Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Virtue of Humility

Some time ago a gentleman entered the dojo to inquire about classes. This is not the first time this has happened and is quite a frequent occurrence. In this instance after some discussion about the class schedule, I invited the gentleman to come try a class to see if it was the type of training he wanted to pursue. I usually get a  number of responses at this point.
They range from- "OK I'll be back on x day to try the class." to  "Can I just sign up now?' However this time was different. He informed me that he was a black belt in another style and could he just wear his black belt  to class. For a moment I thought he wasn't serious, I realized he was. So after some thought (about 5 seconds worth), I politely said that he could not wear his black belt from a completely unrelated style to a new school where he would not know the techniques. His demeanor changed instantly and he proceeded to tell me that he had trained for many years. My response was that he should endeavor to find a school in the style he had devoted so much time to and that if he needed help in that, I would be willing to offer it. He declined (not so politely) and left the school.

This incident stayed with me for several reasons. Initially I was dumbfounded that someone would even suggest they wear their black belt as a student just beginning in a new school. It spoke of an ego of immense proportions. It was (in my opinion) very disrespectful. After some more thought I realized that the reason this situation gave me pause was the lack of humility. Humility is actually a very important component in our training and life. In order to undergo years of repetitive, physically and mentally demanding training, you need to be humble. In our school some of the instructors are younger than the students, those students need to have humility in order to learn from these instructors.

I have found that the only way to progress is to not only know when you don't  know something, but to be able to admit that you don't know and to seek out someone who does and learn from them. To be able to do this you must be humble. To acknowledge you lack skill or ability or knowledge in an area and then to seek out a mentor or instructor requires humility. The other side of that equation is that you must accept the instruction from said instructor/mentor. Its not enough to just be there you have to be teachable. I recently had a young student in a class embody this. When I would state a technique she would say I know ( she is 8 years old). So I would say " Great! Show me." Then she would proceed to show me that she didn't know. We all go through this phase as children. The key is not to remain in this phase as adults (or children).

A part of the process in our school when you achieve a high enough rank, is to wear a white belt again. Usually as part of the process of becoming a black belt, you wear a white belt anywhere from 3-6 months. I went through this process several times and it serves a quite a reality check. You can examine if most of your identity is wrapped around your waist or if you embody what you are training regardless of the color of your belt.

This lesson of humility that is learned in the dojo is meant to be practiced outside the dojo as well ( as most of the life lessons are). Leaders, those that are successful almost always possess this quality. If you look at some of the most successful companies in the world, many of them have leaders who self effacing, who do not seek the recognition, who lift others up before themselves.

We often confuse humility with  being timid. Humility is not having an attitude self-debasement or self denigration, rather humility is maintaining pride about who we are, our worth and  accomplishments but without arrogance. It is the opposite of hubris- the excessive and arrogant pride which leads some to believe that they are infallible. Thoughts that usually occur right before a downfall of epic proportions. Humility is the quiet confidence that has no need of boasting, it is about being content to let others discover the depth of our talent or ability. It is a lack of arrogance but not a lack of aggressiveness in the pursuit of  excellence and achievement.

There are several indicators of humility,here are a few:

How do you treat people who may not offer you anything in return?

Do you find it easy to say " You are right" ?

Can you easily ask input from others or do you have ALL the answers?

When working with others do you need to have all the recognition or can you work from the background allowing others to be receive the credit?

Can you see every situation as a teaching moment, even if the teacher is a child?

I am certain there are more indicators of humility in our lives, these are just some questions to get you started.

I hope they set you on a more humble journey through life and your practice.

Sensei Orlando
strong spirit-strong mind-strong body

1 comment:

Sempai Elena said...

To be right-sized! What a gift! Thanks for an excellent post! Osu! (Elena)