The most mature rice stalk bows the lowest. There are a few variations of this old quote, but essentially, it defines the expectation of the humility that comes with maturity.
Is this still true today? Yes.
Is it common? Unfortunately, No.
Of course, I could be mistaken, but strictly from an observational viewpoint, far too many ‘mature stalks’ refuse to bow down. In fact, there seems to be those that expect the younger generation to bow down in in recognition of their skill, their years of experience, or their ‘pedigree’.
So, here is the paradox; while some of these senior instructors have been training longer, they don’t necessarily fit into the description of a ‘mature stalk’. You see, maturity isn’t automatically granted or claimed with a certain rank, number of years training, or a claim to fame, title, etc.
Some of the most humble people I have ever met are also the most highly skilled, and the most willing to share. In contrast, some of the most arrogant and obnoxious practitioners, are highly ranked with questionable skill. To the younger, newer generation, we (those of us with a little experience) have a responsibility and an obligation to ensure that we project the correct image of what we should be, and how we should behave, both on and off the training floor.
Kenkyo – Humility. This is a principle that has been taught and practiced by disciples of the Ryukyu Fighting Arts for centuries, but somewhere, there has been a disconnect. Have the virtues of Bushido been changed, altered, or simply dismissed as antiquated and unnecessary for today’s practitioners? I suspect the latter is true, and is largely driven by the ego, and in more extreme cases, a touch of narcissism as well. I have watched good and talented men (and a few women) fall prey to this; it all starts when they begin to receive praise, accolades, and compliments, that they weren’t previously accustomed to hearing. While accolades and compliments are fine when deserved, one must be careful not to allow these compliments to go to one’s head. When that happens, arrogance creeps in bit by bit, as the practitioner begins to convince him/herself that they deserve the praise, and then they begin to expect it.
Students and teachers alike; use caution when receiving compliments, and realize that when we do receive a compliment or an accolade (whether we deserve it or not) we have an enormous responsibility to receive it gracefully and humbly, and we have an obligation to fulfill those honors both in word and in deed.
Train diligently. Teach humbly. Bow deeply.