Humans must understand the way of humanity in order to maximize our human potentials. We must understand the qualities, which distinguishes us from other living creatures – the essence of our being and our connection to the natural order of the universe. Most all religions and moral philosophies have professed the following tenants concerning the “Way” humans should live: Be good, be selfless, be courteous, be just, be obedient, be respectful, be loving, be trusting, be virtuous, be wise, be responsible, show filial piety, cooperate, and be compassionate. An understanding of these moral traits is necessary for human society to be harmonious.
The martial artist must deeply understand these principles because as well as being a part of human society, he or she is also a part of the identity of their particular martial art. True courage and strength is necessary for the practitioner to dedicate themselves to the welfare of their martial art. Humans are not isolated. We need each other, and in return, we must give service to our community, our art, and ultimately our humanity. We need to give our services and cooperate in a respectable manner for the benefit of our art, and for the benefit of the future generations.
All things are governed by rules and procedures. In order to create harmony and order, we must give attention to the rank and title of the members in the art. There are many principles one must understand in order to achieve true harmony, which we hope will be revealed after this discourse. Harmony is achieved through understanding the weaknesses and strengths, the likes and dislikes, and the understanding of how the “self” can better the “whole.” Then, one must create structure and order in one’s life to fulfill their goals with unswerving moral rectitude. First, the individual must seek harmony within the “self.” Then, the individual must apply the same methods of self-discovery into the community and then realize the individual’s connection to the natural order of life. However, this does not take place in such order. This is the dilemma.
Wisdom is gained much later in our lives, after much experience, hardships, and heartbreaks. This is why it is so important to have good teachers in our lives. Those who understand the ancient wisdom, value of tradition, the need for change for growth, and most importantly, posses the vision of the future. They are the ones who will guide us in the proper path and either expedite our growth to reach our full potentials or forever trap us in a futile existence. In a true martial art, this growth is accomplished through rank and title, as does any civilization. Rank and title should not be used as a means to suppress growth, but it is a means of fulfillment. By fulfilling the tasks, requirements, and challenges of each rank, one comes to understand and value their position as well as the position of others. Without challenges, trials, and hardships, one cannot grow. Moreover, it is through this maturity that a person can come to appreciate his/her responsibilities and thus gain a greater sense of humanity. Our ranks and titles reflect the position we have among our art’s community as well as our society. The more position we have, the greater our reasonability to others and humanity.
Of course, one can be a self-proclaimed teacher, champion, or even a prophet. No true title can be self-proclaimed. Even though, a person starts a company and makes him/herself president, such title will only gain value by the work he/she accomplishes. True titles are gained, earned, and/or presented. Some modern systems of martial arts have disbanded the ranking system entirely. This cannot be seen as a martial art and should be given a new name, such as martial sports. However, even in sports you have different levels, depending on skill and performance. Hence, it is hard to escape ranking because it is the way to keep order and without order, there can only be chaos. Respect and be proud of your ranks and titles, if you have sacrificed to earn it. The value of each rank or title is determined by your own actions. Just having rank means nothing, if you do not act accordingly. Stay true to the rank you earned and what was given to you by your founder or master. Do not deny true ranks and titles. False ranks and titles are a dishonor to us all, to the memory of what was, and brings shame to the way of the martial arts and its community.