Humility, Thomas Carlyle and the Martial Arts

Lately I’ve been thinking about attending my wing chun class again for at least one lesson per week. That got me thinking about one of the most important lessons martial arts ever taught me: humility. As always, I’m going to walk you through how I learned it via the arts, and how I apply it to daily life.

I met this friend named Mike, who is a team mate of mine through Team Beachbody. I was telling him how I studied wing chun and did P90X. At the time he wasn’t doing any workouts so he wanted to see what that AND my martial art were all about.

When he came over, we did Kenpo X together. Then he had me show him some wing chun moves. I told him the three basic features of the style, then told him to come at me any way he saw fit so I could demonstrate how it worked in action. The attacks he did were completely improvised, and yet I was able to take care of business every time he came at me.

This had me feeling pretty cool, as you can imagine. After all, when you study a martial art, in class you always have that lingering doubt in the back of your mind: “How good am I? Would I really be able to handle myself on the street?” My training session with Mike proved I could.

We’re talking world class martial artist here, right? Well, not completely.

Keep in mind due to my time and money restraints, I’m hardly ever able to make it to class. Shortly after my time with Mike, I went back to my school for the first time in ages. Sifu had us focus on chi sao for the night. (For those of you who don’t know, this is like our version of sparring.)

We took turns pairing off and doing chi sao for several minutes. And you know what amazed me the most? How easily they dominated because they had been going to class on a regular basis, and I hadn’t! Out on the street against someone with no training I could do pretty good, but in class…not so much.

I think it’s easy to see how this lesson could be applied to daily life. You never know when someone else may be better than you. Don’t ever think you are the greatest at anything. Always remember to “keep your cup empty.” And above all, you should remember this quote from Thomas Carlyle, who also spoke of humility:

“Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him.”

You know the drill: feel free to leave comments…intelligent, constructive, non-insulting comments. Let’s not forget another lesson that most of us were taught by our parents, and which certain people out there (you know who you are) should be able to easily remember because you probably STILL live with your parents:

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.”


About Steve Grogan

I am 40 years old, divorced, and a father of four kids. I am a practitioner of a self-defense system called wing chun kung fu. My other hobbies include writing, playing guitar, reading, watching movies, and listening to music. Recently I have gotten back into fitness, and this time I am DETERMINED to get the washboard abs...whether my metabolism will cooperate with me or not! The purpose of this blog is to write not only about my hobbies, but also about whatever crosses my mind, whether it is something I don't understand or something that aggravates me. So join me as I indulge my tendency to think too much about topics that don't usually cross anyone else's mind!
This entry was posted in accountability, advancement, advice, analysis, article, blog, Bruce Lee, exercise, fighting, fitness, health, humble, humility, impressions, kenpo x, kung fu, life, martial arts, motivation, observation, off-topic, P90X, personal development, random, rant, reflective, review, team beachbody, technique, tony horton, training, wing chun, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Humility, Thomas Carlyle and the Martial Arts

  1. patweber says:

    Oh my; maybe you want to remove this post from this jerry?

    Anyway, martial arts: both my son and husband took karate in the 1980s. Both black belts. It is definitely something that instills both humility and discipline. Even as the observer it rubbed off a bit!

    over from LinkedIn group BHB

  2. wcman1976 says:

    Thanks for the reply! Every now and then I like to leave comments from Jerry because it shows what sad lives some human beings have, and we should all be grateful that we aren’t in the same boat.

    But at the end of the day, I think your stance is better. So bye bye to Jerry!

  3. I have always been fascinated by the martial arts. My neighbor is a martial arts teacher and competes in martial arts competitions with many awards to show for it. When I talk to him about what he does, he expresses how it combines beauty, discipline and a good dose of humbleness. 🙂

    I’m with Patricia, removing that might be wise. 🙂

  4. wcman1976 says:

    We don’t compete in the style I study. Do we have seminars and demonstrations? Sure, but we don’t have tournaments like karate, tae kwon do or judo.

    Thanks for the comment!

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