Dec
09

“5th Kyu Shihans,” by Jerry Akel

“Although it may appear a contradiction, a compliment, if
accompanied by judgment, is in fact identical to criticism!”

I am plagued by 5th Kyu Shihans. Or rather, was plagued, before receiving my black belt. And like Dr. Bennell, I still see them, these pod people, everywhere, at seminars, at other dojo, and sometimes, close to home. They are a contagion.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Allow me to explain.

Several years ago, as a kyu-holder with some experience, I noticed a peculiar pathology, which exhibited itself primarily at seminars. The subject, namely me, would pair with an obviously new student, one with whom I had not trained previously. The new student, or carrier, would then proceed to instruct, correct and otherwise comment on my technique, despite the obvious gulf in skill between us.

I naturally attributed this to an infection addling his brain, since no disinterested observer could mistake the more seasoned practitioner. And no matter the speed with which I performed the technique, or the pain which I applied to his body, the student would feel compelled to make his critique.

The disease, therefore, is marked by a complete and total lack of awareness.

I named the condition, or more accurately the infected carrier, a 5th Kyu Shihan. The name stuck, and is, I believe, a useful shorthand for describing the disease.

Making the Diagnosis

I have come to rely on a three-part test to determine whether a student is, in fact, a 5th Kyu Shihan. Although satisfying any one condition is sufficient to make the diagnosis, it is insufficient to rule out other, more benign causes. For example, your partner may just be an idiot, for which, unfortunately, no cure exists.

First Symptom

Your partner compliments your technique. This one is tricky: I caution the practitioner here to rely on her own clinical experience. If the compliment carries with it a connotation of judgment, as opposed to aspiration, the student is a 5th Kyu Shihan.

Although it may appear a contradiction, a compliment, if accompanied by judgment, is in fact identical to criticism. Essentially, the student is placing herself in a position to judge another, more experienced student’s technique. Whether it is praise or criticism is irrelevant. The student has exhibited a sign of the disease.

Second Symptom

The student assumes a curious, if fictitious, familiarity with the leading lights in your organization. I call this infection by association. In truth, this is simply a form of the logical fallacy, argument from authority.

Here, the student professes an intimate knowledge of a leading sensei’s preferences regarding technique, or attempts to regale you with sly anecdotes from back in the day. Of course, considering that day could not have been more than two months prior, as Kung Fu Panda would have been his closest connection to the martial arts, is of no matter. The point our friend is trying to make, is that he, and not you, knows the hidden purpose behind this particular lesson. If only he were free to speak candidly, surely you would understand….

Third Symptom

A lack of humility. Let me be more specific. I am not referring to the fawning humility towards rank you sometimes see on the mat. This is a misunderstanding of the term, and has more in common with Dickens’ Uriah Heep, whose humility was in fact rooted in pride and ego. Nor am I referring to proper etiquette, or rei, which of course is expected when we give ourselves freely to our partners.

The humility I refer to, rather, is a great teacher, but one with which the 5th Kyu Shihan has no acquaintance. It is the knowledge that we know certain things, don’t know certain things, and crucially, know there are things that we know nothing about. This idea, that there exists whole categories of knowledge not yet dreamt of, is the essence of budo training. It is the quintessential empty cup.

It is also anathema to the 5th Kyu Shihan. Although when cornered, the infected carrier may admit to some questions regarding technique, the practitioner must be vigilant. The 5th Kyu Shihan will only admit to questions that fit his Weltanschauung, or worldview. In his universe, everything is accounted for, including Aikido, which he has placed neatly on a mental shelf. The answers, if not obvious, are already there, waiting for just the right moment.

Of course, he is happy to answer any questions you may have.

An Advice To My Colleagues

Although pernicious, the disease is, in my estimation, not always terminal. With practice, the afflicted soul can sometimes cast off the infection and become a fully human, fully aware Aikidoka.

As always, our best defense is vigilance.

Dojo: Aikido Center of Jacksonville

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Comments

  1. Ever heard of the saying: “Let sleeping dogs lie.”
    Jerry, perhaps the problem resides in you and your overinflated opinion of your skill.
    People are mirrors and like beauty, so also FLAWS will be reflected.
    Perhaps these junior egos were interrupting your own.

    This story brings to mind a memory of a seminar attended by one of our 5th kyu students.
    A girl.
    Let me qualify this first by saying that in my school the gradings are under promised and under delivered. In other words they are not easy and and easily offered or passed.
    The student has to be qualified since we don’t dangle carrots to keep mushrooms and take money.
    Personal I don’t give a *** whether people come or go or take offence.
    The ones who stay choose to look past the paraphernalia to simply improve.
    These are the only ones who remain and they generally don’t know how good they really are since all my students are under graded by comparison other schools.
    That’s why some permanently leave for easier pickings and ego balm, head massage and lots of fertiliser.
    Anyhow, Jenny, a very respectful 19 year old at the time was attending a seminar of one of the foremost Sensei’s.
    There she was training and I observing her and other students on the mat enjoying themselves, when I noticed a male person with a hakama single Jenny out to train with.
    This guy noticeably had issues.
    I refrained from the impulse to intervene.
    Predictably, he and his ego gratuitously started up on her EVEN THOUGH HIS SKILL LEVEL WAS FAR BELOW HERS DESPITE THE PRETTY HAKAMA.
    “Sloppy, sloppy. Is that the best you can do,” he chided before even looking.
    Jenny, being of good attitude quietly responded with a, “Thank you.” In English!
    And kept training.
    The guy, evidently put out by her good manners, decided to pound her.
    I again had to refrain. From the desire to simply step in and break his nose.
    But, girl and all, young Jenny is not to be underestimated and I knew this.
    I thought: “Let’s see how she handles this idiot.”
    At my school we learn from the very beginning to care for beginners and be kind, and also to TRAIN AT THE LEVEL REQUESTED BY THE TRAINING PARTNER. Hard or soft is all good, provided you can take it as well as you can dish it out.
    Young Jenny being a respectful young lady, but very competent at her Aikido skills, decided to not foment aggression, and taking pity upon this “deceased mediocrity,” tried to bow to leave.
    “Where do you think you’re going?” he raised his voice at her. Before she could answer he completed, “I’ve not finished with you yet!.”
    Jenny smile quietly A good sign.
    He redoubled his pounding of her.
    She, as taught, simply kept up the pace and reciprocating the pounding plus a few little things the “deceased mediocrity” would never know.
    So he increased the pace and the pounding even more.
    Something in my gut told me Jenny would be OK.
    Now I just wanted to go in a break the “deceased mediocrity’s ” nose just for the pleasure of it. But out of respect for the situation and the presiding real sensei, I refrained. And because I could see that Jenny was going to handle this better than OK.
    He really began pounding on Jenny, and finally, to prevent injuring the poor fellow, she decided to teach this “deceased mediocrity” a lesson and dropped him so hard it took the wind out of his lungs.
    When he recovered he still could not restrain his stupid mouth and bleated, ” What do you think you’re doing pounding me like that. I’m a shihan and you’re just a girl?”
    Jenny responded, “Thank you for training with me. I understood the level you wanted to train at.” Bowed and left him there.
    Nice word “shihan.” I looked up the Japanese dictionary and found it apropos that shi means =dead and han means =mediocre. How wrong of me to to ever imagine that it was a politically motivated and gratuitous term. It turns out that its is a very correct term.
    You either can teach or you cannot. the best teachers don’t do so by way of mouth, but by EXAMPLE.
    If you can teach, “Sensei” is the word that defines teacher. Seniority in play budo is a non-sequitur without meaning or purpose. Other than looking out for students safety, believed to be seniors have no real purpose. The mat should be an equaliser, not a place to chest beat like an ape. Shihan is a title as as gratuitous and irrelevant as middle management.
    And if the incompetent defined in this story is reading it and recognises himself, know this: I hope you have subsequently grown up since the 90s. Otherwise I’ll be happy to break your nose anytime.
    TRAINING TIME IS NOT FOR TALK BUT FOR PRACTICE AND TO SHOW RESPECT.
    If even firmly when it may be due.

    Having said all this, I recognise all these symptoms you refer to. They mainly arise because students, like children, follow the bad examples of their seniors. Before the kettle calls the pot black, perhaps there is a little scrubbing may be in order. All those symptoms are simply bad manners, ignorance and an excess of (usually effected but not useful) cerebrally.

    If you are TRAINING and not standing around talking, striving to impress with the crap you’ve read online and avoiding work, the symptoms will not arise.
    Senor or junior, you know what the answer is.
    You learn by DOING and this with MUTUAL respect, not talk, so zip up the hole in the head when on the mat and save it for breathing.

  2. Sounds to me Jerry along with most martial artists of some rank have an INFLATED opinion of themselves and for some reason think they are above criticism. No Aikidoka not even O-sensei is or was perfect. So let it go!

    • To speak of the speed and amount of pain inflicted is not a positive kind to have. In training this is not the intention. The mentality of a student of aikido is not one of ego or punishment. I’m with Jason.

  3. I appreciate your comment Nev.

    The post is tongue in cheek. It was my attempt to describe some past, personal experiences, with humor. Please don’t take it too seriously. (Obviously, since I wrote the post, the fault here is mine.)

    To be clear, I consider myself very much a beginner. Unfortunately, this is not conveyed clearly in the article.

    Thanks again.

  4. David DeLong says:

    This is an important discussion for students to pay attention to. Both post and reply are salient.
    It’s understandable that we have such a tendency to be mired in the “goop” of conceptualization, preconception, assumption, etc. This is the language with which we “think” , communicate; with which we determine our status relative to the group and the other.
    Aikido is an active, rather than a passive, learning process. One observes the demonstration of the instructor with total concentration, and then recreates that form with total concentration. This seriousness allows for a convivial, joyful interaction with one’s partners, but not for a lot of personal slop. A lot of chatter, whether audible or internal, is not appropriate because it is not necessary. This active form of relating to the world is one of the great intangible, “latent function” benefits of aikido practice.
    Circumstances have temporarily (I hope) isolated me from a regular group training opportunity.
    From my perspective, it’s vitally important that students learn to not take their training opportunity for granted. Don’t walk onto the mat with your head in “an undisclosed location”.
    It’s rude, to the aikido community, one’s teachers and to the Founder himself.
    I second Nev’s admonitions.

  5. Melissa Fischer says:

    As a small woman having come up through the ranks as far as nidan, I do recognise the situation described by Jerry. Actually, I see it as a great opportunity to practice real Aikido. Training with a partner you view as having “issues” gives you an option of bravely looking at and acknowleging your own issues. Changing yourself instead of changing your partner, as my Sensei might say.

    Some of the guys I trained with as a white belt felt they automatically knew more than I did at every rank. But that’s OK. If he is working on my technical flaws and I am working on my technical flaws, that’s twice the practice for me and none for him and all to my benefit. I’m kind of selfish that way. Plus beginners often have interesting ideas. So I tried to just shut up and take all feed back to heart. I also reminded myself to trust the power of Aikido training to lead students through and out of these admittedly obnoquious chapters of advancement. Have I ever been obnoxious? Hmmm…

    t’s easy to connect with the “nice” people of the dojo because they connect with you and draw out your cooperation. What if you yourself can establish the connection and draw the niceness out of those “5th kyu shihans”? Wouldn’t that would be good Aikido practice?

  6. My old sempai and San Francisco uchideshi Tom Everett (6 feet or so, lean and strong, Iwama on his cv, young -’in the day’), used the Jenny technique. In any event, Christianity has an answer ‘look not at the splinter in your neighbor’s eye, but the beam in thine own’. Whomever you’re training with may REALLY SEE something that you’re missing.

  7. Bill Trimarco says:

    I have also seen this type of behavior, especially at seminars. At one point, I was not affiliated with any school, had almost twenty years of training, and wore a white belt. I was amazed at the number of kyu ranked students who would correct my every move, quite often to something that I truly don’t believe the instructor was showing. I used to think, “Can’t they see that my white belt is tattered and worn out to a greyish black color?” I would wonder why they couldn’t tell that the next person they were belittling for ineffective movement was obviously trained in one of the special forces and moved like someone who had engaged in hand to hand combat at some point in their life. Over the years, I realized that it is all part of our training. If someone feels the need to inappropriately teach everyone they work with, it is a good opportunity for me to improve my ukemi. Sometimes the inexperienced will pick out flaws that I never see. Who knows? If their behavior is disruptive, catching the sensei’s eye will usually bring the real instructor over to observe and correct. It is good to be aware of this type of behavior and to guard against doing it ourselves to others. I also think that it is good to remember that it is all part of the learning process. Things usually don’t get out of hand unless I choose to react to the inappropriate behavior because of some dissension in my personna.

  8. Hi Jerry,

    Actually I enjoyed your article and the points you made are very relevant albeit presented with humour (something often lacking in the Aikido world ;). I’m sure we’ve all come across this sort of stuff however and it’s good to voice things out in the open.
    If it’s a good blog it will attract lots of commentary and this one did. It means you reached people enough to elicit a response.
    And all the responses were great.
    IMHO, I like to believe that just like training, we learn and gain from each other in productive exchanges if eve intense at times.
    Your mature response to my abrasive comments is a good sign you are not as “beginner” as you may think.
    But in the end we are all beginners.
    Even the old guy admitted this after 60 or more years and some pretty nifty aiki.
    Thanks again for your article.

    Best regards,

    Nev

  9. Adam Alexander says:

    Why wouldn’t you turn your energy toward helping them fix it instead of ridiculing them?

  10. I knew the most I’ve ever known about aikido when I was about 4th kyu (in 1995 or so).

    One day a 70-year-old man showed up in our dojo (City Aikido in San Francisco) wearing a brand new gi and white belt. We trained together on ikkyo irimi, and I showed him several important details. He smiled and graciously said “Thank you!” over and over.

    The next night he returned to our dojo wearing a hakama(!), and our sensei introduced him as Peter Ting rokudan. He had trained with O Sensei a couple times, and had practiced martial arts since he was four years old. He had even been a bodyguard for Gen. Patton in Europe in WWII. Within a month he was in the regular teaching rotation at our dojo where he taught until he passed away a few years later.

    The twinkle in his eye when I was “instructing” him taught me what aikido is all about.

    • I like this story !!!

    • That is what Aikido is all about!

      • Alvin Nagasawa says:

        Joel,
        Very good Blog. I started Aikido in 1970 Hawaii Aiki Kai (Honolulu HI.) I too experienced this same interaction you described. But being aware of one’s aura or spirit one extends and how one conducts oneself should be a RED FLAG of this person’s Aikido Experience. He is getting back to Basic Aikido spirit. He’s wearing a white belt to purify himself. As a Ranking Black Belt as you found out later on. He is a few Shihan that try’s to pass on the True BUDO of Aikido. You must have felt comfortable practicing with this old man. I hope you learned something. As a instructor myself it not Quantity but Quality. If out of 10 Students only one becomes a Black Belt and continues his training until 70 years old. I would be very happy to say. I accomplished my task. Gasho Live Long and Prosper.

  11. Joel,
    This is the singularly BEST anecdote ever.
    It says it all.

  12. bruce baker says:

    I suggest .. that at a seminar .. EVERYONE .. and I mean everyone .. but the instructor wear a white belt just once.

    Call it … the white belt seminar where ONLY the instructor/ instructors of the seminar wear a black belt.

    If for no other reason, than to figure out that we all need to humble ourselves, and to let our fellow practitioners learn from their mistakes, be they physical error in the practice of aikido, or emotional and ego errors of the mind … we all need to learn from our mistakes!

    It isn’t the BELT .. or the RANK that makes the person, but the person who makes the belt mean something as they, the person, become the belts true meaning.

    I don’t hold with anyone becoming a Master practitioner until they have both the CHARACTER and the EXPERIENCE OF YEARS under them. Skill level may be important, but without character .. it is an empty shell of a human being teaching you.

    Yep … once a year, we should hold .. WHITE BELT SEMINAR .. and remember .. we are all students .. even the highest ranked among us is just a student.

    Why do you think the highest ranked alway try to practice with the least experienced who are struggling at a seminar? Most of them .. remember how they struggled in the beginning and try to give back in a way the honors the memories of the teachers who helped them when they were struggling newbies.

    5th Kyu shihans? Yeah, Smile and just do your practice with patience and good spirit .. either they will give up their attitude or they don’t …. such is life.

    Careful Jerry, people who knew you as a newbie will post stories …

  13. Hey Jerry! Funny stuff. It was obviously tongue in cheek but there is definitely some truth to it. 5th kyu shihans are ok as long as they aren’t the type that want so badly to show you how to do a technique that they actually fight it while you’re doing it. Then you have a choice.. either just let them fight it and show you how you should do it.. or do it properly and make it work. Choosing the former route may seem the less egotistical way to go, but is it really helping the person in question? They should be taught proper ukemi and there is a certain way things have to be done in aikido so that everyone can get the benefit of a vigorous workout and worthwhile practice. In this case the 5th kyu shihan is the one inserting his/her ego into the situation.

    My instructor always said “practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” This means practicing proper ukemi or nagemi at all times.

    Thanks for your post Jerry! I enjoyed it ;)

  14. Experience and Knowledge gains Wisdom in time if we continously train ourselves daily.Compassion and Humility achieved by constant forging ourselves thru our daily endeavour in training.Beginners mind is the beginnning of learning .Guided by our teachers and propelled by our Intentions is the result of who we are.

    Ranks, Kyus and Dan Ranking are only based within certain Organizations and Schools(Dojos) and not Universal.We maybe a higher Dan holder is our Organization or we called Shihans but in the eyes of other practitioners we are not.The only way that we can call ourselves competent of who we are are us…our inner self…if our strong Intentions,our Compassion and our Energy harmonize within ..it will be projected unto others..then we understand the evolution of our training.

    Aikido or other Martial arts are life long journey and an Individual Journey…nobody could measure the Wisdom we achieve and the Compassion within but us…most important thing we remain humble no matter if we are kyu holder or Dan holder….just continue forging ourselves to be better person and a practitioner of the Art….

    Cesar
    Musubi Tenchi Ryu Aikido

  15. Keith E. McInnis says:

    A vibrant discussion by all. I’m reminded of a bit of wisdom from one of my college professors “Our quality of life is directly related to the number and kinds of teachers we are willing to have.” How much kyu-attitude is an expression of all the confusion the new aikidoka experiences? Cesar, whom I’ve had the honor to spend a little time with, puts it well and expresses the ‘aiki spirit.’ We had a gentleman come for a while who had no prior martial arts experience. He was in his late 50′s and was semi-retired (more due to the economy than great personal success). It was obvious that he had…issues…with women and anyone who showed mastery without asserting dominance. He would smile sweetly while trying to prove he could defeat a technique. Sometimes he would get the amount of energy back that he was giving and then complain about how it hurt. After class one night he wanted to talk to me about all the trouble he was having with aikido. I asked him if he ‘left his issues at the threshold.’ I got a sideways-head-tilt-puppy-dog response. I recounted to him my experience being new on the mat and how I had worked through difficult psychological issues while learning very technical (Iwama and Nishio) Aikido. He said he hadn’t thought that his psychological state was under scrutiny. “Your body tells the story of your mind and your heart” came out of my mouth before I thought better of it. He came a few more times then stopped. Perhaps, he felt too exposed. I learned from him. I learned how powerful this stuff can be at all levels and that some folks really don’t know how tense and nervous they are. What we do is powerful at many levels. It reveals and it heals… when we let it.

    • Indeed.
      Bo

    • This is a tricky one. I tend to think that a beginner who wants to teach others is often really trying to teach themselves – that by articulating some of the principles they are only starting to become familiar with they ‘fix’ them better in their minds. I don’t find it a problem. On the contrary, it is sometimes very useful to be reminded of basic principles and to maybe concentrate on those aspects of technique for a while.

      It may well be that this sort of behavior also arises because we do not really emphasize the correct role that uke has in the interaction and when faced with something unfamiliar from Tori (and for a beginner a LOT will be unfamiliar) he or she simply does not realise that what they are experiencing is not an ‘incorrect’ technique and that tori does not need to be shown how to do it ‘properly’. The skill level of a partner may well be obvious to an experienced practitioner but we have to assume that when we come across a beginner who has been taught a different way of doing a technique, our way of doing it is just going to seem plain wrong. So why assume that a beginner who is trying to show you how to do a technique the way they have been taught has any motive other than trying to help? Jerry’s article is meant to be tongue in cheek but still demonstrates Jerry’s obvious irritation when faced with a beginner who fails to recognise his superiority (“the obvious gulf in skill between us …”). On the other hand, Joel’s Peter Ting story clearly shows precisely the approach that a true martial artist will take in this kind of situation rather than adopting the ‘I am appalled that YOU have the cheek to try and teach ME’ approach that Jerry’s article seems to imply is appropriate for more advanced beginners to adopt towards their newbie colleagues …

      Nev’s story is dealing with a different issue. That guy was just a bully.

  16. I have found signs of this disease, and been reluctant to post much on it for fear of being labelled too vain and egotistical. Good on you Jerry.

    Some dojo do not follow test requirements closely and lose this measuring stick, some students come with multiple black belts and plan to just learn a few more skills, and some beginners do get to help juniors, which ruins them for their own further training if they take this as a sign of their own high regard by Sensei.

    As a 5th Kyu living in my university dorm, I shared a bathroom and lunch hall with roughly 10 different yellow belts. There was a black sash in Kung Fu who avoided all of our boisterous conversations and occassional breaks where we went to an open field and tested each other. Over 20 years later, I am horrified at what I thought I knew, and if these pre-MMA brawls had been known to my Sensei… I decided a universal truth is yellow belts know all the secrets of the universe. I survived waking up.

    I am responsible as a sempai for my junior’s development. In the USAF, Tanto Dori comes at Ikkyu, Koshinage comes at Nikyu. I don’t know what to do with the students who are already too sure of their brilliance to listen at this point – several injuries of people trying to practice koshinage but refusing to take feedback. Then, people who get promoted are looking for their own generation of students to benefit from their pearls of wisdom. You can’t tell the wannabe shihan that you know the student will fail their next test or get injured practicing this way; someone who genuinely cares about their kohai will learn how to look after those below them.

    My one symptom that I look for is out of the people who give feedback to me, who of them will TAKE feedback. A sixth dan blackbelt will have interest in the details of the exercise that they might not have initially caught. The geniuses in their own mind have no interest in being educated no matter what they are capable of.

  17. George Szaszvari says:

    The know-all beginner, or even the bossy dan grade trying reassure himself, is a frequent problem in many a dojo. Among the many points made above, the best one is to remember that one is on the mat to practice, not to talk, and if it happens to make it an opportunity to exercise self-discipline in not engaging in an exchange with such a training partner. The Peter Ting example of politeness mentioned is a perfect lesson! When trainees are allowed to establish a talkative manner on the mat to correct others, it expresses competitiveness and insecurity, and if it isn’t nipped in the bud by the instructor then there is something wrong with the spirit of that dojo, and it might be time to move on. A very experienced instructor I had the privilege of training under, Ken Williams Sensei of the Ki Federation of GB, had a simple way of dealing with such situations of someone boorishly telling their partner how things ought to be done (especially with dan grades talking to kyu grades) by stopping the session momentarily and firmly informing everyone that there is only ONE instructor on the mat, but at the same time he knew when trainees were having a friendly interchange and agreeably investigating a technical point, when Sensei might just drop by and help out, which tended to diminish any talking.

  18. Really funny article,
    And yes, many times in my Karate training I encountered this situation. Not as much in Aikido, but I don’t go out much :)

    Anyhow, when that happens, I only have one line I use:

    “I am still learning, thank you.”

    That usually puts egos to rest, and I get to enjoy my practice.

    HB

  19. Interesting to compare the conversation and responses in, “Why can’t the Aikido world get along?” touching on politics and egos of high ranking Dan holders, and this one which suggests you might not need an 8th Dan to be hindered with an ego in your training. No one called out the author of the first essay…

  20. Tremendous response to your experience, but it is in the nature of the training that enables this to occur decade after decade. The training pedagogy of ” non- competitive collaboration” has not factored in all the human ego B.S. This is a symptom of a much larger malignant ( I am tired of the overuse of the word dysfunction ) nature of Aiki has come to. Aiki is what we as individuals or splintered groups decide.

  21. Gregory Mein says:

    I know this entire read was meant to be tongue and cheek, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that the poster really meant what was said. I’ve spent over thirty-five years in the mental health field, and really see a lot of phrasings that are red flags of narcissism. (I’m not diagnosing anyone, just drawing the lines for the reader’s consideration.)

    Tongue and cheek aside, there is truth, and buried aggression, in these words. It shows that the poster, in a sense, has a very fragile ego/needs constant approval outside of himself.

    A 5thy kyu is a newbie. I feel that most black belts when they run into the correcting white belt don’t allow it to bother them. If a four year old corrected your grammar would you feel slighted? If the answer is ‘yes’, you might have narcissistic tendencies. It is also helpful to consider that sometimes the four year old might be correct that your grammar is bad; like the 5th kyu might have something valuable to add. Whether wrong or right in their correction, it should never be taken as an assault to your own ego. And, like a four year old, whether wrong or right it is adorable; a self of budding confidence that I’m not too full of myself to try and squash in place of my own malignant ego.

    Psychologically, it takes an ego to respect an ego. If another person’s ill-expressed ego makes you feel slighted, it is because your ego is over-blown, malignant, or a facade.

    To put it bluntly, I rather train with the enthusiastic 5th kyu who might correct me, than the fragile ego that is easily bruised by the 5th kyu shihan. Fragile egos are dangerous, and from my mental health experience, cannot be trusted. The fragile ego is a compressed ball of underlying rage. They are subject to emotional outbursts…not good when your body is at their whim.

    The ego has to be left elsewhere before one trains–how else can they learn Aikido? Why are they even doing Aikido? What are their motives if the mat is a narcissistic territory, instead of a place of humility, submission, and learning?

    Lastly, I would have swiftly corrected any one of my students if they posted a blog like this. Tongue and cheek aside, I don’t like the attitude it fosters, and would not tolerate it in my school. We are to care for each other, especially the lower ranks, not act in competition with them.

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