Sunday, October 28, 2007

Pride and Prejudice

So the results are in from the All-Japan Kendo Federation Iaido Tournament. The results are, um, let's just say "a bit predictable". Hosts Okayama won the team tournament, as well as taking first place in the 6th and 7th dan categories. Hmmm.

Oita did okay, I guess. Kosaka sensei came in 3rd in the 7th dan division, but the 5th-dan and 6th-dan competitors both got ousted in the first round, so Kosaka's points were only enough to give Oita 7th place overall. Still, coming in 7th out of 50 prefectures is pretty respectable, I think.

Which brings me to "Prejudice" ... the home team has won the tournament the last 4 years running (and possibly longer, I just don't have the data ... does anybody?) so why isn't everybody screaming the obvious: "The tournament is meaningless! It's rigged! The results are pre-decided!"

Well, I guess nobody wants to upset the apple cart. Besides, in all honesty, it's pretty difficult to judge iaido at that level. I suppose the judges might (consciously or unconsciously) make a decision in favour of the hometown player when everything else is equal ... and at that level, most of the time, everything else is pretty equal! I dunno.

I wonder about the 8th-dan taikai which is held every year in Hakone, near Tokyo. It might be more impartial than the other taikai, since it's held in the same place every year. Or, maybe it's even more political. Who knows?

Which brings me to ... Pride. I'm certainly guilt of it. I don't like it when my juniors give me pointers, or when one sensei tells me to fix something that another sensei (one I probably like more) has told me to do. This is just our pride getting in the way of our objectivity.

Martial arts is supposed to be all about destroying our ego, tearing down our sense of Self and replacing it with a sense of Selflessness, a willingness to serve society and others, blah blah blah. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to work that way. The higher up we get, the less likely we are to be Selfless, and the more likely we are to have a very high estimation of ourSelves.

I saw a video of myself taken at practice the other day. Wow, it was incredibly cringe-inducing. Azuma Sensei is always telling me, "Jeff! Stop pursing your lips! Keep a poker face at all times ... you should have the tiniest little smile as you draw!" I have heard him say that so much that it was starting to annoy me. Well, I'm kicking myself in the ass for my own arrogant stupidity, because I can hardly watch that video, I look like such a prune-faced twit, screwing up my face into a ridiculous grimace. I have vowed never to question my Sensei again ... but I also know I will break that vow, probably soon.

I recently heard about a high-ranking member of a national martial arts organization who, after failing a grading and having some other requests turned down, decided to quit the organization. That's fine, he can become a "ronin" if he wants and train directly in Japan, but what happens to his students? They are forced to choose between 2 equally unpleasant options: 1 - turn their backs on their national organization and follow their sensei, or 2 - turn their backs on their sensei and stay loyal to their national organization.

This sort of things seems to happen a lot, doesn't it? And it all seems justified by some weird sense of "loyalty" which is in turn driven by a twisted kind of pride. I don't know ... the best advice I can think of is "Just keep your head down and practice as much as you can ... and when someone tells you you're doing something wrong, believe them whole-heartedly, and try to change it."

Simple. But not easy.


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10:52 PM  

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