No doubt, we accept the notion that we need to be open to examining and repeating/practicing waza with the positive attitude of a beginner—someone who’s excited about new learnings. We understand that such an attitude is essential for continuing to achieve technical improvement.

Of course, this can become a bigger challenge as we gain more experience. We form more opinions about how things should be done. We challenge technical changes. We’re uncomfortable with new approaches to previously learned techniques. Maybe even unconsciously, our old learning gets in the way of new learning (“pro-active inhibition”) and our new learning gets in the way of old learning that we should retain (retro-active inhibition).

No doubt, we understand that it is valuable to do our utmost to retain a Beginner’s Mind when it comes to technical expertise. If we trust the Chief Instructor and keep an open mind, we’ll surely benefit—no matter how long we’ve studied. From an organizational development standpoint, the need to maintain a Beginner’s Mind is likewise essential.

When we’re new white belts our expectations are limited to being granted the privilege of learning whatever the Chief Instructor chooses to teach us. We trust that he will be fair with us; and, if rewards are to be delivered, he will do that with fairness and justice. We need to keep the same attitude in the 10th, 20, or 50th year of our relationship with him. We are entitled to show up and train as often as he is willing to instruct us. That’s all.

We are not entitled to ever be black belts much less high level black belts. We did not begin as white belts with that mind set.

He has no obligation to grant us the privilege of instructing others. We did not begin as white belts with that mindset.

He has no obligation to confer leadership role or offices to us. We did not begin as white belts with that mindset.

He has no obligation to confer martial arts titles upon us. We did not begin as white belts with that mindset.

In general, he has no obligation to stroke our ego’s or make us feel important, much less that we’d somehow become indispensable. We did not begin as white belts with that mindset.

He has no obligation to promote or otherwise reward our students, just because they will feel good and it’ll make us look good. We did not begin as white belts with that mindset.

Recall Gichin Funakoshi’s philosophy:”The ultimate aim of karate-do lies neither in victory, nor defeat; but in the perfection of the character of its participants”. In our local dojo we still recite those philosophical virtues, in addition to the showa—particularly at the end of our children’s classes. We list patience, sincerity, courage, humility, brotherhood, and wisdom. As we age in Chito-Ryu, in theory, we should individually become more and more virtuous than we were at the point whenever we started. (No point in comparing yourself to anything or anyone other than your own starting point in that regard.)

Unfortunately, what we too often experience is a regression to a state worse than white belt when it comes to some of our attitudes as we gain belt grades and titles. We see more impatience, insincerity, arrogance, disloyalty, elitism/belt class consciousness and lack of candid, truthful dialogue.

As Shihan-kai, Shibu Dojo leaders and karateka, let’s recommit ourselves to further development toward the ultimate reason why we began our individual quests.—If we are patient, work hard and put our full trust in our Founders, we will surely reach our goal.

Lawrence C. Hawkins, Jr.,Esq
Roku Dan, Kyoshi
Chairman, U.S. Chito-kai
Chief Instructor, Yoseikan II Dojo Cincinnati, Ohio

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