By JJ Simon
Published on Nov 26th, 2008

Humility , or being humble, is the defining characteristic of an unpretentious and modest person, someone who does not think that he or she is better or more important than others. Because the concept of humility addresses intrinsic self-worth, it is emphasized in the realm of religious practice and ethics where the notion is often made more precise and extensive. ~ Wiki Dictionary

A purpose worth stating, a model worth living.

During the 7 years that I have been training in Kenpo and my previous years of training in other Martial Arts I have always admired and respected the people who carry on the tradition of being responsible for their art and transmitting a part of their knowledge and understanding to others. In that time, I have come up with a simple phrase that is the base approach for my business both in the Martial Arts environment and the rest of my life. "I show up and take the lesson."

It's simple and straightforward. It is the commitment to my self that renews my intention to learn, by working towards being completely open to my environment, the individuals in it, and the possibility of lessons both intended and unintended by experience. In short, it is training in Humility.

How does this relate to the vision of the Martial Arts Learning Community? How do we as participants foster the spirit of humility and make it grow into an attitude that pervades our society? The MALC is dedicated to the growth and excellence of the whole human being. There is no way to begin the life long pursuit of growth and learning without humility. Humility is the foundation, on which, the individual will build successful happiness."

"Humility, that low, sweet root, From which all heavenly virtues shoot." ~ Thomas Moore

What is the opposite and reverse of humility? The opposite of humility is arrogance! Those who don't have the ability to show up and take a lesson from someone who is of "lower" rank than themselves are limited by a presumption of complete knowledge. This can be expressed in many ways such as "I'm a black belt and they're not, what can they teach me?" or "I'm older" "Smarter" "I'm White and they're not" "I'm Male and they're Female" "My teacher got this from so and so and it's the only way to do it." "My religion is the only way." What is really being said is "I'm better. I'm more important. I'm special". This is arrogance and can only foster an attitude or belief that the rules of society do not apply to this special individual (me).

Have you ever witnessed this in yourself or others? How does it make you feel? Does it encourage or discourage your participation or involvement with the person who delivers such a message?

The reverse of Humility is self loathing or real negativity towards the self. This is not constructively evaluating one's limitations or lack of skills. An honest evaluation would allow for introspection and problem solving which renews one's effort to train on limitations.

"Humility does not mean thinking less of
yourself than of other people, nor does it
mean having a low opinion of your
own gifts. It means freedom from
thinking about yourself at all." ~ William Temple, Archbishop

The reverse of Humility is the CAN"T DO attitude that weakens the spirit and destroys self esteem. Many times while talking to friends, family, students, and associates we have heard "I can't do it." or "I'm just stupid." and other negative (self speak) phrases. What we are hearing in these phrases is the crumbling away of the foundation of humility. Both polarities opposite and reverse degrade humility as the foundation of all other virtues.

Without humility one may still be honest but that honesty will not be tempered by the warmth of compassion or empathy. Honesty without compassion is a brittle blade that cuts only with the purpose of self aggrandizement or self loathing.This leaves brittle pieces of broken blade that continue to wound the recipient long after the cut was made, even if the recipient was the cutter.

Honesty tempered with compassion based on humility will go a long way to foster self examination, discipline, responsibility and preparedness for life and hardship.

Throughout history there are many examples of religious and philosophical practice that build the virtue of humility. The information is out there if we care to search for it. In many of the worlds Wisdom traditions humility is fostered by the understanding that we are all worm food. From dust we come and to dust we return. No one would pay a cent for the corpse of a King. In the beginning and end of life we are equal based solely our shared mortality.

One discipline I use is to get out of bed in the morning and contemplate for 2 minutes my own mortality, I am much more likely to approach all of my life with openness. I recognize that great people got where they are through hard work. If I'm putting the work in and I'm striving to be excellent. It is unimportant to take credit for that excellence because I didn't get there acting in a vacuum. I can defer credit for my accomplishments to my mentors, friends, loved ones and, most importantly, my enemies both internal an external. If one can truly learn from their enemies then they have nurtured the root of humility and grown the tree of excellence.

In short, I've shown up and taken the lesson.

Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about his religion. Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and of service to your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, or even a stranger, if in a lonely place. Show respect to all people, but grovel to none. When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home. ~ Native American Chief, Tecumseh

Filed under Philosophy and Opinion

Author Bio :: JJ Simon

JJ Simon has studied the Martial Arts for over a decade. In October of 2010, he tested for, and earned, his black belt at TheMALC's annual Residential . Mr. Simon has studied meditation since 1990 and has completed a number of Meditation retreats from 3 to 30 days under such noted teachers as Lama Surya Das, and in the Shambhala training tradition created by Chogyam

JJ has acted as a meditation coach for friends and martial arts associates since 1992. Mr. Simon is a tattoo artist of some renown with some 20 years of experience in the field. He owns Explosive Tattoo South in Salisbury, MD. JJ is also a painter, knife maker, and the Artistic Director for The Martial Arts Learning Community, Inc.

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