Sunday, January 27, 2013

Is respect automatic?

Feeling deep admiration for someone or something, elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements. That is the definition of respect. The submission or courteous yielding to the opinion,wishes or judgement of another is deference. This is the attitude expected in most dojos. My question is should it be automatic?

Within the context of your chosen path should you automatically respect those who have come before you or should you scrutinize who they are, not only as martial artists but as people? If I have more stripes on my belt does that mean that I should expect deference from those who may not have as many stripes?  It is, I admit a complex situation and yet also simple. It is complex because there are several variables at play. It is simple because at its essence it comes down to- respect must be earned, in and outside of the dojo.

Granted, in each dojo there are rules of etiquette that should be followed, rules that were established to promote order  and to keep us present to the fact that we are embarking upon the study of an art that can and is dangerous. I am not advocating disregarding these norms of etiquette. However it has been my experience that within the higher ranks the respect and deference seems to flow one way. The seniors may expect this behavior towards them, but it is rarely demonstrated by the seniors towards their juniors. I recently witnessed this behavior in action.

 A shodan was having a conversation with a fourth degree instructor when another fourth degree student interrupted the conversation stating that he needed to discuss something of import with said fourth degree. This incident made me think, how would have that fourth degree reacted if the roles were reversed?  If the two fourth degrees were in conversation and the first degree needed to speak with one of them would an interruption be tolerated?  My other thought was, that by stating that he needed to discuss something  important he was implying that whatever was being discussed currently was not as important as what he had to say.

Now this may or may not have been true, but the act denotes a certain level of arrogance. Where is the respect? Does a first degree merit less respect than a fourth degree? Does a white belt deserve less respect than a black belt? When we realize that ranks and stripes are all artificial ( a statement which I'm sure will throw many high level sensei, shihan, kyoshi and hanshis into an uproar) and that what matters is the person wearing the belt, not the belt itself, then we will be able to relate to each other as fellow students along the way.

When seniors treat juniors with respect regardless of rank, then arrogance cannot have a foothold in the dojo or their life. This is when respect becomes mutual, deference natural and humility a way of life.

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