Karate and stupidity

harris June 8, 2014

In Baku, at Sayonara party, I had a small talk with a man I love and respect, and between the ideas exchange he told me that his wife thinks that anyway most people who train karate are stupid. He did not completely approve this, stating that this is a generality common to the whole world, but I know better to appreciate a women’s intuition, and I completely agree with her.
Why do I think this. If you believe you can be offended by this words, please stop here, I don’t want to harm anybody’s feelings. Thing is karate is a very complex educational system, and like any other system it has good and bad parts. We are insecure, so we search for an educational system that could make us stronger, more confident, capable of expressing ourselves. And karate gives us this, and many more things, like health, self-defense abilities, friends… Problem is we get identified with who we think we have become. Because everybody starts calling us sempai, sensei, shihan, we actually think we are this. And we strive to get more grades, more diplomas, to be recognized as important. And in my opinion this makes us really stupid. For me, anybody who thinks he is important is stupid. So when I see people recommending themselves with shihan, sensei, bla bla it makes me so sad. When I see signatures on diplomas: shihan… 
George Gurdjieff was one of the greatest masters of the XX century. One of my favorite quote from his work is this: “Identification is man’s only sin.” I really believe this to be true. Unfortunately too many of our fellow karatekas become identified with the grade, with the gi, with titles, with whom they think they have become. I believe in the Budo way, but identification is the way of the stupid. I have seen only a couple of people whom I think they are real masters in my life. But for me it is difficult to recognize one: the inferior cannot recognize the superior. 
And then there is the problem of power. Abraham Lincoln said something really great: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Karate gives you this: power. And it makes no discriminations: it gives power to almost everybody, or at least the illusion of power. And what happens: you see people really clear. And yes, you see more stupid people in karate than in the “real life” and sometimes it can be funny, but most of the time it is only sad. 
Is this going to make me stop training? Oh, no! I love karate, I love Kyokushin. My best friends train with me, I love my students, my teachers, my masters, I love to train. But in the same time I try not to forget who I am, and really I don’t know who I am. I came in this world without a name, without clothes and I will leave almost the same, with everybody forgetting who I was. And for me this is a beautiful mystery. And I will try my whole life to see in others beautiful, mysterious beings. So, my advice is, train, fight, get titles, get grades, but do not get identified with them, because this is not who you really are. You are so much more then this! So, stay humble, stay hungry, do not get satisfied. Evolve.