July 20, 2024

Handling Criticism by KJN Ronald Stone

Handling Criticism by KJN Ronald Stone

Like everyone nowadays who follow social media, I am constantly amazed at the responses to Internets troll criticism, especially in the martial arts community, The usual reply to such criticism goes something like this: “If you really were any good or know what you were talking about you would meet me on the mat, where I would kick your butt so hard you’d need a rubber donut to sit on.”

The problem with such answers is that were the critic to actually show up, both participants theoretically might be considered guilty of assault and battery. Sometimes it even makes me wonder what happened to the old childhood adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

Martial artists are human and as such, their emotions often run just as high when they face an insult. However just as we teach that in a fight one should try to remain calm and control one’s anger, the same is true of verbal insults and attacks.

One of the tenets of the martial arts is that of humility and indomitable spirit. What differentiates the true martial arts from things like MMA or hybrid wrestling is that the martial arts are not exclusively about fighting; and irrational anger and aggressiveness is not considered a finer quality. Sometimes beating your opponent at any cost is not as important as how you react and how you fight. Even the great warrior-philosopher Sun Tzu said that the best way to win a war was to win it without actually fighting.

Now personally, I dislike internet criticism from some anonymous troll just as much as the next fellow, but you must ask yourself if you are actually so arrogant as to think there is no basis whatsoever for criticism. Perhaps there isn’t, but consider the source and calmly review the problem from all angles. Remember above all that when you wrestle with pigs, both of you get dirty but only the pig will be happy.

I cannot think of a single great man or woman who did not face harsh criticism. From presidents to generals, from celebrities to athletes. In order to achieve fame and notoriety they all had to face and overcome criticism.

As a martial artist I like to look at historically famous warriors and the ordeals they had to face. Many who are considered successful now, faced harsh criticism: General Eisenhower – too inexperienced in combat and too much of a diplomat; General MacArthur – too pompous and egotistical; General Patton – too arrogant and impulsively narcissistic.

The great boxer Jack Dempsey as accused of loading his boxing gloves and Mohamed Ali was shamed for changing his name and convicted as a draft dodger. No one worth their salt is above reproach. It is how one comports themselves that, in the long run, will will determine how history will eventually view them. One of my mentors used to teach that “a good reputation takes a lifetime to build, a bad one but one day.”

When someone responds to a criticism with a violent or threatening outburst, and acting the part of an offended macho, they belittle themselves to the rest of the community. It is wise to remember that every fool has a sidekick and no matter how willing you are to expose an injustice or reply to a critic, the opposition usually has their cadre of sidekicks to back them up, and all it does is stir the pot and muddy the water.

Sadly, this is one of the reasons why the biggest frauds or imposers in the martial arts are so quick to form new organizations and promote or sell as many black belts at they can. If the tree is rotten then the branches will all be affected. Such disreputable individuals know deep down that if a leader is exposed for martial arts wrong doings, their students (who would in turn be exposed as well) all come hid or her defense. Responding to them usually results in a social media version of a pile on or flash mob. Truth is still the truth, but it doesn’t necessarily assure peace and tranquility to those who point it out.

Rest assured however, that one is best judged by the company they keep and the friends they make. It may take a very long time, (perhaps much longer than one would desire) but in the long run, truth will win out.

While the John Wayne in my character wants to immediately go to battle when I or my friends are affronted, the Kwai Chang Caine monk in me leads me to bite my tongue and relax. Remember, it is wise to calmly reflect on the criticism and try to find valid points before letting your emotion take over and causing you the make an impulsive mistake. Are we so perfect that we cannot even consider any criticism at all? There is an appropriate adage about such impulsive angry responses:

“It is better to keep one’s mouth closed and be considered a fool by others, than to open it and prove them right.”

We practice the martial arts for ourselves, for our health, our mental well being, and for physical self protection. What others may think or say about us should be the lowest rung of the totem pole of things to consider in our daily lives.

Dr. Ronald Stone

8th Dane Hae Mu Kwan Hapkido

About the author: R.W. Stone is currently a practicing veterinarian in Central Florida. He is an avid equestrian, a master ranked martial artist, a best-selling western author, and a firearms enthusiast. After joining a martial arts school in 1970 Stone started studying Yudo with a Korean grandmaster. He eventually became a member of the Judo team of the University of Illinois. It was at the University that a Korean classmate and friend introduced him to Tae Kwon do. After graduating veterinary college, he found the martial arts becoming too sports oriented and eventually after moving from Miami to Central Florida he sought out a Hapkido grandmaster. Currently Stone is ranked 8th dan in Haemukwan Hapkido, 4th dan in Daehan Yudo and a second dan in Kukki Taekwondo. He is the Hapkido instructor at the American Dragon Martial Arts Academies.

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