Shihan-itis

I was on LINE with my Kobudo teacher, Yoshimura sensei (that his photo above), this past weekend to catch-up with him and see how he is doing. It is always great talking to sensei as he is genuinely such a nice man. He is a very relaxed individual, “easy-going” quickly comes to mind when I think about him. “Humble” would be another word; you would never catch him referring to himself as “shihan” or some other ridiculous title. He definitely doesn’t suffer from “shihan-itis.”

Sadly, “shihan-itis” is quite common among Budoka for a number of reasons. “Shihan-itis” is an inflammatory disease in which Karate-do and Kobudo teachers’ (usually Western, but not always) ego becomes enlarged. Symptoms include refer to themselves as “shihan” or a fully licensed teacher. The cultural ridiculousness of referring to yourself this way aside, these men feel that their dojo or organization has enough students and is therefore sufficiently large enough to justify a lofty title. Some also think that they’ve put enough time into their own training and teaching to justify such nonsense, but failing to understand that learning and teaching are ongoing processes. Although this disease is completely treatable when caught early on, treatment is often refused and the outcome can be fatal.

When this sort of thinking begins it usually means their egos have reared their ugly heads and has become the sole motivator of their actions. With the ego in play, machinations enter the picture as they try to increase their credibility: creating false rankings, training histories, discovering “long-lost” kata,  flooding YouTube and Facebook with videos of themselves, and disparaging rival instructors. The list of childish behavior is endless.

These teachers (and I use the term loosely) “spam” every possible means of communication to get their message out. Its as if they are a child acting out saying, “Look how great I am!” Where do they find the energy to do all this? Its quite mind boggling to me. Perhaps if they put even a fraction of that energy into their own training and their students, they might actually catch a glimpse of what Kobudo and Karate-do are all about; hint: its about bettering your community and society as a whole. But I suppose they’re too busy tweeting everyone about themselves to realize that.