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Tearing Down Others

Sometimes you will meet a Karate instructor who has something bad to say about everyone. My friend and senior, Sensei Pat Nakata, mentioned to me that during his first visit to Okinawa in the early 1960's, he met an instructor who proceeded to say bad things about many other Karate instructors. Then he met Chosin Chibana. In contrast, Chibana Sensei was very courteous and had only good things to say about other instructors. Nakata Sensei was very impressed by this, and became a lifelong student of Chibana Sensei.

I'm sure that Chibana Sensei knew the strengths and weaknesses of the other Karate instructors on Okinawa, both in terms of Karate technique and character. However, he chose not to speak ill of others. And why would he want to say bad things about other Karate instructors to a visitor from Hawaii?

So why do some instructors say bad things about other instructors? I think that it is because they think that by tearing down others, they are building up themselves. Of course, just the opposite it true. We build ourselves up by training, not by criticizing others.

And even if a criticism is true, what good comes from it? Is the person criticizing others just because he likes to gossip? This, in itself, is a statement about his character.

I was raised with the saying, "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."

Rampant criticism is bad. So is false praise. To say good things about another instructor, when they are not true, can be just as bad sometimes as speaking badly about him. Suppose a visitor hears your praise and becomes that instructor's student, only to find that he has a poor character and equally poor Karate technique. It would have been better to say nothing at all, and at least to advise the visitor to find out more about the instructor from trusted sources.

We have to be careful about what we say and how we say it. And remember that you cannot build yourself up by tearing down others.


Charles C. Goodin