Among the hallmarks of great martial artists such as Bruce Lee, Professor Remy A. Presas, Mas Oyama, Yip Man, Jigoro Kano and many others is the willingness to be brutally honest with themselves about their strengths and weaknesses. 

As a result of the white hot glare of honesty, they are able to see themselves “as is”, not as they would like to be. In order to fulfill their vision of mastery of their art, they had to be honest and explore their shortcomings and work on them accordingly.

While the majority of martial artists that I have taught, trained with, and encountered are honest with themselves and acknowledge their shortcomings, I have, unfortunately, encountered those who have completely unrealistic views of their competency at their particular martial art. I am not just talking about the “fanboy” videos that one can see on YouTube. You know them. They are the ones who never train at a school but fancy themselves as martial arts “experts” who are foolish enough to post videos on YouTube showing off their “mastery.” I cringe whenever I see these videos.

I cringe even more when I see real life examples in front of me. There are those who do not have a realistic view of their martial abilities and, even worse, fail to recognize their shortcomings. More astonishing is that they train less due to a belief that they don’t need to or claim that they are better off training by themselves rather than with training partners. 

“My opponent is my teacher.”

Substitute “training partner” in place of “opponent.” Every training partner is a teacher. Obviously, different training partners force you to use different parts of your martial repertoire. Tapi tapi against a bull is much different than playing with one who prefers finesse. Only by training with different partners can one expand your horizons.

If you skip class and claim that you are doing just fine training by yourself, are you really being honest with yourself?

Are you being honest to yourself when you need a teacher to stroke your ego every time you perform a technique well?

Are you being honest to yourself about the consequences of an action that was foreseeable to everyone but yourself? 

Being honest with yourself and being grounded is likely among the greatest gifts to yourself.  Self honesty will go a long way to helping you fulfill your potential not only in martial arts but other areas of your life. Without that honesty, how do you know what your weaknesses are?

Brutal honesty and weaknesses are enemies of each other. Know your limitations and work on your weaknesses. If you don’t know yourself, then how are you going to reach your potential?

The importance of a great instructor cannot be overlooked. They can point out the reality of who you are as a martial artist, not what you think you are. Listen to those instructors.

Would you rather have an instructor who is honest with you or one that strokes your ego every time you do well?

Having an honest instructor to point out what is obvious to everyone except the student can be tremendously beneficial. This kind of instructor can spur their students to greater heights. An example concerns the legendary boxing trainer, Angelo Dundee.

Before the 13th round of the legendary fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns in September of 1981,  Dundee knew that Sugar Ray was losing the fight. He shouted to Leonard “You’re blowing it son! You’re blowing it!” Leonard went on to rally in the 13th and 14th round to win the fight by TKO. Dundee’s quote became one of the most iconic moments in sports history.

If you’re not honest with yourself, you might benefit from an instructor or a friend who will say various versions of “you’re blowing it son! you’re blowing it!” You’ll be grateful.

Bottom line, be honest with yourself or seek out an instructor, coach or trainer who’ll give you honest feedback on your performance, your skill level and your abilities.

Over to you, I’d like to hear your thoughts!  Please post your comments below.


2 thoughts on “Self Honesty

  • January 11, 2016 at 6:33 am

    Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts Brian – very interesting!

    Have you come across the Johari Window? I think it’s a really useful model for pursuing the kind of self-development you describe. It describes us as comprising four “selves”: the Public Self; the Private Self; the Blind Self; the Undiscovered Self.

    One big problem relating to the issue you are discussing, is that being dishonest with yourself is often not deliberate. We can just have huge blind spots and not even realise that they exist. So I think a lot of the negative examples you give relate to the “Blind Self”, i.e. where outsiders can see the person’s limitations but they can’t.

    What I like about the Johari Window model, is that it gives a very practical framework to increase our “public self” and reduce the “blind self” and other hidden selves. Firstly through seeing and knowing ourselves better, and secondly through allowing others to see and know us more clearly.

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