The Real Purpose of the Martial Arts

Learning How to be Humble


December 2016


Being humbled, or some would say humiliated, is an experience that most people would avoid at all costs, or at least shy away from. However, in the training that is required of a martial artist humiliation, or public embarrassment, may be an occasional occurrence. How the student responds to this essential aspect of training will determine the quality of their martial arts experience.

The capacity to learn requires that the individual have an open attitude about what happens to them in class. If they are predisposed to judging incidents from a “civilian” point of view they will miss the “lesson” inherent in many martial arts interactions, whether inside or outside of the dojo. In order for martial arts training to have a “life changing” impact on the student, they must allow it to change their perspective as they progress with their training, which can be tough at times.


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(When sparring we must expect that we will sometimes have points scored on us. We must accept this This demands humility and respect.)


These challenges are most evident in sparring (strategy) class where the difference between ego and confidence is often blurred in the intensity of the moment. Nonetheless, it is very important for students to trust the process and to “...strive to concentrate only on the martial arts...and to “leave behind any problems or animosities which could be counterproductive”. Sometimes students hit too hard and the natural reaction to that would be to hit back harder; yet, Mudokai students are expected to show self -control, a response required that is quite different from their natural tendency to strike back.

Years ago I promoted a kickboxing match for ESPN TV between Dennis “Mad Dog” Downey and Paul Ellis, in which Downey picked Ellis up and threw him over the ropes and out of the ring. Ellis calmly picked himself up, stepped carefully back into the ring, took a stance and proceeded to skillfully counter Downey’s next move, winning the match with his focused determination and superior skill. While Downey’s purpose may have been to intimidate Ellis through publicly humiliating him, Ellis chose instead to respond with integrity and technique, which won the match, gaining him the respect of the officials and the fans of the sport.

Shihan Robert H. Mason © 2016