Humility: What Does It Get You?

Discussion in 'Articles' started by SifuPhil, Sep 6, 2012.

  1. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky


    As part of the “arts” side of the martial arts the quality known as “humility” has always been on the top of most must-have lists. Usually found alongside such frequently-mentioned traits as honor, courage and honesty, humility is at the same time one of the least-understood goals of martial training.

    Part of the problem is that there are so many darned varieties of humility, all of them claiming to be the best and only kind (sound familiar, martial artists?). There is the garden variety of humility in which you coyly look down when asked about your martial skills, but then quietly explain what you study and why; the Disciple model of humility in which you vigorously deny any knowledge at all and request periodic beatings with the Stick of Humility, and on the opposite end of the spectrum we have the Super Bad Boy Brand of humility, where you totally deny any human limitations and have a standing offer to take on all comers, anytime, anywhere.

    Will the real Humility please stand up?


    Well, thanks to Hollywood and Hong Kong cinema we have a standing order to view bragging about one's abilities the way Kwai Chang Kane would view a threesome with Shaolin nuns: as something that should never, ever happen. We are led to believe that all real martial artists are humble and that those who break this rule are doomed to a slow, painful death, usually foreshadowed by the end of the first reel. Call it karma or fate or destiny or The Vengeance of The Angry Gods and Goddesses, but anyone who swaggers around with a giant chip on their shoulder and is seen kicking small puppies to the side of the road is bound to get their come-uppance.

    But is that how Life really is? Do the braggarts always pay a price? Do the bad guys always receive their just desserts?

    Hardly. So why push humility as one of the virtues bestowed upon the enlightened martial art student?

    "Humility does not mean thinking less of
    yourself than of other people, nor does it
    mean having a low opinion of your
    own gifts. It means freedom from
    thinking about yourself at all."

    ~ William Temple, Archbishop

    Ah, thank you, Archbishop. And as Ken Blanchard once said,


    Acquiring humility – and practicing it always – isn't just good street-sense (although it IS that); it's a way of “getting over yourself”. So many times we have this erroneous sense of entitlement bred into us by our parents and teachers – that whatever we do we'll excel at, that we can do no wrong and that we're God's gift to humanity. Nothing could be farther from the truth; we each of us put on our pants one leg at a time (unless we're wealthy and have our butler put them on us while we're laying down, but that's another story). We all have shortcomings, weaknesses and instabilities – we're far from perfect. Practicing humility is a way of reminding ourselves of those facts.

    Yet there comes a point where the self-denigration ends, the false modesty falls away and you're left with … yourself. Just you. Nothing more, nothing less. You've burned away the dross of arrogance and you've discovered that you're not quite as bad a fellow as you first thought. In fact, you're pretty OK. But you're nothing special.

    So we finally come to the real reason that humility is pushed as a selling point of so many martial arts schools: it gets rid of arrogance and bragging, it builds up a healthy level of self-respect and self-awareness and it keeps you from getting your butt kicked when you brag about your Chartreuse-belt in HowFlungDo.

  3. MadoreGojuRyu

    MadoreGojuRyu Master

    Love it.

    I have always believed that people should be proud of who they are, and not to be afraid to let other people know what they are. But I also am a big believer that if you are proud, and have no problem talking about your experience/training/background, be prepared to possibly hurt someone elses ego and have them feeling threatened because they are not you and suddenly feel the need to 'prove themselves' in words and/or actions.
  4. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    Being humble is a good thing for people who aren't as awesomely cool as me -- they have a lot to be humble about.

  5. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    Thank you, E - I was counting on your input! :ROFLMAO:
    Enkidu and RJ Clark like this.
  6. Connor Caple

    Connor Caple Initiate

    "I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was."

    “To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you’re not, pretend you are.”

    “I am America. I am the part you won't recognize. But get
    used to me. Black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours;
    my religion, not yours; my goals, my own; get used to me.”

    (all by Muhammad Ali)
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  7. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    Actually, as much as I respect Ali as a fighter and a showman (and I actually was introduced to him about 10 years ago by someone who knew him at a restaurant in Beverly Hills), the more I learn about him, the less I like him. Did you know that he and other members of the Nation of Islam met with the KKK because they had strategically similar goals for this country? There is an interview out there where he talks about it and how well he and the NOI got on with the KKK. Also, the way he treated Joe Frazier (who helped him a lot when he was banned from boxing for 3 years) and the way he portrayed himself as a real black man and Frazier as some "house nigga" was absolutely reprehensible. This was a common race-baiting ploy used by Ali against other black fighters. Totally disgusting. It is a bit sad, the older you get and the more you learn, how deeply flawed your childhood idols really are and were.
  8. RJ Clark

    RJ Clark Tree Ninja Staff Member

    I think one of the best forms of humility is being able to cross train with someone who is better than you at some aspect of martial arts. And/or bringing them in as a guest instructor and allowing them to do their thing without having to assert yourself in "your" class. In similar fashion, if a student has the aptitude to excel in an area, to be able to nurture that past your own ability, and if need be send them to a "specialist" who can facilitate even further growth.
  9. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    Great post RJ. In training, I always want to spar or roll with someone better than me. At my old BJJ academy, the instructor had two white belts (who were former all-American collegiate wrestlers) teach a wrestling class. He brought in a top level MT instructor (and former champion) to teach a MT class. A former female champion kickboxer taught a kickboxing class. A black belt in Judo (who was a white belt in BJJ) taught a Judo class. I was regularly consulted by the instructors and many of the top competitors on designing training programs and even gave a talk and demonstration of proper technique at the request of the head instructor. I don't know how prevalent this practice is in other martial arts, but I know in BJJ, probably due to its close connection with MMA, such practices are fairly common.
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  10. RJ Clark

    RJ Clark Tree Ninja Staff Member

    Unfortunately, from what I experienced it's not very common. Guest instructors were usually just higher ranking martial artists from the same art, or the skillset was in the same wheelhouse if they pulled from outside their specific art. Which to me is nearly pointless if you're claiming to train people for self-defense. To be fair tho, that was the same for boxing and wrestling, but they're training with the goal to excel in that sport so they get a free pass on only training in their area.
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  11. Aaron Hutto

    Aaron Hutto Master

    Humility is always a hard topic to discuss. I struggle with it like many martial artists do. I can't say that sometimes I don't show off ... but I usually save that for in class. I try my best to keep martial arts out of my social life as I found that people tend to take random swings at me just to see how I react. This really isn't such an issue for me, I am just afraid that someone will catch me off guard and I will end up hurting them. Usually in social situations when people find out that I teach martial arts for a living, they ask me what belt I have. My best answer thus far is, "Chuan Fa is my primary style. It is a traditional Chinese Martial Art that does not use a belt system for ranking." This is somewhat deceptive but true never the less. I do hold ranks in a few martial arts that use belts but I did not answer about that.
    As far as who has the best martial art, it is so subjective and honestly a stupid thing to argue. My motto is, "I am not saying the grass is greener on my side but this is the shade of green that I chose." I am a firm believer that it is the artist, not the art that makes the difference.

    Remember, "It is not the size of the groin. It is the size of the hand that grabs it."
    ~ Master Ken (Ameri-do-te)
  12. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    Empirically, this assertion appears to be incorrect, however. Unless you think grapplers were all just better martial artists than strikers in the early days of MMA when people only trained in one style. The grappling arts had an ENORMOUS advantage over the striking arts which is why strikers started cross-training in wrestling and BJJ. They couldn't use their striking skills when they were flat on their backs.
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  13. Aaron Hutto

    Aaron Hutto Master

    I don't claim to have all the answers. I have just found that I in my encounters with the many martial artists in my time of study that, this tends to be the case. I have trained with BJJ guys who were amazing and I have trained with BJJ guys who looked me dead in the eye with their "kill face" while I punched them straight in the head. I really don't do sparing in my classes but I visited a class a couple months ago and joined in on some sparring. I fought their Shihan (5th degree) and one of their brown belts and honestly, I had a harder time with the brown belt. He seemed to have more control over his motions. The master was faster but lacked in control. I have yet to encounter any style that didn't have someone who sucked in it. I also have not encountered any style that didn't have someone who was amazing.

    I don't think that grapplers were or are better than strikers - or vice versa. In the early days of MMA and UFC, they had the advantage of being very good at what they did and what they did was new and different to the kick boxing ring. Their best advantage was that of surprise. I also do not feel that one's ability in the ring will necessarily tell you how they will react in a combat situation.
  14. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    If you fought a "shihan" then you weren't fighting someone training in BJJ because they don't use that terminology. Japanese Jujutsu perhaps, but not Brazilian Jujutsu. Also, if you really don't think that the early days of MMA (with almost no rules) weren't a good indicator of how a street altercation would have gone, I don't even know what to say. Grapplers beat strikers in the early days of MMA because wrestling and BJJ are better arts than pure striking arts for one-on-one encounters, all other things being equal. Do you really think Royce Gracie would have been Royce Gracie if he was familiar with the rules but had been a kickboxer instead? Really?
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  15. SifuPhil

    SifuPhil Lucky Cat Is Lucky

    What has Ali done to make the lives of any American, other than himself and his cronies, any better?

    He lived a privileged life in which he could make as much money as he wanted, yet he found himself to be too good to serve his country.

    If you want to call an athlete a hero, how about Pat Tillman, who voluntarily put his professional career on hold to serve honorably as a U.S. Army Ranger? In 2002 Pat left a successful football career with the Arizona Cardinals to join the U.S. Army. He was killed in Afghanistan in 2004. The official story was that he was shot by enemy forces during an ambush, but it was later revealed that he may have been killed by friendly fire, and that Army commanders and members of the Bush administration covered up the truth of what had happened.

    Ali isn't worthy to tie his shoes.
  16. Aaron Hutto

    Aaron Hutto Master

    No, it was a Karate school, not a jujitsu school that I fought the Shihan. I am not degrading BJJ at all. I know and train with several great grapplers. Some of them are even good on their feet.
    I do not think that even the no rules days of the UFC are a good indication of actual combat because I have been in and witnessed even more street fights in my life and rarely are any of them 1 on 1 and/or unarmed. I would do anything to prevent from going to the ground in a bar fight because as soon as I get my opponent locked up and to the point of submission, his buddy is kicking me in the head. I also don't want to role around on broken beer bottles. One could get an infection that way ...
  17. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    ...which is why I said in a 1-on-1 fight on the street... By the way, I am not sure why every time a question arises about it being the style versus the artist someone always has to bring up multiple attackers. I got news for you, if you are fighting multiple attackers who are actually trained how to fight, it really doesn't matter what your martial art of choice is, you are going to lose unless your art of choice is the 400 meter sprint.

    Obviously you don't want to go to the ground in a street fight that has the potential to become more than a 1-on-1 fight... but I got more news for you, grapplers are generally better trained for that eventuality too because they know how to avoid going to the ground a lot better than non-grapplers and how to get back up if they get tackled. They also know how to put people on the ground while remaining standing. If a striker gets taken to the ground and has no grappling experience, he is fucked in a 2 or more on 1 encounter (or a 1 on 1 encounter where the other guy knows how to grapple). Frankly, he is likely fucked even if he stays on his feet. Multiple attacker situations are rarely a win for the 1, and almost never a win if the opponents have any modicum of fighting skill, actually fight (instead of posture), and aren't massively undersized and strengthed by the 1.

    The only true multiple attacker scenarios that I have seen on youtube that meet those criteria where I have seen the 1 striker defeat the many have been boxers. Yeah, you can find examples where the many don't actually want to fight and are posturing and get cowed by the one, but that isn't what I am talking about. Also, in the real world, I have seen with my own eyes fights end brutally and quickly by a grappler slamming someone to the ground or choking an opponent out standing in seconds.

    But, the point is, in one-on-one altercations, whether in the cage, ring, mat, or street, grapplers have a massive advantage over strikers, all other things being reasonably equal. If Royce Gracie had been a karateka or a boxer or some other striker, there is no way he would have had the success he did in the nearly no-rules days of early MMA. Grapplers DOMINATED strikers for years in the early days of MMA before strikers started cross-training seriously in grappling. The artist may matter, but so too does the art.
  18. RJ Clark

    RJ Clark Tree Ninja Staff Member

    Actually, almost all the "street fights" I've been in or seen have been 1on1. Some evolved into 1 vs many or many vs many, but those were the exception. Typically the times when weapons and/or multi vs 1 were involved it was an actual crime - robbery, car jacking, or gang violence, etc. Unless you're just not making any distinction between street fights and self-defense/criminal situations...
  19. Aaron Hutto

    Aaron Hutto Master

    Probably because the majority of street rights are not one on one. At the very lease, they will have a buddy on stand by in case you get the upper hand. I don't know about you, but I train for the worst case scenerio.

    This actually reminds me of a video that I saw on youtube the other day. It was a few MMA fighters that spent some time doing Marine martial art training. Nothing against these guys, I am sure that they are talented fighters but they got their butts handed to them when it came to weapons and multiple attackers. They were given the option of club, bayonette or knife. Honestly, they probably would have fared better if they just went empty handed. The weapons were a distraction. Anyway, that was just a side thought.

    Doesn't that depend on what style they trained in? After all, you said it is the art not the artist.

    That could be. I think that Gracie is a talented martial artist. I believe that he could do well in whatever he put his mind to. I would not be one to judge what his accomplishments could be. I believe that any talented fighter, regardless of style with any kind of ambition will succeed in being great, if they train hard and let themselves be great.
  20. Aaron Hutto

    Aaron Hutto Master

    I would agree that most start one on one but I have been in a few and they get ugly fast, especially when buddies get involved.
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  21. Enkidu

    Enkidu Destroyer of your martial arts fantasies

    I've found that the majority of them are. Am I the only one on this forum who doesn't live in some post-apocalyptic Mad Max world where everyone roves around in gangs preying on people?

    I've seen the videos. It just goes to show that no matter how highly trained you are, if you get attacked by multiple opponents willing to fight and actually trained to do so, you will get your ass handed to you no matter how good you are, and things will get even worse if they have weapons.

    Some arts may give you a better chance of winning or at least surviving, but even the best of those arts or combination of those arts ain't gonna matter all that much in a many v. 1 scenario, as your MCMAP v. MMA fighter scenario goes to show.

    I highly doubt that Royce would have dominated the early days of MMA like he did if he had been trained in striking instead of BJJ. As further evidence, prior to the days of cross-training and when there were almost no rules, grapplers (wrestlers, BJJ, Judo, shootfighters, etc.) absolutely DOMINATED fights against strikers. This includes strikers who were current or former champions in various striking disciplines. There is a pretty damned big body of evidence that shows that grappling is vastly superior to striking in a 1-dimensional fighter world and it cannot be because all those grapplers were just better martial artists regardless of style than all the strikers. Strikers only became a force in MMA once they began seriously training and developing skills in grappling.
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