(photo: Julian Vankim)

Begin to think about labels in a new way. When you label something, or put a name to it, are you limiting yourself? Don’t limit yourself with critical brands.

When I created my system of martial arts, I did so with the idea of focusing on results. It is not just a “martial art” because an art is not tangible enough for the true warrior.

My systems of Martial Science utilize proven methods for the better development of the most important practitioner: YOU. It is not “over-focused” on titles, ranks, and foreign names. Actions and results speak much louder than labels, status, or position.

Too often it seems that the labels have become more important than the product, service, or results themselves. In my Martial Sciences, I borrow a concept quoted from one of my many instructors and martial arts legend, Robert Bussey, who said, “It is the usefulness and our method of training (how well it works) and not its name or origin that is important.”

What’s in a name?

I created my own Martial Science system of martial arts (Winjitsu) specifically so that we could focus on practical martial arts training, yet still maintain the philosophy of a 2000-year-old system called Ninjitsu.

And although we appreciate the artistic aspect of a system (names, labels, history), our main concern is not that a “wooden sword” is called bokken in Japanese. The important aspect of our training is the development of our skills and/or the proper use of the sword itself.

We spend so much time worrying about (and memorizing) unimportant so-called “labels,” that we spend less time on the actual development of what’s important. We can seem like a very title-focused and label-oriented society.

Condemnation without investigation
is the height of ignorance.

-Albert Einstein

Are you paying for the jacket? Or the label?

A label is just a name, an arrangement, or way to categorize, and yet our society of late has become mesmerized by iconic labels and logos. The Nike swoosh, for example, or the Ralph Loren polo player, cause many to pay double for a garment in order to display the iconic logo.

However, it (your product, skill or service) should be just as effective without the name. Let me ask you this: If you remove the symbol from your shoes, the logo from your car, or the tag from the back of your shirt, will these items still perform the same? Will they stop working or fall apart? Of course not! The only thing that goes away is the prestige quotient. Only you can determine the value, what you are willing to pay, for prestige.

If you are self-confident, no label can make you more so, or less so.

I can just imagine the creators of a popular clothing brand secretly whispering this in your ear as they push their label, “Do you want to feel good?” in a boring almost distasteful tonality or, “Do you want to look good?” spoken in a more vibrantly alive and passionate voice.

These product labels aren’t the only ones out there. We also seem to be focused on tagging and labeling the world around us. In this sense, I am asking you to bypass the book cover and see what is inside before you purchase a trendy habit or toss away a masterpiece.

Do you name it, or appreciate it?

I love the outdoors and could spend as much time in amazement over the way people react to nature’s beauty as I could following a bear through Yosemite National Park.

Some spend much more time taking pictures and running a video camera, viewing nature through a tiny viewfinder, than they do actually looking at the scenery, landscape, rock formation, or animal and appreciating its unique beauty.

Many people during their walk through the wilderness might come upon a beautiful flower or perhaps a bird. Once the object is spotted, they immediately try to classify the creature. “This is a blue spotted kingfisher.” Once this is done, it seems that the interest fades, and they run off to classify another of life’s wonderful creatures. How often have we heard the suggestion: stop to smell the flowers? But who has the time? Our constant rush seems to force us to label in order to avoid having to do the research ourselves. Instead, we are left to brand-name marketing and a pit stop at the coffee shop.

Remember, time is NOT money – it is far more important than money. It is much more finite than money. Money can be printed or minted; time cannot. If you do not have time to investigate your own habits, then you might want to consider if you are living or being lived. Creating or being created. Leading your own life or following the design of others. Being yourself or only acting as a billboard for someone else’s logo.

I suggest we stop and forget the origin or name of the animal or plant and instead, just observe and appreciate. Using your own curiosity, take a good look at what it is you are watching, experiencing, buying, or investing your precious time on. This is the true way to enjoy the world around you. It is a way to forget that your parents told you that money doesn’t grow on trees or other self-limiting beliefs that have been passed down or shared from others as you were growing up. How about, “Time waits for no man?” There are hundreds of such cautionary clichés intended to be sage advice, but often end up causing us to hesitate or stop altogether in the pursuit of our dreams.

Name Calling

Now, I am not suggesting that you run around renaming everything, or refusing to identify nature’s eye candy. Why not? Because there are rules, and like it or not you have to communicate accurately with the world. Let’s be realistic. If it is a bird, then call it that. I am only talking about the purpose and intent of your actions. If you go on a walk to enjoy nature, then open your eyes, take a deep breath, and enjoy it. If you are on an assignment or required field trip for school, then do your work and get the name right. It all depends on your purpose and the desired outcome.

In the martial arts, if your goal is to learn self-defense then your desired outcome is to have an effective technique against a specific threat. However, if your goal is to learn something new with a more artistic point of view then your desired outcome may include counting to 10 in Japanese. But that knowledge, while impressive, will do little to keep a mugger off your back. Knowing your goal is key if you are to avoid buying into labels without doing ample research. That horse-riding logo won’t keep a mugger off your back either.

I ask new students questions such as: Is your goal to learn self-defense and develop your personal skills, or are you interested in learning a new language and worshipping some master you know nothing about because your friends think it’s cool? Because when something is popular it is often mistaken to also be able to fulfill your needs. The adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” can be applied here.

Here is a basic strategy to keep in mind:

If it works for you, use it.

This is an important concept because it is easy to fall in love with a label. Sooner or later, you will realize that it may not be providing you with the skills you need to succeed. Take a look at self-limiting labels that we often joke about on a daily basis but have a very negative effect on our self-image. Have you caught yourself saying anything similar to the list below?

I am bad with names.

I have a coconut brain.

I can’t save money.

I can’t help myself.

I am terrible at math.

No one listens to me.

Or how about reactively saying words or phrases without thinking?


I am an idiot.

I __________ (fill the blank with an excuse).

Although you might say them mockingly or in jest, these labels can indeed limit your potential. Very often, they are excuses for being less than we can be. A person who asks another person to repeat their name while adding, “Sorry, I am bad with names,” is only hammering in that belief. As I have taught many people some simple memory tricks, I know that almost everyone is great with names if they decide to remove the self-limiting label from their brain. The easiest way is to repeat the name in a sentence as soon as you meet them, or try spelling it. However, a more solid technique is using a picture or mnemonic (memory aid) to remind you of the person’s name as taught in Winjitsu Book 5 – CMT.

Try saying, “John, it’s nice to meet you. Do you spell your name J-O-H-N, or J-O-N?” You will be amazed how that simple technique will imbed the name into your memory, at least long enough for you to get through the event.

Winjitsu Work Out

Take a hike or nature walk and don’t focus on naming anything you see, just appreciate its beauty and uniqueness. Would a giant saguaro cactus be any less impressive if it were named ‘prickly plant’? Would a sunflower be any less inspirational if it were named ‘sad plant’? Are you harming yourself by saying that you are “not good” at something?

About the Author RICK TEW

I will do the splits for you too. I provide edutainment events that help you to be a Ninja in what you do. I offer Martial Arts Therapy Retreats on Samui Island in Thailand. My unique Winjitsu Mind-Body system of coaching inspires you to BE more fulfilled and to DO more to KickStart your ideas.

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