Contributors offers insight into the non-physical side of the Martial Arts, often ignored when discussing self-defense.

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Postby Rick Wilson » Mon Aug 29, 2005 5:01 am


In 1999 I had the great pleasure of having breakfast with George Mattson and Bob Campbell.

It was at the 1999 summer camp and as I looked around for a place to sit I spotted Bob sitting alone at a table.

I walked over and asked, “Sensei Campbell, may I join you?”

Bob gave me a skewed look and replied, “Sensei Campbell? Sensei Campbell? Maybe if I am on the dojo floor teaching I would be Sensei Campbell. Mr. Campbell is my father. If you really want to piss me off just call me ‘MASTER’ even once. ‘Bob’ will do, and please sit down.”

Then George came over and joined us.

So there I am sitting having a wonderful breakfast with two men who rightfully could carry the title of “Master” and they were just George and Bob. There were no “airs” about them. They were warm and kind and gracious. They were simply fellow Uechika enjoying training, talking and a good meal.

Now to me, that is what the term “Master” has come to mean.

Recently I heard a story about a fellow Karate teacher in town who, having reached a rank sufficient to carry the title “Master,” now has his students referring to him as ”Master SO and SO.”

This person has also gone on at great lengths about how Karate teachers should be humble.

Maybe if he had had the same opportunity to sit at that breakfast table he would have seen what true humility was and what true Masters (please don’t tell Bob :wink: ) were like.

Sorry if this sounds like a complaint because…well...I…guess…it…is…so…again…sorry.

This kind of stuff both ticks me off and makes me laugh. :evil: :lol:

(It is also the very reason the IUPA only has two ranks. Don’t know if that will stop it but there you go. :? )
Rick Wilson

Postby Guest » Mon Aug 29, 2005 5:17 am

Foot binding works, head bands are inexpensive, but the laughter of youth is priceless. :lol:

Image Image Image

Postby Stryke » Mon Aug 29, 2005 5:28 am

Hmm , I might try enstate a policy at work where any master craftsman must be addressed by his correct title of master ;)

Dont think the boys will go for it though ..... :?

On a similar sidenote , is it appropriate referring to my students as grasshopper , the mantis , and meatpuppet ?

I feel these are appropriate honorifics .....

Oh yeah Laird , say hello to Monkeyboy ;)

Postby Guest » Mon Aug 29, 2005 5:35 am


Postby Rick Wilson » Tue Aug 30, 2005 5:10 am

Rick Wilson

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Postby Liz » Wed Aug 31, 2005 4:54 am

/quote]Recently I heard a story about a fellow Karate teacher in town who, having reached a rank sufficient to carry the title “Master,” now has his students referring to him as ”Master SO and SO.” - rick

Hi Rick :D I see nothing wrong with standing up and taking credit where credit is due. I get the feeling that you aren't too impressed with the character of the man who now wants to be called 'master', but if he went through the training and is exemplary in his art then he should be called master because he earned it.

I see a difference between calling someone 'master' at the breakfast table and then calling them ‘master’ inside the dojo. It doesn't take years of training to be stellar at shoving food down your mouth but it does take years of training to become great in a martial art.

In my opinion if a sensei were to be so taken aback at being called 'master' then he shouldn't bother wearing his black belt. (I realize that this isn't the case with the two men you ate breakfast with at all) However, I just want to make the point that rank and mastery are put on the forefront by the use of belts, which is just a non-vocal way of saying "I'm a master".

If someone is great enough in their art to be a master then they should be called for what they are. There’s no point in feigning humility especially when wearing a black belt should speaks loudly for itself.
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Postby 2Green » Wed Aug 31, 2005 5:15 am

Hi Liz:

I noticed the distinction between "TAKING credit" and BEING GIVEN credit" in your post.

Perhaps it all has to do with motivation -- WHY someone would prefer to be referred to as "MASTER" or whatever title.

In our modern society it's "Dr." so and so, in personal introduction as opposed to professional introduction, for example.
Why does Bob Smith want to be "Doctor Smith" to his neighbours at the barbeque, instead of just "Bob" the nice guy next door?

I refer to my teacher as (first name) in person, (Mr. last-name) in second person, and Sensei in the dojo.
Not suggesting this as a convention, but it makes me feel comfortable and respectful in different social settings.

Now, if he DEMANDED that I refer to him as MASTER, which of all people he would be surely justified, then I think we would both fall down laughing at the immense joke.
This is because he has TRUE humility which acknowledges the futility of DEMANDING respect as opposed to COMMANDING it.

And let me tell you, few if any people I have met in 50 years have commanded such respect, and demanded so little.

(No attacks intended here my MA comrade. I respect your opinions ESPECIALLY when they disagree with mine!)

The music spoke to me. I felt compelled to answer.
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Postby Rick Wilson » Wed Aug 31, 2005 5:23 am

Hi Liz:

Thanks for joining in. :D

We clearly disagree and that is fine. 8)

May be it comes from personally placing very little emphasis on rank because I have seen it mean something and I have seen it mean nothing.

The person in question has played the “humble” game for years and this flies in the face of that, so yeah I guess I do take issue with his character. :P

“In my opinion if a sensei were to be so taken aback at being called 'master' then he shouldn't bother wearing his black belt.”

Not sure I want to try and take those guy’s belts. :lol:

Here again we disagree. In my dealings with the native community those who profess to be “elders” generally aren’t. Those who people go to and learn are the real elders.

To me those who stand up and proclaim they are masters, great master, great grand masters, super great grand masters, twelve, fifteenth dan etc don’t quickly draw my interest. :roll:

Read a story once about a fellow running a tournament and needed to speak to a particular instructor so he had “Master So and So” (different guy from my story) paged over the loud speaker.

He waited while looking across the auditorium floor right at the “Master” knowing he heard the page. So he had him paged again. Still he did not come.

After the third page “Master So and So” had a runner come over to talk to our fellow.

He then paged “GRAND Master So and So.” :oops:

Now if we differ on our opinion of this one then there is no hope for agreement.

“If someone is great enough in their art to be a master then they should be called for what they are.”

So what makes a person great?

Doing a few Kata and prearranged work makes you great?

Hmm guess we disagree again.

And don’t get me wrong I am not criticising the test used. I don’t think there is any test that will prove you to be great. 8O

And once again let me state that disagreement is perfectly acceptable. 8)

This is simply my opinion and no more valid than yours.

I guess I figure we are all just Karateka and the hierarchical BS has infected the art so much that the false long pretty belts we tie around our waist take on far too much meaning. Step on the dojo floor as friends and cross arms then and only then is any sense of mastery grasped between practitioners.

But then what the heck. :lol: 8) :P 8O
Rick Wilson

Postby Rick Wilson » Wed Aug 31, 2005 5:27 am

Neil we crossed posted -- good post. :D
Rick Wilson

Postby Rick Wilson » Wed Aug 31, 2005 5:52 am

Hey Liz, when are you going to come back up to Edmonton? :D
Rick Wilson

Postby Stryke » Wed Aug 31, 2005 5:57 am

I guess I find the thought of anyone claiming mastery as a bit absurd .

I think such a title should be reserved for the deceased , maybe like a sainthood , proove a couple miracles , wait x amont of years etc etc ....

The word Master has a lot of conotations , I think it too strong a label , and an incredibly big claim .

actually think mastery is an impossibility .

Postby Dana Sheets » Wed Aug 31, 2005 12:38 pm

actually think mastery is an impossibility

I was saw some old old film footage (I think it was during the brewery tour at Guiness in Dublin) of a master cooper. How do I know he was a master? He had two rings and a stack of natural logs. Using just an axe this man would take a log, in three or four whacks take off the bark and in another six or seven whacks have one section of the barrel. Then he did the next and formed it, by eye and with an axe, to match the next. He went on this way until he had the two rings filled with boards that lined up and a closer view of the footage showed that they fit very well together.

Sure smooth confidence, effective & efficient execution of technique, functional outcomes. He was definitely a master cooper when it came to barrels. Now if he was just at good at making carriage wheels I have no idea. So I guess he'd be called a master cooper of barrels.

The difficulty with the general term master is that it begs the question "of what?"

What does it mean to have mastered Uechi-Ryu? Kata, fighting, esoteric applications, body conditioning...that's all the physcial stuff. Is that all? Or are we also talking about self-control, character, pedagogical skills (for adults & children), and business practices?

A good question to examine in my mind. Thanks.
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Postby Asteer » Wed Aug 31, 2005 2:59 pm

I think it is positive and important to have some form of "Master" status in any art, sport, trade, etc. However, I agree with Rick in that it should never be demanded but instead confered on someone who demonstrates an excellence at their trade.

If I feel that my Sensei is a true master, and the convention of people who make up my style have also confered on him the rank of master, then it would me my honour to freely refer to him as master.

It is also his or her prerogative to ask that he or she NOT be refered to as master, for whatever reason. That I must also respect.

If a person has been confered the rank of master by a body of people, then that person is in some way looked up to by that body of people as a valuable resource and example. If that master can live up to that expectation with integrity, and all that it entails, then they should be proud to carry that title.
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Postby jorvik » Wed Aug 31, 2005 7:07 pm

I don't know if the master Cooper is a good example.....our MA's are never put to the test :oops: ..but then again I don't think that they should be, I don't think the best fighter is a "Master".but I think if he is an Ma he should be able to fight..he should be able to open that door where he is fighting for his life....and many cannot yet they still crave the title.
I have seen so much nonsense like this the end of the day you have to forget about the rituals , the coloured belts, the Gi's...and then go back to them :wink:

Postby Rick Wilson » Thu Sep 01, 2005 4:53 am

Seizan Breyette sent me an email and has given me his okay to post his comments which I felt expressed what I was trying to say better than my own attempts:

We all want to be masters at something. It's human nature to strive for more than simply an acceptable level -- we want to excel. We all have the potential. The irony is that we can only achieve this if we let go and simply do what needs doing. In the karate world, those who are really great BudoKa don't usually realize they have achieved the level. They have no ego.

Try to be a "master" by assuming the position, saying the words, and making the claim, and real mastery escapes us utterly. Just be what one is, and if mastery is there, it shows. It's apparent, even in one's carriage. When a real Master of any art or skill walks into the room, everyone almost instinctively feels there's "something" about this person...

Consider the tiger. The tiger never taught Man how to fight, but Man learned from watching the tiger. A great deal of respect and admiration for the tiger's power, softness, and fighting skills went into the learning. The tiger was never a teacher, however Man was the student. Compared to Man, even a "mediocre" tiger is a Master of unparalleled fighting skills -- without trying to be a Master at all. He simply does what a tiger does. Man emulates.

This is why Okinawans say "The Master doesn't teach, but the student learns."

The greatest men and women in the world don't force their greatness to be. They simply are the people they are. They are Masters by their nature.

No one claims mastery. It claims them.
Rick Wilson


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