Ego and the Martial Artist

e·go
ˈēɡō/
noun
  1. a person’s sense of self-esteem or self-importance.
    “a boost to my ego”
    PSYCHOANALYSIS
    the part of the mind that mediates between the conscious and the unconscious and is responsible for reality testing and a sense of personal identity.

Okay, now that we’ve defined what it means, how does the ego affect the martial artist? We all have an ego, whether we realize it or not. In this day and age, whenever ego is mentioned it’s always with a negative connotation.

A good martial artist will have an ego that allows them to understand their abilities and limitations. They will know that there is always someone bigger, stronger and more capable than they are. Part of knowing that is what fuels the martial artist to keep practicing and growing in their art. That’s the good part of the ego.

Unfortunately, all to oftenb the ugly part of the ego takes over some black belts. Its normal and natural to stand on the training floor going through your kata, moving your arms in moves such as inside blocks or punching. There’s a sad truth about most of us. We can’t recite the moves to a kata to you, we have to do them – not all out full on kata but a quieter, moving through the motions. When you see a black belt absorbed in themselves doing the moves chalk it up to them thinking part of the process through, figuring out a way to teach it or just learning a new kata. And that’s all good.

It’s the black belt who feels the need to yell and scream making sure everyone in the room is looking at them. That’s the martial artist with an overly large ego, overflowing with self-importance. I cringe every time I see it happen. I know that what could be a good karate student (we are always students) isn’t as good as he or she can be because they are looking for attention. Karate isn’t about that. Humility is the key to progressing. Always understanding that you have much to learn. If you just want to show off, my suggestion is to go and do community theatre. Come back to the dojo when you understand what being a martial artist is all about.

Humility. Sincerity. Honesty. Respect.

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Manner

Before I come to the dan exam, not only do I have to practice hard and consistently but I also have to write two papers. One is on the history of karate, which I think I’m going to expand on and include the history of women in karate, as that’s of personal interest to me and hopefully inspiring to young girls who might consider taking up the life-changing sport.

I also have to write one on manner. At first glance the paper on manner might seem boring and easy but the more I think about what karate manner is and what it means to the athlete the more important this ‘little’ subject is.

We teach manner all the time. Is it just bowing when you enter on the mat or when you leave? Is it just used when you begin the class? Is it only used when you greet your instructor? Of course not. Manner permeates all parts of the student’s karate life.

Manner equates to not just how you conduct yourself within the dojo but the respect that you give to your instructor, yourself and your opponent.  For example, of course you bow to your opponent before you begin a technique, you’re showing respect. But aren’t you also respecting them and their abilities when you bow, keeping your eyes on them? Aren’t you also showing respect to them when you don’t turn your back? Aren’t you respecting yourself when you train hard, sweating bullets, repeating the same small little technique over and over again until you get it right?

You’re respecting yourself, your instructor who is training you and the great masters before them that devised the katas, training drills to better teach the lowly students how to reach great heights with karate.

Manner is shown through so many things, acknowledging your Sempais, your Sensei and your Shihan. It is also shown through hard work. Practice. Repetitive drills until you master one tiny little technique. Manner begins with the bow and never ends…