Martial life

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We learned that we know nothing



The closer we were to getting our black belts, the less we wanted it. For years, my training buddy Pascal and I trained hard to attain what we originally thought to be the epitome of achievement in karate. Often, after classes, we would train for an extra hours, honing our reflexes for the day we would have to face black belts in competitions.  After five years of training, we knew we had the skills to hold our grounds and even win against some of the mightiest fighter of our dojo, but somehow, we were not convinced of our worth as martial artists. We had doubts about our capacity to defeat opponents outside the dojo, whether from the streets or even from another style of martial arts.

Photograph on left taken from

Eddy, Patrick and I followed a similar academic path: we all started by taking a technical college degree in engineering technologies. After college, we were still thirsty for knowledge and decided that we wanted superior education from University, which would effectively upgrade our professional titles from technicians to engineers. For four years, we diligently attended lectures, tutorials and laboratories related to electrical engineering.

Weeks before finally graduating from University, we gathered up in celebration of what we perceived as the beginning of our real lives. During our gathering, the discussion went towards our attendance of the “The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer”. The ritual is a ceremony “instituted with the simple end of directing the newly qualified engineer toward a consciousness of the profession”, after which each engineer would be allowed to wear an iron ring on the pinky of their working hand, reminding them of the responsibility engineers have to bear. During our discussion, we each shared our opinions on the worth of our education. Surprisingly, we shared the same point of view: although we went through the hardship of University, we had doubts about our capacity to function effectively as engineers.  We knew we were ready  for any challenge, but acknowledged that we still had a lot to learn from the work market to be of any worth, as engineers.

The iron ring: worn by Engineers in Canada after attending the ceremony of the Calling of an Engineer
Photograph by Zymba Vong

At the “The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer”, we had to collectively recite a sermon that was projected in the front of the ceremony hall. During the sermon we collectively had to recite, there was roughly the following: “We take nothing for granted except for the fact that we don’t know much.” (Loosely translated and retransmitted here. I attended the ceremony in French and have neither a transcript in French or English. Although the words are different, the meaning remains similar)


The difference between a novice and an expert is in the mastery of details. After the years of training in the dojo and learning in University, a world of details opened up to us. Those details, which are unknown to outsiders, were important and that we knew we were far from mastering all of them.

The process of education wasn’t designed to make us into the best of our field; the only way to become the best is through practice and experience. Rather, the goal of our education, both in martial arts and our professional studies was to shape our minds and provide us with the tools that allowed us to better practice so that through the years, we may gain enough insight and experience to become the best of our field.



Sources and references

The Iron Ring,, consulted on March 20 2010






Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 March 2010 15:44  

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