The longer I train in martial arts, the more I come across people attempting to steal the experiences of others as a way of elevating their perceived ability among those of lower ranks. People claim to own certain notes, or techniques, or that they were present at certain seminars with this teacher or that teacher, or even that they have a certain perspective on things – when frankly, they can’t do the basic material in the first place. All of this bravado and acting is very revealing.
It shows that the person engaged in this behavior is trying far too hard to impress people of lower rank and skill. To what end, that varies. It could be economic: meaning the person could wish to have more people hire them to do seminars, teach classes, buy their “secret” manuals, whatever. (although in truth, they’re simply conning people through false representation.) It could be massive insecurity: meaning the person likely does not believe in themselves enough and has to pretend they’re better than they actually are. It could also be massive ego: meaning the person actually *does* believe they’re better than their seniors and by engaging in this behavior, they are stating to the world that they are numero uno. Or it could be a combination of all three (or more) factors.
It also shows that the person doing this does not truly care about their role as a teacher – that they think very little of the students who look up to them as role models and indeed, pay them for their knowledge. The person in question does not fully embrace the serious mantle of responsibility that goes along with being a teacher. To them, it becomes all about the mighty dollar, so they willfully prostitute the very legacy they claim to honor and respect by lying about their past and their experiences in order to sell more.
As insulting such actions are to the people whose experiences are, in fact, genuine, this type of behavior is also rather tragic.
It’s tragic in the sense that the person who engages in fraudulent behavior is actually stating to the world that they are ashamed of their own past and their own experiences.
So much so, in fact, that they have to pretend to be something they’re not, or pretend they were some place they never were, or pretend they trained with someone then they never did.
What they fail to realize is that their students will be far more appreciative of honest experience more than any sort of set of notes, or secret technique, or affiliation with a certain individual. And even if you haven’t had the same experiences as another person, the experiences you HAVE had are no less valuable for the simple reason that they’re YOURS. They belong to YOU and you alone. In studying martial arts, no two people will ever experience things the same way. Everyone might know the technique, but no one else will have the same experience practicing and training with it. THAT is what becomes more and more important the further you progress in martial arts training. It become LESS about the actual technique and MORE about your experience learning and using that technique.
Clearly, when starting out, you need to know the mechanics of the technique itself. But the life/energy behind the technique is derived directly from the experiences of learning, using, teaching, and reflecting on it. Anyone can open a notebook and pantomime a certain throw or punch. It takes a real teacher – one who is honest, humble, responsible, and still quests to better themselves – to convey the essence of a technique. And it is that transmission of essence that will open up the gateway to mastery of the technique within the student.
If you don’t own your experiences, if you don’t appreciate your past, if you are forever attempting to be something you’re not, then people will eventually see it and go off in search of a better teacher. In the end, you only end up fooling yourself. And in your wake, you leave behind a lot of disappointed students, and any of the honor and respect you might have garnered during earlier years.
Don’t do it.
Each student on the path has their own experiences. They create their own past. And that’s something to be proud of, regardless of the good and the bad. If you can proud of your experiences and your past, if you can admit when you know something and when you do NOT know something, if you can still be a student even when you’re a teacher, then that’s a good thing: not just for you, but for those who look to you as a role model or teacher.
Own your experiences.
Appreciate your past.
They are what truly belong to you – what make you unique – as you walk the path of Budo.