Ego in the martial arts
I was talking to a guy at church today and we got off on the topic of ego in martial arts. He asked if there were a lot of folks that get into it for reasons other than to just learn a skill. I told him, "There is a lot of ego mixed up in why people do martial arts and it often takes years to calm that down if you ever do.
For some reason I've been thinking for a few weeks about a couple of my worst moments in the martial arts. Moments that made me wonder, and probably made those around me wonder if I had learned anything at all from studying this stuff.
As a freshman in college I was a State Champion in karate. I worked out all the time and was proud of my flexibility and kicks. One day, I was sitting in my room in the freshman dorm with my circle of friends and with one guy who had sort of insinuated himself into our circle. Nobody liked him. He was arrogant and annoying - and I was far from the only guy that thought so. Let's call him Q-. Well, we all made some excuse to leave the room and go eat together or something. Nobody invited Q- and we all hoped he'd get the message, but no, he hopped up and started out the door to go eat with us. I was seething at his boorish insensitivity as I walked out the door with Q- right behind me. (I'm sure there was a girl to impress in the group or something too). Anyway, as I walked out the door, I slipped to the left right along the wall, hauled off and hook kicked Q- in the face around the door frame. It was a technically perfect hook kick. Something to be proud of! The only thing was, it wasn't Q- I'd kicked. Without my knowing it, he'd switched places with another of my friends - a guy who never offended or hurt anyone. And it was this innocent that I kicked. It wasn't hard enough to hurt him but it was humiliating to him. I tried to assure him that I hadn't meant to kick him, I had wanted to kick Q-. So, not only did I kick the wrong guy, but I humiliated one friend, openly insulted another, and made the rest of them think I was an first class a-hole. I should have had my butt kicked for that - it would have left me feeling better than I did.
Years later, after I'd gotten into aikido and absorbed all the great lessons of the Art of Peace, I was (I think) 4th dan in aikido. We were having an email conversation amongst a group of ourselves about some technical aspect of aikido. One of the shodans sent an email suggesting something or questioning something that I was talking about in the forum. I don't even remember the content but it struck me wrong so I sent out a public message basically asking him how he dare question me when I was a 4th dan and he was just a shodan!? I regretted it as soon as I pressed SEND. I sat there in my office waiting for the rebuttal, and when it came it was pretty gentle. He basically just asked me, "Are you crazy, talking to another person like that - regardless of rank?" I immediately agreed, apologized, and claimed a moment of insanity. Fortunately, he didn't let that poison our relationship (because he was better at the Art of Peace than me) but the training environment was pretty frigid for a while. A few years later we met at a seminar and had a good, sweaty ass-busting session that seemed to put a lot straight - I've seen him occasionally at seminars since then and everything seems okay between us.
The moral of both stories: You have to guard yourself carefully against making irreversible actions.