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The Rank That You Earn

By Scott Shaw


In regard to the martial arts, like I have long said, “If you are referring to yourself as a master, that problems means that you are not.”

I understand that people want position in life. Whether it is martial art rank, job title, or the number of followers on Instagram or Twitter, people want to feel as if they are something and appear as if they have achieved something. This has lead people to pursue all kinds of pathways to gain a place in society where they can claim that they are, “A Something.” Some of these pathways have been based on hard work. Other of these pathways have been based upon cooking the books. But, one way or the other, certain people strive towards titling.

But, what does it mean when you get there? What do you do with your position of title equaling power? Do you unleash good or do you unleash harm? Or, is where you have arrived simply a place where your ego is allowed to be stroked?

As I have long tried to explain to people, the term, “Master,” most commonly used with the Korean martial arts, (Sabumnim in Korean), is not well-translated into American English. It is much more akin to Old British English where a school instructor was sometimes called, “Master,” in reference to him being the head of the class. In modern times, the term, “Master,” in association with the martial arts, has come to denote what a person is, “A Master of the Art.” But, are they? Yes, they may have earned rank, either through years of training or purchase, but look at the people who use this term, are they truly a Master? Do they perform every technique perfectly every time? I have watch ballerinas; some of them are masters. I have watched performers in shows like Cirque du Soleil; some of them are masters. But, is some chubby guy teaching a few students at a small martial art studio deserving of this title? I guess that is a personal decision. But, I have always preferred the Japanese term, “Sensei,” which means teacher. But, people want more. They don’t want to just be a teacher. They want to be something grand.

The reason I bring this subject up is that I was asked a little while back why I am not a 9th Degree Black Belt as I have been an 8th Degree Black Belt for so long. First of all, I don’t care about any of that. But, as I explained, I was offered that rank a number of years ago but I turned it down. Then, the other day, I was going through some papers and I found the letter where the head of the organization offered me the advancement. It was dated 2006. Wow! That was a long time ago. I didn’t even realize how long ago that was. Now, even the founder and the head of that organization has passed on.

In any case, I’m not about what I claim to be. I’m not about title. I’m not about presenting an image to the world. I’m just about me being me. I’m about helping and I don’t care about the title I am given as long as I am helping. Just call me Scott.

The problem with the world is… The problem with some people is… (At least as I see it). Instead of working towards being a helpful version of themselves, they first seek to be, “A Something.”. They want the title. They expect the respect. Whether a person has truly earned any title they use is forever debatable. But, that is not even the point. If you throw away the title, who are they—who are you? If you throw away the number of followers you have on Instagram or Twitter, who are you? If you are alone and yourself who are you?

People who seek titling, often times get lost in that title. Whether it is in martial arts, at the job, or on the web, people become lost in the projection of who they appear to be. But, who are they really? Are they that title? Or, are they person who is below that title? The person who’s life is only known to a very few (or no one)?

If you are nothing… If you seek to be nothing… Then titling has no hold on you. You can give, you can help, but by claiming the freedom of being nothing you are not bound by what any title describes you to be. Thus, all that you do is done from the space of purity.

Now, I get it… Most people want to be that, “Something.” But, even if that is you, try letting go for a minute. Stop allowing others to refer to you as a something. Stop describing yourself, in your own mind, as that something. How freeing is that?

Let go of titling and you can be anything. Plus, you can be it in the purist sense of the word. As you are nothing… As you claim nothing… You can give everything. And, giving/helping, without taking, (without your ego being stroked), that is the best thing you can do with your life.

Let go of your desire to be a something. Then you are free. Then you can truly help.

From the Scott Shaw Blog.

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