Dominance and Martial Arts Philosophy

 


Dominance, and issues relating to it, are a feature of life for humans and animals alike. Wolves fight to establish or maintain a dominance hierarchy, siblings fight over who gets to hold the TV remote control and spouses fight over who gets to spend the money on a new motor cycle, or a new high fashion outfit. Who is dominant is an issue for life. The struggle for dominance can be seen at the beginning of most of the Junior classes, when, following the warm-ups, we see the competition over who should stand where in the line; in spite of the fact that the students’ belts and stripes largely define the order. Everyone gets to take class, no matter where they stand in line. It’s not an issue worth fighting over, and yet youngsters will contend for territorial dominance in this instance.
 
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(Dominance in sparring is about scoring the most points. Respect and self-control are essential to avoid training injuries.)

 
Who is the boss? Who is in charge? This is often how we perceive who has the power in a situation. We don’t want to be bossed around. In a society where “the customer is always right” there is often the idea that the consumer of a product or service is “in charge.” In Martial Arts it does not work that way. The Sensei is in charge. He is dominant. The students, starting from the most senior among them, form a hierarchy beneath the Sensei, based upon their rank. Where that rank is equal, they are encouraged to be modest, humble and deferential towards each other. The real test of their ability to be respected as dominant, lies after all, in their ability to perform rather than push.
 
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(Dominance on the ground is important for self-defense. Grappling requires thicker mats for safe practice.)

 
While Martial Arts teaches respect for everyone, it also teaches the importance of winning, of being dominant, where issues of real importance are concerned. Additionally, self mastery is held to be of more value than dominating others. Respect is a by-product of this dominance hierarchy. For example, if a lion cub does not respect a male lion, he may end up being hurt, or even killed. Similarly, if a person does not respect a judge in court, they may end up going to jail for their attitude of contempt. Judges rule in their courtroom.
We ask that all students develop a proper respect for the traditions of the Dojo, and remember that respect for property is a part of this. Training equipment, magazines, displays of photographs and even the paint on the walls are all part of the dojo, the place where we train. It is important that everyone who enters this special space shows the proper regard for both the space and each other. Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference in this respect.