Martial Superiority: The Silent Assassin

View of Mt. Washington from 7000 feet - 2012

View of Mt. Washington from 7000 feet - 2012

I had this amazing conversation the weekend before last, with two accomplished martial artists/teachers over lunch - Sensei Ando, and Sensei Dave Abraham.

During the discussion, we arrived on the topic of judging other schools, or the policing of other martial arts schools/styles because of what they are doing; whether said instruction, or the belt requirements not being up to standards.

I shared something that took me years to arrive at within myself, and what I believe is an important perspective to maintain for all of us as martial artists; especially, as teachers/mentors.

When we look at one school versus another, and determine that one of them is promoting people to Black Belt with far easier requirements than we ourselves went through, or they are expecting less of their students than what we expect of our students, we can climb on our rickety soap box and take a stand against them, railing at the injustice of it all, or we can look at it like this...

Harvard University does not concern itself with trashing lesser universities, community colleges, night schools. They do not publicly humiliate students of those institutions for taking classes there, nor for their effort they applied to achieve their goals under said curricula.

If you attend either school, an Ivy League, or a Community College, you will receive a bachelor's degree upon completion of the required courses/credits just the same. Both are Bachelor's degrees, both are opportunities to learn and grow. One of these holds more credibility, or esteem than the other, by outward appearances only. Yet the price tag attached along with it is far greater as well. 

The individual who studies is the one who truly defines the value of the degree. Going to an ivy league school is not a qualifier that we received a good education. The inverse is true as well; going to a community college, or night school, is not definitive proof someone received a sub par education.

This judgement happens in the martial arts world as well. People use lineage, and even race, as a testimonial to the value of their belt. I have witnessed this first hand. If we study a Japanese Art, is our teacher from Japan? Did we go to Japan to study? The implication in the question being, that an answer of 'No', somehow makes your achievement less significant.
 

If we practice Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, is our teacher Brazilian? Did we sweat in the dojo's of Rio? If we follow Chinese Martial Arts, is our teacher Chinese? These are seemingly innocent questions from the uninitiated, but I have seen more times than I can count, this being used as a bully tactic from those in the martial arts world. A world where we are largely responsible for empowering others to stop bullies.

My Mantis Boxing teacher, Sifu Tony Puyot, is Mexican-Filipino. He jokes with people that he is 'Paco the Gardener'. Why? Where he lives, people will see him as that, long before recognizing him as a highly effective, and battle tested warrior.

"Not all Black Belts are created equal." - unknown

The quality of a Black Belt is another mountain we stand upon to look down upon others from on high. I have seen this in Mantis Boxing, Eagle Claw, Tai Chi; and it will become more prevalent in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as the art becomes more proliferated and widely spread.

The Tibetan Monks did not populate temples in the mountains to look down upon others, but rather to peer closer to the heavens.

Someone who received their belt from a no name individual, but trained diligently for years, persevering numerous trials; could, and at times does, outmatch a person who has had access to, and trained in the best facilities, with a famous fighter/teacher that awarded them their Black Belt.

The person makes the belt. The teacher is only a guide. We should be careful judging others, as it is simply Narcissism disguised as justification, goodwill, or constructive criticism.

Focus on what we have, be the best we can be, and we will rise above the fray. Stay focused on what everyone else is doing, and we will drag ourselves down into the mire.