We finally get to hear from an adult about human standards and the other Dojo Kuns. Chris is a laid-back family man. He has been in traditional karate for a year and a half.
J: Chris, from talking with you, it sounds like you take the Dojo Kun’s meaning in Japanese literally.
J: (Kanji is the Japanese writing system the Dojo Kun was written in before being translated to English.) Most students at your level don’t know much about kanji. How have you learned?
C: I spend as much time as I can around Kaicho, with my kanji notebook in hand. And I spend a lot of my own time on it. You have to write the kanji over and over to get it. Learning to write it gives me insight into the literal meaning. It also gives me a lot of time to mull it over.
J: What is a literal translation of Dojo Kun number one?
C: You have to work hard to complete human standards.
HUMAN STANDARDS AND MORAL CHARACTER
J: That sounds very different from moral character.
C: Think about human standards and you’ll see where the morals come in. Using “moral character” makes it easier for English speakers to understand what we are talking about and that we are talking about a higher ideal.
J: So it’s not along the lines of “to err is human?”
C: Or “I’m only human.” Being human is what unites us all. That is what we all have in common. It’s more like human decency or the humane thing to do.
J: So human standards are high standards.
C: Absolutely. We are more than just animals. We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard.
PERSONAL USE OF HUMAN STANDARDS
J: Do you hold others to a higher standard?
C: For the most part, I am thinking of myself when I say the Dojo Kun. But I do expect some others to complete those higher standards too, like my dojo instructors, mostly because that is their responsibility. If they’re holding up those values for students to learn, I can’t help but expect them to be an example for us. Not perfect, but always working on it, like me.
J: What about people who don’t train?
C: It’s not my place to say what they should do. I focus on my own actions. I hold myself to a higher standard. As a martial artist, as an employee, as a husband, and as a dad. I don’t think of myself as better than others. But I’m always striving to be better than I was before, and to more skillfully handle life’s situations.
J: Do you spend time with people who have low standards?
C: Like? What do you mean?
J: Well, if you have a brother-in-law who likes to go out and pick fights…
C: If there’s someone like that, then I spend as little time as possible with them. My wife and kids depend on me to be there for them, to provide for and protect them. And what I do affects them. The people you spend time with affect you. If I see a buddy making a poor decision, I’ll call him on it and advise him to do better. But if he chronically makes bad decisions, I won’t be spending much time with him. Take your aggressive brother-in-law example…I would not go to bars with him, and I would avoid him like the plague if he was drinking. Not because he’d be “below me,” but because I need to make my own positive choices.
J: Sounds smart.
C: Instead, I would focus positive work on my own actions.
J: Thanks, Chris
By Jenifer Tull-Gauger