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Humility in Life and how to Remove Arrogance through Martial Arts

humility Feb 28, 2024

A question I ask my students frequently is what does it humility mean? Whether adult or child, the student searches for the answer. This is a topic that's not talked about enough. 

I find myself prompting the student in their exploration of self-awareness. To get the mental juices flowing I share that the opposite of humility is arrogance. 

We've all heard the words arrogance and humility before. I'd like share with you some deeper meanings into these terms of humility and arrogance, in hope to enlighten you on how humility is essential for life. If we then understand why humility is essential, we can seek to learn how arrogance can be removed through martial arts training. 

When someone is arrogant they are prideful to the point that they view themselves as better than others. These individuals are unable to learn or improve, because they cannot see the flaws in their own life. 

An example of arrogance might include people who consciously or subconsciously seek the spotlight and in doing so make others feel less important. We see this with children and adults who brag or boast each opportunity they get. The root cause of arrogance could be a sense of insecurity or superiority, low self-esteem, or fear of competition.

To better understand humility allow me to further share the three different categories of arrogance. 

Individual arrogance. This category has distorted information and limited abilities, they overestimate how much information and abilities they think they have, and they are resistant to new information about their limitations. To put simply, they are blind to how little they know and are resistant to any insight that would bring self-awareness to their limitations. Can you see how someone with low self-esteem and insecurity would avoid these feelings of limitations?

Comparative arrogance. This category fails to consider the perspective of others and they have the belief or assumption that they are better than others. We see this when people avoid conversations or interactions with others who think and act differently than they do. Therefore anyone who is different is immediately less than themselves. This one falls into the superiority complex, which also has elements of insecurity. Often the false superiority is mask of their insecurity.

Antagonistic arrogance. The last category is denigration of others, where they intentionally say things to belittle others. This one the arrogant person is vocalizing to others in a way to put them down as a way of feeling that they are superior. 

Don't get me wrong. Arrogance is not the same as confident. You can be confident in your abilities and not be arrogant. However, arrogance is most often a defense mechanism for the low self-esteem and insecurities of an individual's abilities or knowledge. There are many issues with arrogance, which we won't explore them all in this blog. However a key point to understand is that a person's arrogance effects others abilities to grow as a person. Arrogance effects the culture and morale of an organization or school, and it impacts each person's ability to perform their best.

Humility being the opposite of arrogance is about modesty, and not believing that you are better than others. It is not having a low opinion of yourself. It is not about lacking confidence or pride. You can be proud of your abilities and confident in them. But you do not view yourself as better than others. A humble person is self-aware of their abilities and open to critique, feedback, and learning new information and perspectives.

How do we teach humility and remove arrogance through martial arts training?

To a child, we may say things like "do not brag," "do not shout out information," "let other children go first," and "listen to others." These acts can help children learn to respect others and be open and comfortable with learning from and with other children.

In martial arts we help children with these concepts by our examples as a teachers, through the environment of our class that demonstrates inclusion and equality, that values diversity, and provides each child an opportunity to shine. Then we provide a platform where each child recognizes the strengths of other students without comparing themselves to the student who was just praised. Focusing on an attitude of gratitude. Sincere praise is a great way to de-train the arrogant mindset.

How does this education of humlity evolve for adults?

As adults we seek a more profound understanding of humility, such as cultural humility, intellectual humility, and intergenerational humility.

Adults coming into a martial arts class may have developed years of biases that come across as arrogance, even if subconsciously. The adult class invites various religions, ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds to be integrated and included in class.

We shape each class to ensure each student approaches learning with an empty cup that is not filled with preconceived notions of what they know or believe. Thus allowing all students regardless of age, beliefs, or background to be equal in class. We also seek to have adults praise each other and seek help from each other.

When we develop humility in our martial arts students we create a sense of loyalty in the school's martial arts family, we empower each student to work together to learn and perform their best, to be helpful to each other in learning, and be comfortable asking each other for help.

Students who embrace humility through martial arts training are more likely to gain fuller appreciation of knowledge afforded to them in other areas of their life. Because they are more tolerant towards others who are different than themselves, and are open to new ideas.


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