Respect in martial arts

hkfuie

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I just wanna rant a little. And hopefully get the surprise of a few interesting replies to make Monday at work a little more fun:

I was talking to someone (a high ranking BB) who told me about visiting a school in another state where one of his students trains. The instructor (a young 20 something guy) did not bow to him when he came in the door.

Some people are very tied to who is highest rank and that means the lower rank must say hello first, or bow first, or other such stuff. I don't know if the person I was talking to was expecting to be bowed to first and it was just some weird misunderstanding/unreasonable expectation that all schools operate with exactly the same rules or if it was intentional disrespect.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if it was the former. This BB expects lower ranking people to approach first. The person I was talking to took it as intentional disrespect and is pissed about it.

I have seen this alot in dojangs with GM's and other high ranking BB's. This discussion is not about the person in the story, but the concepts under the story. The person in the story is a person I like and respect very much, even though there is a little grudge in me that my respect seems to be demanded. It's like giving a gift and the person says, "It's about @#$% time you gave me this gift!"

:soapbox:

Call me crazy, but wouldn't it be great if martial arts taught people to respect others because they're HUMAN? Does it have to be about rank? In my totally unhumble opinion, no.

Does anyone else feel like they're wading in BS sometimes in martial arts with the games played by high ranking people?

I do respect the skills and experience of people who have trained longer than I, but I have this inner resistance to idolizing another human being that makes me think these games are total crap.

Will someone please give me an attitude adjustment if I ever get this much ego? Put me in a chokehold until I cry uncle and regain a little humility. I think it is a very easy trap for a person to fall into, ESPECIALLY martial artists.

Whew! Feels good to say what I think. Now, if you want to throw something at me, make it a banana cream pie. I kinda have a hankering for one! Or just put me in a choke hold until I cry uncle! :)
 

terryl965

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This is how I see it, we are tought from the beginning to respect all that we know and to acknowledge the higherranking BB. It is the way in all Martial Arts to give respect. I try to treat everybody the same and that is te way I expect people to treat me, like a GOD no like a human being. High ranking people sometimes forget they are just human on the outside and some sort of GOD inside the school, we as instructor must know when to be one or the other. If every single person just did the right thing then this would not even be an issue.
 

Tez3

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People rant about MMA but one of the nicest things in MMA is that there's a lot of mutual respect going on. There's no bowing or calling people sensei, I've seen thirty year old men treating an eighteen year old with great respect for his abilities and they are very willing to learn from him. it makes for a very pleasant training atmosphere.

I've never experienced GMs or the like so can't speak about what happens in places that have them. When I was doing Wado we called the instructors including the chief instructor by their first names and there was no waiting to see who bowed first etc. I've been to other clubs and most have seem to the same, you bow when you come in and out of the door, you bow to the instructor and thats basically it, I've never been to a place that has a lot of formality.
 

myusername

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It reads like this guy needs to grow up a bit really. There are much more important things to worry about than who bows first! It is very comical and reminds me of when you get two motorists who meet each other on a single lane country road and neither will be the one that reverses first to let the other past! They would rather just sit in their respective cars going nowhere than give up their "right of way."

I now have an amusing image of two blackbelts standing in front of each other in pre-bow position, neither moving except to gesture with their eyebrows that it is the other who needs to bow first! I think a lot of people confuse respect with ego massaging.
 
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hkfuie

hkfuie

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Oh, Terry1965, I did not mean YOU! Of course you are a GOD! I meant everyone else!

Tez, I guess it is just a matter of preference and since I ranted on it, I feel much better.

My own instructor has some rituals that I don't have much use for, but it is just a matter of preference and out of respect for him, I honor his rituals in his school.

I just hate it when I finally figure out some unspoken rule that I am supposed to approach first or initiate shaking hands or something that fundamentally makes me twitch. Must be my own ego. :)

Actually, my GM's ask us to call them by first name. They are not personally addressed as GM.
 

Tez3

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Oh, Terry1965, I did not mean YOU! Of course you are a GOD! I meant everyone else!

Tez, I guess it is just a matter of preference and since I ranted on it, I feel much better.

My own instructor has some rituals that I don't have much use for, but it is just a matter of preference and out of respect for him, I honor his rituals in his school.

I just hate it when I finally figure out some unspoken rule that I am supposed to approach first or initiate shaking hands or something that fundamentally makes me twitch. Must be my own ego. :)

Actually, my GM's ask us to call them by first name. They are not personally addressed as GM.

You are quite right to rant, it does you good!
Years ago there was a thing in British 'society' which listed all the things that made you a part of the upper class or not. It was called the U and non U list. for example it depended on what words you used for various things, ie do you use the word serviette or napkin, lavatory or loo. The point of it was as with the 'etiquette' in Dojos is to make you feel you are either part of it or an outsider. If you are an outsider it makes you feel as if you shouldn't be there, you're not worthy, if you are part of it you feel superior to those who are not! It's all about ego and not yours Hkfuie! I think your attitude is healthy and I can't see you coming the 'big I am' !

Respect is a good thing, respect all round as personified by Terrys post.
 

stickarts

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In our dojo we bow to each other as equal people with the intent of entering as friends and leaving as friends. There is a "chain of command" in order to keep things organized, however, that doesn't mean that anyone is any "better" as a human being then anyone else. I know that every one of my students has different skills that I don't have and knows things that I don't know. In my experience, the right, or wrong, attitude starts at the top by setting the example.
 
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hkfuie

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It reads like this guy needs to grow up a bit really. There are much more important things to worry about than who bows first! It is very comical and reminds me of when you get two motorists who meet each other on a single lane country road and neither will be the one that reverses first to let the other past! They would rather just sit in their respective cars going nowhere than give up their "right of way."

I now have an amusing image of two blackbelts standing in front of each other in pre-bow position, neither moving except to gesture with their eyebrows that it is the other who needs to bow first! I think a lot of people confuse respect with ego massaging.

You're killing me! My abs are sore already! I can't take it!

Thanks for the laugh. :)
 

MBuzzy

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This is one of my biggest issues with my style. There are far too many people around who seem to want to "play" at their rank. By never having any real training on what rank is and what it really means and more importantly how to use it, their sense of self importance has grown far beyond their own ego and belt size. Respect should be earned and given willingly. There are of course traditions and requirements that we must stand on. The idea that you must respect the rank, but not necessarily the person. But in Martial Arts, shouldn't it be more important to respect for good reasons?

As a leader, do you want to be followed and listened to out of fear and requirement or out of true respect? I have posted along these lines before, but I think that a lot of my frustration comes from the fact that I am in the military, where your rank really means something. It is not simply an indicator of experience, but a sign of authority and your role in the organization. In fact, in some cases, experience has little to do with it. In the Martial Arts, experience is linked to rank and cannot be separated.

Or, it could be that I have been talked down to and disrespected by too many kids who outrank me and get a kick out of having someone twice their age bow to them.
 

terryl965

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Oh, Terry1965, I did not mean YOU! Of course you are a GOD! I meant everyone else!

Tez, I guess it is just a matter of preference and since I ranted on it, I feel much better.

My own instructor has some rituals that I don't have much use for, but it is just a matter of preference and out of respect for him, I honor his rituals in his school.

I just hate it when I finally figure out some unspoken rule that I am supposed to approach first or initiate shaking hands or something that fundamentally makes me twitch. Must be my own ego. :)

Actually, my GM's ask us to call them by first name. They are not personally addressed as GM.


That is just my point I am not aGOD my folks call me sir or sabanim which mean head instructor. I am not a Master to them I am a teacher and that is all. I give them the same respect I would give the highest ranking person in the world if they deserve it.:asian:
 

seasoned

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It is like a hand shake. Before class I bow, and everyone else bows, I tell them it is like shaking all their hands at the same time. Out in the world a hand shake shows respect, I don't wait, I just extend. The same holds true in the DoJo. Call it a thank you, call it respect. I guess we could salute each other, the important thing is to do what is appropriate at the right time, and in the right place, and for all the right reasons.
 

Kacey

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I see two issues here:

1) In a formal setting, formal courtesy is required. If the student in question was in a dojang where formal rules of courtesy are followed, and they were not - then yes, it is the fault of those who did not follow the agreed-upon rules for the setting. Yes, I know that many people disagree with the formal rules - and therefore should either find a dojang that doesn't use them, or convince those higher up that the rules should be changed. While they are still there, however, they should be followed. There are plenty of rules I have to follow that I don't always agree with - dress codes come to mind - but they are rules set down by wherever they are valid, and my choices are to follow them, attempt to change them, or get in trouble for ignoring them.

2) Whether I like the particular rules or not, if they exist, there is a reason they were created - and I will find the reason before I begin to protest, either through an attempt to change them or willful disobedience. After finding out the reason, I may find that I agree with the rules after all, and I may not. But until the rules are changed, no matter how much I dislike or disagree with them, I am in the wrong if I don't follow them.

I know that there are going to be people who disagree with me - who feel that formal courtesy for those of rank is just feeding their egos - and in some cases it is. However, I am also setting an example for those around me - and I'd rather set a positive one than a negative one. The event that started this thread shows why - because people who act as the annoyed BB acted are looked upon with disfavor, even if they are deserving of the courtesy that was not shown them.

As far as what I call other students - regardless of rank - outside the dojang... why does the setting make a difference? Either I respect the person and what the person knows - in which case I should address the person respectfully - or I don't, in which case I see no reason to be deliberately rude by ignoring the dictates of courtesy. Either way, I practice courtesy for myself - not for those around me. I see no reason why I should be discourteous simply because the setting has changed.
 

myusername

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I see two issues here:

1) In a formal setting, formal courtesy is required. If the student in question was in a dojang where formal rules of courtesy are followed, and they were not - then yes, it is the fault of those who did not follow the agreed-upon rules for the setting. Yes, I know that many people disagree with the formal rules - and therefore should either find a dojang that doesn't use them, or convince those higher up that the rules should be changed. While they are still there, however, they should be followed. There are plenty of rules I have to follow that I don't always agree with - dress codes come to mind - but they are rules set down by wherever they are valid, and my choices are to follow them, attempt to change them, or get in trouble for ignoring them.

2) Whether I like the particular rules or not, if they exist, there is a reason they were created - and I will find the reason before I begin to protest, either through an attempt to change them or willful disobedience. After finding out the reason, I may find that I agree with the rules after all, and I may not. But until the rules are changed, no matter how much I dislike or disagree with them, I am in the wrong if I don't follow them.

I know that there are going to be people who disagree with me - who feel that formal courtesy for those of rank is just feeding their egos - and in some cases it is. However, I am also setting an example for those around me - and I'd rather set a positive one than a negative one. The event that started this thread shows why - because people who act as the annoyed BB acted are looked upon with disfavor, even if they are deserving of the courtesy that was not shown them.

As far as what I call other students - regardless of rank - outside the dojang... why does the setting make a difference? Either I respect the person and what the person knows - in which case I should address the person respectfully - or I don't, in which case I see no reason to be deliberately rude by ignoring the dictates of courtesy. Either way, I practice courtesy for myself - not for those around me. I see no reason why I should be discourteous simply because the setting has changed.

Agree with you totally Kacey, basically if you don't want to follow the rules or etiquette then find another school. I am a hundred percent behind this.

However, in the original post the black belt being referred too was visiting somebody elses school. I think that changes things a little and makes the black belt sound a little childish for being annoyed. Fair enough, if it is your dojang it may be understandable to get a bit miffed if someone is deliberately being churlish. However, in my view even in this case it is only understandable if you know without doubt that it is deliberate and not just an oversight or someone unfamiliar with the Dojang's particular rules. To get annoyed otherwise is, to my mind, just a sign of a bruised ego and has nothing to do with respect.
 

Kacey

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Agree with you totally Kacey, basically if you don't want to follow the rules or etiquette then find another school. I am a hundred percent behind this.

However, in the original post the black belt being referred too was visiting somebody elses school. I think that changes things a little and makes the black belt sound a little childish for being annoyed. Fair enough, if it is your dojang it may be understandable to get a bit miffed if someone is deliberately being churlish. However, in my view even in this case it is only understandable if you know without doubt that it is deliberate and not just an oversight or someone unfamiliar with the Dojang's particular rules. To get annoyed otherwise is, to my mind, just a sign of a bruised ego and has nothing to do with respect.

I agree and I don't - and here's why:

I was talking to someone (a high ranking BB) who told me about visiting a school in another state where one of his students trains. The instructor (a young 20 something guy) did not bow to him when he came in the door.

If the student being visited was the instructor - then the instructor at the visited school should know what his instructor (the visitor) expects. If the instructor who didn't bow was not the visitor's student, then I agree, the visitor should abide by the rules of the school he was visiting - and also assumes, if the visitor was not the instructor's instructor, that he was recognized as he was entering - another key point, I think; not showing respect ordinarily shown a senior to someone you don't recognize is an error - not deliberate disrespect - and allowances should be made for such occurrences. Anything else is, as you said, churlish, and shows lack of humility, as well as lack of understanding of the rules governing courtesy, which place the control over those rules with those who run the facility.
 

terryl965

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When you are tought in one school and leave to open your own your rules should apply except when it is your old Master coming to visit you still should follow the protocal he tought you. He will always be your teacher regardless of what happens in the future.
 

IcemanSK

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I know some folks who get really hung up on this stuff. I'm a 3rd Dan with 26 years in TKD. In my organization there are many younger folks who are higher rank than I am. I show them due respect on the mat. In our organization, we wear one braid on our left sleeve for every 4 years of training. So despite my rank, I'm given much respect from these guys in their 20's. They ask my opinion about different things, also.

I've spent some time with some GM's who are major league TKD guys. They couldn't have been nicer & more genuine to me. In one case, you'd never know in a room full of "important" people, that this guy was anyone special. He's done much more than the rest of them. I learn from these gentlemen. If I get recognized, great. But I show my respect to everyone on the mat.
 

Sukerkin

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The showing of respect for seniority is an important aspect of the maintenance of discipline requisite for instruction in an art that is, at it's heart, a dangerous excercise.

So, students in a school need to be ready to do as they are told when they are told to do it (when such instruction is not totally nonsensical). This can sadly lead to the 'ego stroking' problem that has been mentioned above.

However, to demand 'appropriate' respect from those of another school who do not know who you are is pushing the envelope a little. This is particularly so when you get into the nuances of traditional reigi.

It's a little like the Captain of a ship outranks anyone on his deck. An Admiral may have a higher rank than him but the Captain still has the authority to order the Admiral off his ship (we leave aside pragmatic career suicide issues here :D). Thus, a high ranking martial artist who visits another school is not senior to the instructor on the floor. It may be courteous for that instructor to show some public respect to the visitor for the benefit of letting his students know who he is but it's not a 'requirement'.

Reigi is integral to koryu arts and my sensei has been slowly and subtly showing us the the nuances of it e.g. seeing how I react when I'm leading the class and he walks in and takes a place at the 'junior' end of the line. To ignore reigi is to ignore a little facet of the culture of the art we study. To over-exagerate it's importance to our own 'stature' is to miss the point.
 

jks9199

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I see two issues here:

1) In a formal setting, formal courtesy is required. If the student in question was in a dojang where formal rules of courtesy are followed, and they were not - then yes, it is the fault of those who did not follow the agreed-upon rules for the setting. Yes, I know that many people disagree with the formal rules - and therefore should either find a dojang that doesn't use them, or convince those higher up that the rules should be changed. While they are still there, however, they should be followed. There are plenty of rules I have to follow that I don't always agree with - dress codes come to mind - but they are rules set down by wherever they are valid, and my choices are to follow them, attempt to change them, or get in trouble for ignoring them.

2) Whether I like the particular rules or not, if they exist, there is a reason they were created - and I will find the reason before I begin to protest, either through an attempt to change them or willful disobedience. After finding out the reason, I may find that I agree with the rules after all, and I may not. But until the rules are changed, no matter how much I dislike or disagree with them, I am in the wrong if I don't follow them.

I know that there are going to be people who disagree with me - who feel that formal courtesy for those of rank is just feeding their egos - and in some cases it is. However, I am also setting an example for those around me - and I'd rather set a positive one than a negative one. The event that started this thread shows why - because people who act as the annoyed BB acted are looked upon with disfavor, even if they are deserving of the courtesy that was not shown them.

As far as what I call other students - regardless of rank - outside the dojang... why does the setting make a difference? Either I respect the person and what the person knows - in which case I should address the person respectfully - or I don't, in which case I see no reason to be deliberately rude by ignoring the dictates of courtesy. Either way, I practice courtesy for myself - not for those around me. I see no reason why I should be discourteous simply because the setting has changed.
Great post.

One of the biggest headaches today is that too few people really understand and get why formal courtesies matter. As a result, we get people who insist on formal courtesies in places and times when they don't matter and are inappropriate -- or don't insist on them when they do.
 

Rich Parsons

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I just wanna rant a little. And hopefully get the surprise of a few interesting replies to make Monday at work a little more fun:

I was talking to someone (a high ranking BB) who told me about visiting a school in another state where one of his students trains. The instructor (a young 20 something guy) did not bow to him when he came in the door.

Some people are very tied to who is highest rank and that means the lower rank must say hello first, or bow first, or other such stuff. I don't know if the person I was talking to was expecting to be bowed to first and it was just some weird misunderstanding/unreasonable expectation that all schools operate with exactly the same rules or if it was intentional disrespect.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if it was the former. This BB expects lower ranking people to approach first. The person I was talking to took it as intentional disrespect and is pissed about it.

I have seen this alot in dojangs with GM's and other high ranking BB's. This discussion is not about the person in the story, but the concepts under the story. The person in the story is a person I like and respect very much, even though there is a little grudge in me that my respect seems to be demanded. It's like giving a gift and the person says, "It's about @#$% time you gave me this gift!"

:soapbox:

Call me crazy, but wouldn't it be great if martial arts taught people to respect others because they're HUMAN? Does it have to be about rank? In my totally unhumble opinion, no.

Does anyone else feel like they're wading in BS sometimes in martial arts with the games played by high ranking people?

I do respect the skills and experience of people who have trained longer than I, but I have this inner resistance to idolizing another human being that makes me think these games are total crap.

Will someone please give me an attitude adjustment if I ever get this much ego? Put me in a chokehold until I cry uncle and regain a little humility. I think it is a very easy trap for a person to fall into, ESPECIALLY martial artists.

Whew! Feels good to say what I think. Now, if you want to throw something at me, make it a banana cream pie. I kinda have a hankering for one! Or just put me in a choke hold until I cry uncle! :)


This reminds me of a story. I train and teach in a place where multiple styles and orgs teach.

Our class was after a different style from a different culture/country. The building is multiple old buildings look so I was waiting in one area (building) and entered into the Training area. I stopped, and Bowed to the instructor. He turned and bowed to me, I asked if I could watch (* i.e. sit on the provided bleachers for people to watch *). He said yes and and motioned his hand to the Bleachers. I went and sat down and watched. I thought I had given simple respect. I thought sitting quietly and watching was ok. I was wrong. He complained to my senior about the situation. So our club had a new rule, we could not enter the training area. We sat in the waiting area / lobby and was quiet. Well we would talk quietly. He complained about that to my senior again. So, we would not talk at all and just wait. He would get off the mats and come into the lobby and bow to the ranking person there, usually me. He would then proceed to the common officer and do some paper work or talk to students of parents or what have you. Many times he would even hold a small after class class in the lobby.

A side note, he would also get off the mats late and make us late for our starting time.

Well one day, I was asked by a new student, (* I love White Belts for many reasons *), "Why is it ok for their class to come into the training area and get items they left behind? Why is it ok for them to talk so loud we cannot hear your instructions? Why is it ok for them to have class out there and we cannot even talk?

I replied, It is because the Instructor is the regional director for his system, and people come from different states to train with him. It is because he does not respect our art as it is not his and it is because he has been teaching at this location longer than we have. We are guests here, we try to get along even when it does not make sense. I understand the frustration, but we will try to follow the existing rules even if others do not and those that do not complain about others following the rules.

The White Belt asked, But those rules are their arts' rules and not ours. I smiled and told him that we understand that there is more than one art and more than one way to study. I said we can show respect, for the fact that they shoose to train, we do not have to be rude and nor do we have to respect them as individuals.

(* Note: There were students including BB's listening, I then instructed them to do Sinawli's and call out the changes so I could hear them. This got lots of sticks banging and lots of random calls/yells. I also knew that I would get another complaint. *)


In the end, the Instructor of the other class, was more polite, and was on time ( more often) and things were a little better. I also would log the late times with my senior who was leading the other class nights, and he woudl talk to the other instructor. It was nice to use his own rules, and formaility to make him embarrassed.


******************

While I prefer to be called Rich, and like it when people feel comfortable to do so, I understand that some peopel do not, and that under certain conditions it may not be the proper form of address.

Recently, while teaching a seminar I was able to meet the children of one of the attendants, and he had his children go through a formal bow, and hand shake with a formal title of instructor used. I smiled, for this was the father having his child perform what was required in their art, the proper form of address for an instructor. I shook his hand and told him thank you and I was honored by his greeting. The Father was smiling when I looked at him. He was pleased his child had not given offense.

On the other, if the child just called me Mr Parsons, or sir, I would not have been offended either. I understand parents trying to teach respect to their children. But I also understood that the parent was teaching his son, so I went with it.

I am glad your venting helped you in the end.
 

jarrod

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i have known a few high ranking martial artists who were real slimeballs, so a black cloth around someone's waist with some stripes on it doesn't tell me that they are a good person worthy of respect. unfortunatly, it doesn't even tell me that they are a good martial artist.

my personal policy is to greet everyone who comes through the door in a friendly manner until they are impolite or unfriendly themselves. respect is something you earn or lose every second you act in life. it's not something you automatically deserve once you have a belt, a certificate, a degree, or whatever. you're still required to be a decent human being as far as i'm concerned, & part of that is not acting like you are superior to everyone around you.

jf
 
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