I have been living in Japan for more than 13 years, but I continue to be a student of the American who has taught me karate since I was in college in the United States. I believe I’ve been his student for about 25 years or so now. Since this man, Sensei John Hamilton, lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I don’t get to see him very often. But, along with the training opportunities that come with my visits back to my hometown, I also get to practice with him when he visits me for a week each year here in Hiroshima. One of those visits took place just last week.
My “second” martial art is jodo, which I am learning from my Japanese teachers and seniors here in Japan. Since I have great respect and affection for both my American teacher and my Japanese sensei and sempai, I decided to throw a party in my home last week so that they could get to know each other.
As you might expect, my Japanese guests were curious about my American teacher, and vice versa, so I ended up showing some video tapes of both. Mutual admiration was expressed by everyone, and some new friendships seem to have been born.
What I want to mention here, though, is something that Sensei Hamilton said in an interview that appeared on one of the videos that I showed at the party. Of course I had seen the tape before, but watching it again reminded me of his words. In essence, they were as follows:
“The only way to judge yourself is against yourself. There will always be those who are not as skilled as you. Comparing yourself to them will only lead to arrogance and false pride. There will also always be those who are better than you. Comparing yourself to these people will only lead to frustration and depression. Judge yourself against yourself. Ask yourself, ‘What was I yesterday? What am I today? What will I be tomorrow?'”
For me, these words carry much wisdom, and I’ve resolved to renew my efforts to follow them.