Profession or Occupation?

I’ve been working on developing a character development and leadership program for my juniors.  As a U.S. Marine, I remember the core values that made me a Marine- honor, courage, commitment.  Since I don’t really have time to reinvent the wheel, I am liberally borrowing from Marine Corps character and leadership principles.

In leafing through several Marine Corps training manuals, I came across the following Judo-pertinent question which appears in Values: A User’s Guide for Discussion Leaders (MCRP 6-11B). What are some of the qualities that experts consider necessary prerequisites for an occupation to be considered a profession?  Good question, indeed.  So what makes a Marine or a Judo coach a professional?  According to the manual, this is what’s needed:

Renders a unique social service:  regardless of whether we call ourselves coaches, sensei or instructors, we are above all educators.

Relies upon intellectual skills: while we deal primarily with a physical field, ultimately it takes great skills and knowledge to develop an educational program, and business acumen to make it financially profitable.

Involves long periods of specialized training and experience:  after 4-5 years we obtain our black belt, but what happens after that is what makes or breaks the deal of professionalism.  Our goal is to have 20-40 years of experience during which we are constantly improving our technical knowledge and teaching skills.  What we shouldn’t tolerate is one year of experience 20-40 times.

Has considerable autonomy and decision making authority:  we are, or should be, the master of our dojo.  The buck starts and stops with us.

Are held personally responsible for their actions and decisions: see above.

Service is emphasized over financial reward: this is obvious when it comes to Judo.  In fact, to our detriment, we excel at distancing ourselves from financial reward.  To grow as a profession, we must not shy away from charging what we are worth.

A profession is self-governing and responsible for policing its own ranks: sadly, too many of us turn a blind eye toward improper behavior on the part of our colleagues.  We can and must do better.

Professions have their own codes of ethics which establish acceptable standards of conduct for members: while we do have a code of ethics and our national organizations pursue acts of misconduct, more could be done to preempt such acts.

So there you have it folks. Judo coaches appear to be professionals.  So, act accordingly.

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