Originally Posted on July 13, 2012 by Karri
Japanese culture is certainly different from ours. There are a lot of things which I see as being difficult to understand much less appreciate, and there are a few that we could stand to learn ourselves.
Specifically, I am talking about the “craftsman spirit” or shokunin kishitsu. It starts with taking pride in what you do. Too many of us simply do what we have to do in order to get by. Even people who serve others or create things seldom appreciate the opportunities we get. In Japan, the craftsman spirit extends from artisans to trash collectors. From master sushi chefs to janitors. They look at what they do with pride, and don’t consider themselves any less than other, more influential people because of their role. What they do is necessary, and they do it with every ounce of effort, concentration and dedication they can muster. Every detail is looked after. Regardless of how they are compensated, they feel the self-satisfaction of having done something important masterfully. How often do the rest of us say “good enough”?
The second part of shokunin kishitsu is elevating the area of craftsmanship you practice. They foster making steady refinement to anything and everything. Japanese culture is forever looking for a more precise, efficient, artful way of doing things. When was the last time you applied that thinking to your job? How often do people come to you with ideas on how to better handle things that are seemingly insignificant? If you make every single small, seemingly inane improvement you can to what you do, imagine what you could accomplish in a lifetime.
The last part of the craftsman spirit is where I feel we have the most to learn and accomplish. Particularly as martial artists. It is pursuing the benefit of your community and humanity as a whole through your craft. Namely, how do you do what you do so well that everyone benefits. I am so disappointed when I tell people that I am a martial artist and they get nervous around me. What kind of reputation have we built for ourselves? Too many of us get caught up in our egos or trying to be tougher or more assertive, and we forget that what we are really doing is trying to better ourselves. I am forever learning martial arts so that I can find balance within myself, and extend that balance to the people around me. If I encounter a source of violence, aggression or danger, I do my best to restore it. Sometimes the best way to do that is to just leave. I do not intend to hurt people. It would be like a carpenter making houses that are built to fall on people, or a janitor mopping floors with WD-40.
I’m sure that I am not alone in this sentiment, and that there are other professions and cultures that either are perceived as harmful, or actually in fact are. However, I am fascinated by the thought of everyone striving to improve themselves and those around them by taking heart in what they do, making the absolute most of their time and effort, and all the while being aware of how their actions affect others. It sounds like a monumental effort, but in reality it’s just a whole lot of little ones.