Home > Karate, Martial Arts, Philosophy, Training > A Slippery Slope: Pointing Fingers

A Slippery Slope: Pointing Fingers


I have been teaching since about 1996 in this area. It happens occasionally. I don’t really understand why it happens, it simply does.

I teach my students from the moment that they walk through the door that the only person they are competing with in the dojo is, quite simply, themselves. Most of them listen. Most of them take that to heart and actually train to do what it is that karate is meant to do: improve themselves. They go on and make great students. Some of them go on to make great black belts.

Occasionally there is one who will lose their way. It usually happens at the high Intermediate lever or the Advanced level. The student stops looking at themselves and starts looking at others. If you don’t practice martial arts you must understand that this time in a person’s training is very difficult and often very stressful. Often they have hit a rut in their training and things have gone stale for them. They have become bored with constantly working their basics. They have worked the same kata for months and months and STILL Sensei finds flaws in it. They don’t realize that Sensei is patiently waiting for them to learn lessons in their hearts as well as in their physical performance. A good Sensei in a traditional martial art is just as interested in the character of the student as how high the student can kick or how well the student demonstrates a kata.

There are too many people in our world today who think they are entitled to whatever they want. They have no idea of what it means to earn something. They believe that simply because they have been at their job, been in their position, or done whatever it is that they do, that they have something special coming. The thought that they don’t do a sufficient job in what they do never crosses their minds. They have that promotion coming and they will get it even if they have to resort to less-than-honorable means. Sadly, the karate-ka will sometimes act the same way.

It is then that they will begin to start comparing themselves to others, or comparing others to themselves. They will look at the surface and see what they see. They will look at a student whose kata isn’t quite as good as their own and they will let the thought fester in their minds of how much better they are than the other person. They focus on that flaw in the other and never see that the other person’s basics far surpass theirs. They will notice that another student hasn’t been to class nearly as much as they have yet is going to be tested at the same time they are for the same rank. In other words, they see what they want to see. They see the things on the surface yet they NEVER see the things Sensei does. For example; while that person was missing those classes due to an injury or physical condition, they came up with a whole new lesson plan for the children’s class or did something that would benefit the dojo. They never see that yet they sit in judgment even after they have taken a month off just because they “needed” a break. This mind frame, after it has begun, easily turns into a very nasty and vicious cycle. The student looks for flaws in others. The more he sees the easier it is for him to justify or even ignore his own shortcomings.

The cycle is a terrible thing that will lead the student down a road that is doomed to failure. What can even make things worse is the influence of outside parties. Parents, family, or friends who night after night sit and watch classes automatically become expert teachers. The student may be seeing certain things on a surface level. The on-lookers don’t even see as deeply into it as the student does. Some of them may go watch the student compete in a tournament. If the student wins, he’s awesome! If the student loses, he got “robbed”. That’s their opinion from watching one competition. As a supporter of a martial artist, whether you are family or a friend, you need to understand that the student is being taught and trained. That teaching and training goes far beyond what you can see watching classes or going to see a competition. These things are merely the surface of lessons that run much deeper in the student’s life. It’s fine to support the student but there is a time when, believe it or not, you can’t help. For you to attempt to would be like a plumber trying to perform brain surgery. It will turn into a huge mess and it will not end very pretty.

So, for you supporters: support your student. The best way to do that is keep the student positive. Keep her focused on making herself better and not what others are doing.

For the student: stay positive. Stay focused on your strengths. Work to better your weaknesses. Look for the lessons at the dojo that have nothing to do with how well you spar or how great your back-fist is. Look deeper.

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  1. January 16, 2012 at 6:56 am

    Spoken like a true warrior poet. So much of what you’ve written here resonates with me. Yes, we must learn to become comfortable with shutting ourselves off from certain things people say, and even having the courage to speak up and say “I disagree.” There is no being “robbed.” We are entitled to nothing. We train and we fall to the level of that training. Either the other competitor trained harder, or if a mistake was made by an official, that’s an opportunity to exercise grace in an unfair situation. Nothing is a blessing or a curse. For a warrior, everything is simply a challenge. Victories are a challenge to remain grateful and humble. Losses are a challenge to accept with grace and humility.
    Peace & grace,
    ~Miro

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