The Many Hats Theory of the Unverse – Dec 15, 2014, Kim Taylor, Renshi, CI Sei Do Kai Guelph ON, Nanadan

I do several martial arts and I have to keep them separate. In other words, I “wear many hats”. I love this expression and so, apparently does Terry Pratchett whose hero Moist von Lipwig has just acquired another hat in his latest book.

When I am teaching Niten Ichiryu I tell the class that Musashi, the founder of the art, was in upwards of 60 duels and was never defeated. When I’m teaching Shindo Muso Ryu Jodo I tell the class that Muso, the founder of the art, fought Musashi and lost, but came back after he’d invented the jo and defeated Musashi. I’ve got no problem with that, these stories come from almost 400 years ago and were written down a generation or three after the events so it’s “Shakespeare in love” and Shakespeare the Catholic. Musashi the Toyotomi loyalist.

When I was on the board of directors and an executive for the Canadian Kendo Federation I repeatedly told my fellow board members that I was not the “iaido and jodo director”, there was no such position. I did that job for the entire Federation and argued more than once to the disadvantage of the minor arts while also arguing for them as the situation demanded. I wore the director hat when I was a director and the Iaido/Jodo hat when asked to argue for Iaido/Jodo. Sometimes in the same meeting. Recently I was accused of “making your students do your work”. I pointed out that the people talked about were, yes, my students, but they are also now officers in the CKF and as such were actually the ones who should be doing the job I asked them to do. That’s their hat now, not mine and I’m not going to step on their authority in those matters. In matters where I’m wearing the “head of section” or “sensei” hat, that’s a different place and I wouldn’t ask them to do the things it’s my job to do. Respect the hat when it’s on someone else’s head.

It comes down to compartmentalization. If you are more than a one-note fellow you need to separate your life into compartments. You need to figure out which hat you’re wearing and to that job. What about the inevitable places where one hat interferes with the other? Like when I’m supposed to be sitting on a grading panel while my daughter is having a birthday party. My feelings were always that the larger hat was the one further away from you personally. I sat grading panels because that’s the wider bunch of people, the ones further away from my personal desires, the “less selfish” choice. Did my family see it that way? Absolutely not, to them my martial arts are the selfish choice so you can’t win. Don’t try, just wear the hats with as little damage as you can to each other. My other consideration in that particular instance was that my daughter really didn’t miss me, she had lots of family around and dad was mostly just part of the background anyway.

Eventually you may have to give up one hat or take up another. If you can’t wear the hat well, it is certainly time to pass it on, nobody is ever irreplaceable, other folks may do the job differently but that doesn’t always mean worse. You may find the hat is getting a bit heavy, again it will be time to pass it along. We all get old and we all get tired, but mainly we should all pass on the hat before it’s too late for someone else to grow into it.

Be the hat. The job you’re doing comes with a set of rules and you ought to understand what they are. If you’re teaching Aikido you don’t start talking about German Longsword… unless you’re comparing the two somehow, and if you are, Aikido better come out on top. If you’re on the budget committee don’t suggest giving your sensei a massive honourarium unless he actually deserves it. As his student you may be sure he does, but with your budget hat on you need to see things with the proper eyeballs. What’s he done for the federation lately?

Folks make a lot of “conflict of interest” and stepping out of meetings when you’re in one. Fair enough for financial decisions that involve you personally and suchlike, but for most of the time it’s enough if you remember which hat you should be wearing. You’re never not in a conflict of interest unless you’re a pretty boring fellow.

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