Masuk Bakul Angkat Sendiri!!

French philosopher, Jules de Gaultier once wrote : IMAGINATION IS THE ONE WEAPON IN THE WAR AGAINST REALITY. Why would anyone want to change reality… is it because it is too dreary… too unrealistic at times? Reality is after all, simply a state of being when a group of people agree upon their perception of what is real. Simply in other words, if say… Putin, Bush and a third of the world’s leaders meet up in Geneva or wherever they hang out to spend tons of the taxpayers’ money, and agree that Never Never Land is to be found two miles south of the coast of Florida, then it must be real???!!!!!

The same state of reality exists in the martial arts community. Take one example, a black belt I know has recently ‘migrated’ to another style or ‘ryu’ due to ‘conflict of interest’. He is hell bent on finding ‘THE TRUE PATH’. On his journey to find this path, he tramples on some people, spits on others and generally belittles everyone else who does not see things his way, for he is after all, the guardian of the ‘TRUE PATH’. For is he not right in his quest for the ultimate truth. As he is a student of a japanese martial arts system, so he goes forth boldly to the ‘homeland’ to further his knowledge in his art. After a month of intensive training he comes home with a certificate. But alas, it is not the coveted black belt certificate that he brings home but an Ikkyu (1st Kyu, brown belt). Being a master orator and spin-master, he continues to advertise himself as a black belt, albeit from a previous organization that he nows spits on. Not once did in his master oration does he mention that the masters that be in the land of the rising sun, view him, despite his many long years of training and teaching experience, only worthy of a brown belt. There is nothing unhonourable in that. It is just that he conveniently forgets to mention that fact in his current martial art style. Was he lying??? Of course he wasn’t, he wasn’t claiming anything that he wasn’t. He justs never tells the truth. So…. what level of reality does he, or any other martial artists operate on then? Or is he simple in denial?

We all hype up a bit in advertising. But it is a sad thing to see someone buy into their own hype. It is one thing to have others praise you, but to continually do it yourself????  Oh well… there is a Malaysia saying “Masuk bakul angkat sendiri” which literally means to sing one’s own praise.



11 responses to “Masuk Bakul Angkat Sendiri!!

  1. Hello Seikan-san,

    Happy to meet you.

    Some expect, if they were a cross-training “black belt”, that they could visit Okinawa, change to a system completely new to them (perhaps opposite in many ways to their old system), and in one month or less, acquire a “black belt”.

    Does this happen? Sad to say, yes it does in some systems. Even here on Okinawa.

    It’s possible your readers are not aware of how ranks levels are awarded here on Okinawa in the Home Dojo of an Okinawan system. Training here, and the pressure to progress, can be very severe!

    To use my own system as an example, few outside the Zankai know how a UechiRyu Zankai “brown belt” measures up against the skills of other “black belts” from other styles of UechiRyu or other systems, nor how to measure such a difference (except perhaps in terms of violence!). In some systems here, their green or brown belt rank performance surpasses that of a seasoned Nidan or Sandan of other systems or dojo!

    Sorry to say, but some people (not you, of course) only see the color of the belt and a number on a piece of paper, and make a lasting judgment on the holder of that rank, while actually having no personal experience in that style, training, or system!

    As a personal example, I myself have a student in Malaysia (yes, really!) who trained here for a month, and worked so hard he surpassed all expectations and actually rose to a respectably high Kyu level, when most would not reach past a yellow or maybe a purple belt level in just a month. It is my hope to train him far beyond the Ikkyu level this coming year. Of course, no one promises a Dan rank – but I would pit his present “brown belt” skills in UechiRyu kata and Bunkai, and his pure UechiRyu knowledge, against many “black belts” I know.

    Please understand this is not a testimony to my skills or severity as a teacher, but to the severity, expectations, and standards of the system.

    If anyone had a question regarding UechiRyu Zankai rank levels, or how we award such, I am sure they would contact me (his teacher on Okinawa) directly with their questions first, rather than make uninformed statements in public (which just wouldn’t be very Budo-like, would it…?).

    So, I understand that you must be citing some other person who perhaps deserves a bit more understanding for his journey, his work, and his achievements. Perhaps issues in his past MA journey before his “new” training made him bitter and wary – perhaps you could help him through this instead of stoking the flames. This is a great opportunity to show a deep understanding and practical application of the concepts found in your Dojo Kun (which I’m sure you follow) as taught by Shimabukuro Sensei (whose dojo is about 20 minutes from mine). By following the teachings of our trusted Seniors with true Budo dedication, it becomes easy to forget or ignore the “little stuff” and focus on the positive growth of all MA systems as styles around the world, and in our own neighborhood. This promotes good relationships between dojo and other associations, especially if all are relatively close to each other.

    May I please print out your post and share with others here on Okinawa? I saved it for my reference already, so no problem if it were to, uh, disappear accidentally (it happens from time to time, I’ve seen it before). I am sure other Masters here will most definitely be interested in reading your passionate statements regarding another struggling teacher of Okinawan art in Malaysia. Perhaps his own teacher here will read it and offer to assist.

    Please let me know if this is OK. If you prefer not, I understand but please let me know off-line at my e-address:

    I wish to thank you for your sharp awareness and dedication to the precepts of the Budo Art you practice, and your strong support for all Okinawan Budo Arts as they find new homes in Malaysia and elsewhere. I feel sure you must be a credit to your Kaicho on Okinawa – he must be very proud to have such students as you in his lineage.

    Here’s to a lasting Budo relationship between your system and mine, as it is on Okinawa!

    And … Happy Holiday Seasons to all.

    Okinawa KarateDo UechiRyu Zankai Nagahama Dojo
    Yomitan, Okinawa Japan

  2. Ohio Seizan Sensei,

    First of all, thank you for gracing my blog with your comment.

    Yes, sadly, for many, the color black wrapped around the waist is an enchanting color. Many a time I’ve been asked how long does it take to achieve a black belt? When I answer, usually 4-5 years… most times I get blank stares of incredulity. They then mention Sensei So and So says that it can be achieved in 2-3 years. Not wanting to to bore the listener with the details that each system, ryu, dojo, and even individual instructors have different criterias, I usually say that each person have different yardsticks to measure a cloth with. Such questions remind me of what one of my earliest teachers, Toshiaki Namiki Sensei, once said to me when I asked him the very same question : a lifetime.

    I appreciate your comment. I have been taught that in budo, sometimes, if not most times, it is better to sit still and ignore the gnats. The hardest lesson come from just sitting still. A lesson I learnt the hard way sitting through a mokuso session that lasted for a short half hour. As Confucius once said : In silence lies great strength. In Malaysia, we have a saying : When you’re angry at the mosquito, don’t burn the the house. All this while, I have been sitting. A lesson I learnt a while back in iaijutsu, maybe best puts my post in perspective. In iaido, as opposed to kenjutsu, the aim is one strike, one kill. In my case I do hope to make a kill : my ‘kill’ being to solicit a response from others who I presume are my betters. It is out of frustration that I make my post. This ‘friend’ whom I talked about is one of those that I viewed as one of my betters (viewed : past tense), until he proved himself otherwise, to me at least. I don’t want to sound all bitter and digress on a matters I left behind long ago. I have no intension of laying judgment on your Ryu or any other ryu. Each is, to use an over-used word, unique. Each with it’s own criteria. But in my book, to get understanding is to give understanding. And understanding is a bit short where I’m standing at the moment. I read once, ‘If your hand goes out, leave your anger behind. If your anger goes out, leave your hand behind’. So one good thing I learnt today is to leave anger when I next post a comment and look thing objectively.

    Once again, I appreciate that you took the time on matters, unrelated to your goodself and your students, wherever they may be. I am open to criticism and have always considered myself more a student that a teacher. You may, though you don’t really need my consent to print and share my 2 cents with whomever you think may be interested.

    I do hope that you can visit my website again and share more of your knowledge and insights in the martial arts.

    If I ever get to Okinawa, I sure would love to drop by for a chat, though my violin, I fear, is long lost in my jungle of an attic.

    Yours in Budo, Gambatter Kudasai,

  3. Hi… I was browsing the net for new info on karate and came across this discussion. Please forgive me if my views are unwelcomed. It seems that Seiken-san is frustrated with how things are going. My sympathies are with him. Though I would agree with Seizan-san that Seiken-san that you shouldn’t take your frustrations out in public, i.e. your malaysian mosquito saying. I backtracked Seiken’s blog to find the root of such bitterness (his words, not mine) and concluded that the both of you seems to know who you are talking about, but out of politeness, refers to him, or her in the third person. What Seiken is experiencing is not exclusive to him but has become endemic in the martial arts community. When two martial artists go their own way, each accuse the other of backstabbing. According to his previous posts, it seems that Seiken’s decision to leave, then re-join his club (current? former?) is the bone of contention between the two.

    Personally to me, whatever he does is done to what he thinks is best for him, and his friend shouldn’t take it so personally. I do hope, whatever the problem is between the two of them, just resolve it and continue as friends.. don’t you agree Seizan-san? best wishes to Seiken-san & friend.

    By the way, your online names are almost the same, are you two related?

    S. Ali

  4. Ouch!!! The honorable Jim san gets a subtle ticking off from a senior yudansha from Okinawa!! What mischief have you been up to Jim? As you so fondly like to say, be still my restless heart. Take it as advise from a teacher and learn from it. Bury the hatchet my friend.

  5. Thank you all who have commented online and offline. Comments have been requested to be kept private and not published on the website. Thank you for being critical of my writing.

  6. I believe everyone should be allowed to have their say in anything. Right. Wrong. Or otherwise.
    Whatever is correct anyway? Who is there to judge who is right or wrong?
    As much as burrying the hatchet goes, it is just as good as sweeping things behind the carpet.

    The dirt still remains.

    After some time, the dirt resurfaces and nothing is solved.

    Perhaps that is the Asian way of dealing with conflicts. Either way, respect has to be earned and not demanded for. Respect does not come from the belt you wear, your seniority, age or religion. It comes from your being.

    These are lessons that take a lifetime.

    I also believe that people should be proud of their stand and defend their stand with all they have rather than hide behind or use a boulder to cover their shame. If you have the courage to say something. Stand behind it. And go all out. Be prepared to put your credibility or any other thing on the line. Most importantly, admit that this is his or her stand on the issue and not shy away. That is true courage. Courage without fear of rejection or shame, as it is the truth.

    True courage like most good things in life, does not come from the physical constraints that bind us.
    A true samurai never asks his retainer or wizurai to fight his own battles.
    A true samurai accepts death even before a battle.
    A true samurai does not fear death and has enough honour to uphold whatever is right.

    Although we are no longer living in feudal times, these values are what differentiates the “classes” of humans that we have.

    Perhaps the random rambling I have put forward may be bullocks. But this so far I believe is true. And this is my stand in what I believe in.

    Sidney X.

  7. Sydney-san,

    Hello from Nagahama Dojo.

    Sorry, I tried to post this late last night, but it seems to have gotten lost in Cyberspace. This post is basically the same but perhaps worded a bit differently, with no sleep in my head to make thoughts fuzzy…

    Seiken and I communicated off-line as two teachers and swiftly came to a very good understanding. No hatchet was buried, nothing swept under a carpet. There was neither shame nor any boulder to hide behind. We had a good and productive communication, and we understand each other well.

    Seeds were sown that promote thoughts and consideration toward a better future for both parties involved.

    I don’t know about an “Asian way” but this is certainly the Okinawan way to resolve differences.

    Your post was very informative but I suggest it was a bit heavy-handed for a simple situation. There was no Samurai-type battle action going on – there was honor, politeness, and respect expressed between two teachers of different generations, experience levels, ranks, position, etc. In effect, our communications didn’t involve rank, age, etc., but we were simply two karate practitioners talking.

    It is good that you have strong beliefs to stand up for, priciples to uphold, integrity to express… But there are many ways to do so without waging a war.

    We are not training in Japanese-style Samurai Bushido. There are no more Samurai. We can all be thankful for that.

    We are training old-style Okinawan Budo. Perhaps one day you can come to Okinawa and learn an old-style Okinawan Budo Art. We are happy to share.

    And that is also the Okinawan way.

    Best regards,


  8. Seizan,

    Erm…what war?
    Its just a matter of personal opinion. I hope it has not offended you in any way or affected you in any sense.
    Many people live their lives either with no principles or with different aims in mind. Others may be indifferent.

    I may sound a little harsh but being young and inexperienced, it is just a part of youth, won’t you agree?

    The Western influences are changing how Asians think and how we behave. These good old values are now becoming extinct. And as we further segregate Okinawan ways and general Asian values, I am afraid that there is very little left to salvage.Have you watched Chinmoku? Excellent movie.

    I watched the documentary A1 and am quite concerned on how society twists truths to suit each to their own agendas and satisfy the status quo.
    I sincerely hope that a more balanced perspective can be achieved, as the truth is neutral blade. It is neither good nor evil. Only how truth is being applied or twisted to different agendas that make truth seem ugly.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am quite happy that you find the manner whatever you are referring to as being resolved, I was just commenting to the post in general.

    Btw, It is Sidney with an “i” by the way 🙂

    Sincere regards.
    Sidney X.

  9. Sidney-san,

    With an ‘i’. Apologies. You should see how my name/s get the spelling treatment…!


    This drifted off topic, I think. You have good experiences, insights, and knowledge to share – I don’t believe you to be harsh at all (at least, not intentionally, if you ever were). Don’t sell yourself short. I learn a lot from younger people, whose eyes are not yet clouded or jaded by worldly matters.

    If you want to discuss more regarding cultuiral differences, etc., please contact me off-line at my e-mail as shown above.

    One thing I do wish to clarify with readers is that the old or traditional Okinawan culture is not at all anything like Mainland Japanese culture, and we (on Okinawa) must work very hard to preserve it, despite Westernization and Japanese influence.

    Are you actively engaged in the study and practice of some form of karate or martial art? Is it an Okinawan-based system?

    Best to you and yours in this Holiday Season, and for a Happy and Prosperous New Year of the Rat 2008!



  10. To all,

    Sorry for ‘typos’ in previous posts. My keyboard is not engaged in the practice of Budo, and is rather undisciplined and disrespectful of my fingers. It often slyly mistypes words when I look the other way…

    Mischievous thing!

    Regrads (there it goes again!),


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