The line between arrogance and confidence is very thin. Once crossed the budoka becomes something I don’t want to encounter on the mats, or anywhere else for that matter.
Arrogance is a human problem. We want to believe that we are (always) right, more skilled than others, or possess a quality that lords it over others. Arrogance shows up in various ways, such as being unteachable, or bragging about prowess. In truth, arrogance is often a symptom of fear. Facing the weakness of one’s body or mind is difficult and hard to admit. Perhaps this because of what other people say to us about us, or perhaps one doesn’t want to be seen as weak and therefore vulnerable to attack. Whatever the case, arrogance has no place in the dojo.
A confident person has no need to brag or puff up their knowledge in front of others. Rather, a confident person can rest in their skills and knowledge with no doubts or fears. Confidence is gained when one can measure their success against standards set by other people. Generally, in the martial arts, this is in the form of belt tests and the like. Then their true skills will shine through when needed without every saying a word. Most people can spot someone with real skill versus a braggart.
The key component to confidence, and what makes a person that way as opposed to arrogance, is humility. Among other things, humility is defined as a lack of false pride (a.k.a. arrogance). Humility is characterized as being other focused, bending low to receive, serving others, and etc. A humble person realizes some key things about their training: they don’t know everything, they have much to learn, and need guidance from experts to be their best. This comes with allowing themselves to be molded, guided, and taught by another. If one is too stiff-necked they miss out on the best parts of training.
Sure, it’s great to achieve things and move forward in training. But let’s remember who helped us get there with grateful hearts. When we martial artists are on the mats, let’s keep in mind our greatest skill so that we can get the greatest amount of training.