On Opinions of Others in the Martial Arts

What Do They Mean To You?

Opinions-talk bubbles

There is No Shortage of Opinions

Humans are in no danger of running out of opinions, on anything, anytime soon. I think we can all agree on that point. Even just this site is full of them! These are from people I have an immense amount of professional respect for. They range from what a martial art is, the attire, martial arts relationships, statements to be wary of, and even movie reviews. There’s also an episode of Martial Arts Radio on the subject of right vs wrong that you might be interested in.

From here, however, we may diverge as the opinion you form after reading this is likely to be different than my own. The best part of that is that it is ok to disagree with the opinions of others because it can create wonderful discussions. Alternatively, we all know that opinionated disagreement can lead to unconstructive and hurtful exchanges, potentially ending long-running friendships and associations. Before we get to all of that, let us start at the beginning, shall we?

The Definition

For this article, we will focus on the “a” versions of the definition of the word “Opinion” from Merriam-Webster found here:

1a: a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter 

  • We asked them for their opinions about the new stadium.

b: approval, esteem 

  • I have no great opinion of his work.

2a: belief stronger than impression and less strong than positive knowledge 

  • a person of rigid opinions

b: a generally held view 

  • news programs that shape public opinion

3a: a formal expression of judgment or advice by an expert 

  • My doctor says that I need an operation, but I’m going to get a second opinion.

b: the formal expression (as by a judge, court, or referee) of the legal reasons and principles upon which a legal decision is based 

  • The article discusses the recent Supreme Court opinion.

Martial Artists Opinions About Others

The opinions expressed by one martial artist to another can vary greatly, both in quality and importance to the recipient. The term “quality” refers to how much does it help or hurt your progress and education. The term “importance” relates to who it is coming from and how valuable it is to your training. Opinions are only as good as the life-experiences, knowledge, and wisdom of the person offering said opinion and are best summed up by definition 1a.

High Quality, High Importance

When these opinions come from an instructor, mentor, or fellow martial artist, they tend to carry a higher “importance” than from other sources. These are the people in your martial arts life that typically are invested in your education and improvement. You may even look to them as the “experts” referenced in definition 3a. When those opinions are of a high “quality”, the receiver may be able to make an advancement in technique or understanding. In short, this is what every martial artist should want from wherever they choose to train.

Low Quality, High Importance

Unfortunately, some of the people in your martial arts life can offer low “quality” opinions. They can say things that end up being degrading or hurtful, and potentially make you question your training. These people still have the high “importance” factor, but they are not helping you. So what do you do about that? If the opinions are from other students, then reducing their “importance” level may be the most prudent. Also, notifying the instructor is warranted. If these kinds of comments come from the instructor, then you may have to make a decision about the future of your training at that school.

High Quality, Low Importance

These kinds of opinions could be coming from non-martial artists in your life like friends and family members. While I’m sure most of us don’t think our family members and friends are not important. I definitely don’t recommend informing your significant other of their low “importance!” As I previously stated, I only refer to “importance” in relation to your martial arts training. Opinions of this variety usually make us feel good when someone pays you a compliment on your training (kata, technique, break, etc..). These opinions can also become a problem if we take them too much to heart. These opinions are not coming from people that can be called experts or knowledgeable. I wouldn’t recommend turning away the kind words, but simply not allow them to expand your ego.

Low Quality, Low Importance

Sadly, we are not all gifted with supportive family members and friends. As a martial artist, I can attest that not all non-martial artists understand why we do what we do. Other than the occasional “kung-fu” joke, I rarely get any grief from my friends and family. Unfortunately, I know friends that struggle with this problem. When the parents, significant other, and friends are not supportive, it can create real problems. The opinions offered may come from jealousy or rivalry and are designed to hurt. Regardless, these opinions often reflect more upon the person offering than the recipient. In my experience, the only good way to respond to these opinions is to not engage in the negativity. Additionally, if you stay positive, you may sense an opportunity to open a line of dialogue with this person. I have found that these negative opinions often are covering up something older, and potentially unrelated.

Moving Forward

I tell my children all the time that how you respond to any statement or question will greatly affect the nature of the conversation. This simple truth also applies to our responses to opinions. The quality and importance of the opinion is not the most important thing. You will never encounter a shortage of opinions in your lifetime. How you respond to them is paramount because only you can control how it affects you.

Of course, as you may already have guessed, this is just my opinion.

Scott Bolon

Scott Bolon

I am a Shodan in Tracy's Kenpo Karate under Grandmaster Mark Tracy.I also hold rank in Tae Kwon Do and Combat Hapkido.I enjoy almost anything related to the martial arts, and love to have conversations about it.
Scott Bolon

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Scott Bolon
About Scott Bolon 28 Articles
I am a Shodan in Tracy's Kenpo Karate under Grandmaster Mark Tracy. I also hold rank in Tae Kwon Do and Combat Hapkido. I enjoy almost anything related to the martial arts, and love to have conversations about it.

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