Joe Capogreco's essay for the obtention of his second dan
The Shodan student and students of a higher ranking, first and foremost, have a responsibility to self. The greater the self-development, the greater the strength of mind, body and spirit, the greater the responsibility that can be assumed. Without proper development of self, responsibility causes stress rather than energy creation and peace. This may result in the surrendering of responsibility.
Self-responsibility must, through inner strength developed by spiritual thought and years of physical training (one path which leads to mental and physical strength), be exhibited by humility and love for all.
With this level of self-responsibility, humility and love towards everyone and everything becomes our way of life, our path. Therefore, as self-responsibility is developed, it naturally follows that all else is placed before oneself.
The Martial Arts Community
The Shodan student does not practice in a vacuum. His or her first outward responsibility is to the teacher, to honor and respect the teacher and the teachings through regular class attendance, mindful practice, and self-started assistance in any way. Secondly, he must set an example for all, including students, onlookers, sempai and other teachers. The example set must always be improving. Part of teaching, and we are all teachers, is to lead by example. We are always being observed, whether we realize it or not, and whether our students realize it or not. We are also all students. Thirdly, as teachers we have a responsibility to our personal students. They observe all, whether on or off the mats. Both our verbal instruction and our movements are tools in the dojo, tools of communication, and like any tool they can be used to build or to demolish.
At this juncture I would like to clarify a few points:
1. When I think of self-responsibility, consideration of others first; it means that all who intersect with our life path must be treated with compassion and understanding. This may mean tough compassion, i.e.
· Reprimand: to point out a mistake
· Repetition of action: to correct a mistake
· Firm discipline: to redirect action.
These actions are done without malice, only love for the person and concern for their growth.
2. Spiritual thought is thought of one's spirit and spiritual life. What is it? Why does it exist? Thought of the world we presently live in, the world we came from and will return to. What do we believe in? What don't we believe in? The learning of one's faith and beliefs. Thought of the rules we live by. Our morals and values anchor our character and allow the acceptance of responsibility with ease.
3. All responsibility must grow or it dies. It is like rolling a ball up a hill. If you stop, it starts to roll back down. It is definitely harder to roll the ball up the hill than to just be slothful and let it roll down. The higher you roll the ball, the harder it is. The more progress made, the greater the responsibility you have.
4. The use of the term "Black Belt" has, for me, a negative connotation, probably as a result of movies, television and possibly past immature thought. "Black Belt" seems to suggest someone with bujitsu training or a level of destructive ability; first degree, second degree, etc. But the terms "Shodan", "Nidan" etc., denote a level of "Budo" training; understanding the strength of body and mind; a level of honor.
Responsibility to Society
And thus the fitness of one man,
You find in the family he began,
You find in the village that accrued,
You find in the country that ensued,
You find in the world's whole multitudes.
How do I know this integrity?
Because it could all begin in me.
The responsibility of a Shodan student, and higher, becomes greater, the higher his level. Therefore, a student's responsibility to the Martial Arts Community and to Society as a whole is greater, the higher the level attained. The responsibility increases proportionately with the levels attained in the martial arts.
The Martial Arts Community, teachers, fellow students, their families, friends etc. are just a microcosm of society. We all exist and interact in society. As to the Martial Arts Community, our first responsibility is to the self, hence our first responsibility is to everyone else; society.
Every action and occurrence, whether personal, family, work, or social, cannot be in conflict with our study. Our study permeates our being. It follows then that our sense of honor envelopes our whole life and everyone, and everything, that we touch.
With this example of honor, we encourage others to improve, consciously or perhaps unconsciously, but to improve nonetheless. As within our circle of family and friends, other circles of family and friends will improve; the improvement creates a positive snowball effect.
One of my personal theories, developed through training, study and reflection is this: that we are all one, i.e. as cells of the same body. If I have a headache, it affects my whole body. If I eat a delicious, healthy meal prepared with love and shared with family or friends, how do you think I feel? What I do affects everyone else. It can be an immediate effect or it can be a slow effect, or maybe one not even noticed in this lifetime.
In conclusion, I see a Shodan's responsibility to self, the Martial Arts Community and Society as all one. It may seem a daunting burden to carry, but diligent training allows him to find harmony in his responsibility.
Joseph V. Capogreco, September 2000