If you haven’t read the AJKF purpose of Kendo, perhaps a refresher is in order.

As Kendoka, respect is part of our training. Respect for yourself and respect for others. It’s the latter I want to focus on.

We are surrounded by disrespectful behaviour. In my opinion, this behaviour is a choice. You can choose to be respectful or disrespectful. For those of us who train in Kendo or who believe in the ideals of Kendo, we should strive to choose respectful behaviour at all times.

With this in mind, is there a point where respect ends? If you disagree with another person’s viewpoint or behaviours, is that person no longer worthy of respect? Some people act in despicable ways and clearly demonstrate they have no respect for others. Do all people deserve respect?

To these and similar questions on respect, I believe the answer is yes. I come to this conclusion because I fundamentally believe all people deserve respect as a human being. I can despise someone’s values, beliefs, and behaviours but still respect them as a human being.

Part of why I choose to believe this way is because I know there are people who disagree with my values, beliefs, and behaviours. I would still like to be treated with a basic level of respect by such people. I don’t want to treat someone as less-than-human. To do so requires me to respect their basic humanity, even if I don’t like anything else about them.

What do I do when faced with disrespectful behaviour? I consider what kind of response will improve or worsen the interaction. If my response will increase the potential of a harmful outcome, I will think of a different response. There are many examples of road rage resulting in collisions, injuries, or death that I believe stem from a basic lack of respect for self and others. Choosing a response that de-escalates a situation is not weakness: it is respecting your self and your own well-being.

I’m not saying there should never be consequences to disrespectful behaviour. Of course there should be. My question is whether I am the one who should decide upon and deliver a particular consequence at that particular moment. My actions have consequences, and sometimes they can be disproportionate to the action taken.

My idea of Kendo is that the training we do leads to positive physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual growth. Those improvements are unique to each student and stay with them when they are outside the dojo. It is my hope that as one becomes better at Kendo, they will also become a better person. It is those new and improved individuals who will make positive changes in their environment and lead to change in their homes, their schools, their workplaces, their communities, and society as a whole.

The purpose of Kendo is to help people improve themselves and their world. That starts with respecting yourself and others in the dojo. As a Kendoka, I hope you will choose to be respectful outside the dojo as well.

This is my hope.

It is your choice.

Please choose wisely.