Loyalty and Lineage

I become increasingly frustrated with the state of affairs in the Kempo community, in the world of karate for that matter. Almost weekly, I learn of another person who has “improved” their style and founded a “new” martial arts system. They cut their ties with their old instructor and add an honorific to their name like bobbles on a Christmas tree.

These same fellows demand strict “loyalty” to their new system and get angry when people do as they do. Students emulate what you do. If you punch a particular way, they will punch that same way. If you snub your nose at your instructor, they will eventually snub their nose at you. You have no right to be angry or disillusioned. You reap what you sow.

If you don’t know where you came from, you’ll never truly understand your art. Your job as a student is to immerse yourself into the art. Become a warrior at every moment. Understand all that you can understand. Share all that you can share with your warrior brothers and sisters.

Below are a few advantages to knowing your roots:

  • If your instructor dies, you can find others of your “ohana” to teach you.
  • If you want to investigate other “views” of your art, your “ohana” provides instructors with other views.
  • Knowing your lineage provides a solid link to the past, like credentials of quality.
  • Knowing why things are in the system and why things aren’t.

Holes and missing pieces
Some people claim their style has “holes” or is missing important parts of combat. They venture off to find a teacher to fill that hole. I think that is fine. My teacher has often said, “Go off and learn what you can or what you think is needed.” I bring it back to the school and we analyze it.

Often times, these students that go off to investigate other styles don’t remain very long in their new home either. They quickly take a new path and “develop” a whole new system. In my eyes, they know two systems partially.

I thought my style had holes. When I asked questions and investigate my techniques, I discovered there weren’t any holes where I saw holes. I didn’t understand my art well enough to abandon it for something I thought was better. It is a combination of loyalty, humility and analysis that brings the deepest treasures of your art out for you.

Loyalty to the Grandmaster
If you expect loyalty, you must show loyalty. You can’t demand complete loyalty from your students if you don’t show more loyalty to your instructor and his instructor. You must walk the walk if you talk the talk.

Breakaway masters cause a lot of grief. I have seen how it affects the teacher. They become upset and emotionally cautious. It’s like a family breakup. Broken loyalties cut deep scars, just like divorces and family feuds. Most of the time, talking in a rational forum can prevent this disaster.

Acts of Loyalty
If your instructor’s teacher is around, then you should see him at least annually. If your instructor in around, then you should see him often. You can’t possibly learn everything in a few short years from your teacher. You can also help your teacher grow in the arts.

I’ve always become a better technician when I have a school full of students. Imagine the benefit your grand master has if you are still around. A grand master teaching masters only elevates his understanding. This benefit will trickle down to the average student like you and me.

You’re teacher should not want for money. It should be understood that you must pay your way. One master asked me, “How much would you take before you’d give up your Black Belt? $10,000? $100,000.” I would never give up my Black Belt. I earned it through blood, sweat and tears. It is priceless. Your teacher has given you a great gift. Repay that gift with kindness and loyalty.

Not everyone needs to be the Soke-dai, professor, shihan, kyoshi, grand poohbah, all-mighty master sensei of the Itchy Grasshopper ryu karate jujutsu. It is always better to be the Instructor. The title of Sensei or Sifu is prestigious enough. Live up to the title before you demand an even more “grand” title.

Loyalty requires a humble ego. There is nothing wrong with being faithful to the Grandmaster of the art. The key to success on the warrior’s path is humility.