How many of us know what the true meaning of humility is?

Wikipedia defines humility as: the quality of being modest and respectful. Humility, in various interpretations, is widely seen as a virtue in many religious and philosophical traditions, being connected with notions of transcendent unity with the universe or the divine, and of egolessness.

As a martial artist and a Sensei I tend to sway toward the part of the definition that refers to the lack of ego.

There is a karate story that is based on an old Zen story about a student receiving his first black belt. The student who is not of the Tao will puff out his chest and shout to the people of his accomplishment. He will shake hands and accept all of the adoration and pats on the back his fellow students give him. The student who is of the Tao will quietly and respectfully bow to his Sensei then leave the dojo walking quietly against the wall with his head down. He will return home, give thanks to divinity for the gift, and never truly believe in his heart that he deserved the honor. He will then set about examining his form and working ten times as hard to perfect it so as not to dishonor his teacher.

I have lived by that story since I was a young man. Each time I have been promoted, whether it be a black belt rank or not, I have always been extremely critical and judgmental of myself. I have went back and worked as hard as I could on my basics and what I have been taught always striving to make myself live up to what I have been honored with.

Even in changing styles, no matter what rank I held previously, I always walked into my new system and strapped on a white belt. To me it was a fresh new beginning. I emptied the cup of my mind and allowed it to be re-filled.

I have a new student at my dojo. He is a very polite and well-mannered young man. He holds a black belt in another system. Yet, he came to me and voluntarily started at the bottom as a white belt. He has met some of my Intermediate students that are about his age and has been had a humble attitude toward them because he realizes that these guys can help him as he progresses in his new style. His attitude reminded me of myself. If he continues on this path he will go far. I commend him for his attitude of humility. It makes me smile, sadly at times, that this teenager has more wisdom and humility than some black belts or even instructors that I know.

There are people out there who consider humility weakness. I happen to think that it shows great strength. Who is stronger, the person who brags about his accomplishments or the one who accepts what is given then works even harder to prove that gift was deserved? How many times have you seen someone be promoted at their job and let it go to their head? They let their ego take control of them and end up in a desperate situation because they have allowed their pride to alienate them from their fellow workers who could have probably helped them.

Ego will do that. It will separate you from others who would more than happily been there to help you should you need it. In my thinking, humility is the opposite or ego and will cancel ego out if we let it.

  1. April 11, 2012 at 1:11 am

    Yup. This is true… You know though 🙂 If I may …. this part here of your post (and I read the whole thing and enjoyed it) …stuck out…

    ” I have always been extremely critical and judgmental of myself. I have went back and worked as hard as I could on my basics and what I have been taught always striving to make myself live up to what I have been honored with.”

    What would you think about changing the word critical to “dedicated to improving” and judgmental to “striving for more”.

    At work I’ve been very hard on myself, being a new job, over whelmed and I really, really wanted to quit some days. Instead, I dig in there like you’re saying but I do what I’m suggesting you do “word” wise. It’s a different swing on something good … 🙂 TA DA!

    • April 11, 2012 at 7:46 am

      Saying the same thing in a different way makes it no less true. Great insight and take on my words, MC. thank you.

      • April 11, 2012 at 9:51 am

        Hmmph! (stomps little foot) nooooo… be nice to you. Like, I’ve been thinking lately, I call myself hyper all the time almost like it’s a bad thing. I’ve decided to say “energetic” instead! lol ! I’m still hyper … BUT! Ya know… energetic is sooo kewl. lol !

  2. April 11, 2012 at 6:56 am

    So we agree with George Arliss who said: “Humility is the only true wisdom by which we prepare our minds for all the possible changes of life.”!

  3. April 12, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    My son holds a black belt of several degrees in Tae Kwon Do(I lost track while he was living in S.Korea!) and has studied Tai Chi, as well. He has always been so humble about all of these accomplishments and inspires me always to remain focused and meditative and calm and humble about my own progressions with my writing.

    • April 12, 2012 at 2:52 pm

      He sounds like a wonderful son and a great martial artist

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