And Issues of “Entitlement” Eventually Arise…
During a recent chat with one of my colleagues in the Koryu Arts, the topic of “entitlement” arose. In the course of our conversation, my colleague stated that: “The steady growth you have been experiencing within your Organization is wonderful, and you should enjoy it while you can because, inevitably, someone will say ‘I’m entitled’ and problems will begin to arise.”
While none of us involved with teaching the Koryu Arts should ever expect everything to go smoothly, as my colleague was speaking I must admit that I was feeling rather fortunate that our Organization had not yet encountered this problem and that I did not see it ‘looming on the horizon’, as it were. Such was not to be the case, I’m afraid…
The New College Edition of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines the word “entitle ” in the following way:” 1) To give a name or title to; to designate; 2) to bestow a title of nobility, rank, honor or dignity upon; 3) a. To give (one) a right to do or have something; to allow; qualify; 3) b. To give (one) a legal right or claim to something.” Based on the above definition, this idea can be present in the Dojo environment in either a positive and negative way, I believe.
As a rule, in a traditional Japanese Dojo a student (Deshi) is not “entitled” to anything…only what they receive from their Instructor (or Superiors) as a result of their constant training and observable progress. This usually takes the form of the Shinsa (lit. “judgment”, in Japanese), or Formal Testing, wherein the Deshi is given the chance to display their current level of skill before a panel of Judges who then evaluate the Deshi’s progress and either approve, or disapprove the awarding of their first/next level or rank.
Not only the level/rank itself, but even the opportunity to test is something that is decided by the Instructor, not the Deshi. If the Instructor feels that the Deshi is not ready, then the Deshi must wait and continue training until his Instructor says: “Now, you are ready…” It is when a given Deshi begins to say to him/herself: “I have been training in this art for about 2 years or so now, so I am entitled to test”, that things begin to take a wrong turn.
Even after many years of training and advancement, the issue of “entitlement” remains. At this juncture, it may take the form of the following statement: “Now that I am at the level/rank that I am, I am entitled to do…” This is also a problem, as most traditional Dojo have very specific policies concerning what a Deshi can or cannot do at their given level/rank…policies that are there to help the Dojo run smoothly and when they are breached, problems arise.
To sum up, those who tend to “think western” when in a traditional Japanese Dojo environment and feel that they are “entitled” to test at a given time for a given level/rank, or feel that they are “entitled” to certain privileges because of their rank, need to adjust their thinking and eliminate this attitude of “entitlement”…it smacks of ego and has no place in the Dojo.
A Deshi’s primary goal should always be to train hard with no expectation of reward, so that when the chance to progress to the next level does come along, it is not treated as a “given”, but something very unique and special! In his text, Tamiya Ryu Iaijutsu: One Point Lesson, Fuku Soke Tsumaki Kazuo Genwa Sensei discusses the “Purpose of Studying Iaijutsu” , which is summed up as three points and speaks well to the topic of “entitlement”:
“Point #1 = to discipline the mind and body, to understand the meaning of one’s life, and to train one’s character to be rich.
Point #2 = to be serious, to discipline the mind and body, to practice the art of the draw, to train the spirit and gain victory over oneself resulting in a harmonious character.
Point #3 = to harmonize the mind and body. By training both the physical and mental aspects, Iaijutsu becomes dignified.”