. He is sure in his stances; sure of how the moves work. You realize that the serene smile also goes much deeper than what you see on his face. I also think of this same man with his students, with the same serene look on his face, allowing himself to learn from his students as he teaches them all he knows about martial arts. The most important part of my learning thus far has been how to control the ego and allow your self-esteem to rule your inner battle. There is a never-ending battle between ego and self-esteem, the trick is to find that delicate balance where they both work together. I work towards finding and honing that serene smile on my face, and have already learned from those that I have taught. I feel that my ego is in check, and I am so grateful that Koro Ken has taught me to believe in myself and to trust what I know. I have never learned so much about myself as I have while being a martial artist and I look forward to learning for the rest of my life.