Master Chang supervising a rank test

As I’m no longer located in London I’m no longer a student at Chang’s Hapkido Academy. I was there for less than a year, but it made me into a martial artist, of a sort. It’s certainly shown me what discipline and training can do for a person. One of my last sessions was my green belt rank test in early December.

The Hapkido rank tests happen about three or four times a year. They are special occasions, as Master Chang comes over from Chicago to supervise, evaluate and inspire all of the students. At the end of the test, when everyone has done the skills they’ve been working on, he gives a mini-lecture.

This last time he came over he told a story that I found particularly inspiring.

A university professor goes to Korea to interview a grand master. Before he is allowed to see the master,, the man waits a long time in an outer chamber. When they finally had a chance to speak the master listens to the man’s request. He thinks a moment, and then responds.

“Okay, I will do as you like. But first you must bow to me 3000 times.”

The professor is shocked. And indignant. He flat out refuses, then pleads to interview the master anyway. The master says no, not until the man agrees to bow. The professor storms out, outraged.

He did not get his interview – did not achieve his goal. He thought the egotism of the master was too much, the request was too demeaning to agree to. 

He didn’t realize that it was not the master’s egotism that prevented him from getting the interview, rather it was his own.

That story just puts me in mind to think about how to treat those whose work you respect, who’ve come before you and done things you hope to one day accomplish and have lessons to teach. Does showing respect and being humble denigrate yourself, or does it allow you to begin the long process of subduing your own ego, allowing you to progress further and faster in your chosen discipline? That’s obviously a rhetorical question. Showing respect for others means giving respect to yourself and your own process.

As an end note, I’ve just received the news that I passed my test. I’m now a green belt in Hapkido. As excited as I am, I’m really trying not to get a swelled head about it.