Loyalty in the Martial Arts
Websters defines loyalty as the quality or state or instance of being unswerving in allegiance to a cause, ideal, custom, institution, or product. It is a concept, much like ethics or honesty that is reflected in our daily behavior. A wise man once said, “A good reputation takes a lifetime to build, a bad one but one day.” So, it is with loyalty. A true martial artist is not partially or occasionally loyal. Loyal should not merely be a means to an end, but rather should be at the core of our spirit and demonstrated daily.
Loyalty is based on integrity, devotion, and gratitude. When a person feels allegiance, commitment, devotion, or faithfulness towards a nation, a cause, a school, or person, they are being loyal.
The act of demonstrating loyalty should propel one towards success. Seeking this trait in others and trusting them when they do the same will allow one to succeed in every aspect of life. However, for a martial artist to truly experience loyal support it must be understand that they must realize that they are the product of those who came before and offer respect and homage to their arts ancestors. We stand on the shoulders of our predecessors.
it should axiomatic that the concept of loyalty has nothing to do with being subservient. One should never simply follow the dictates of an instructor or other “famous personality.” Questioning is healthy if it is not disrespectful or argumentative. In fact, it is a cornerstone of martial arts instruction. An instructor must not demand a form of loyalty from his students that requires following commands without question. In this twisted version of “loyalty” all a bad instructor cares about is his or her own “reputation” as a fighter or a “winner.” Loyalty is an act of sacrifice and a deed not a demanded command.
In other words, loyalty is a two-way bond, not a one-way commitment. Loyalty is about give and take, respect, honor, and a commitment between two parties with an outcome of equal benefit. It means being faithful, steadfast, and true to someone or something without blind obedience or subservience or going along with the unethical, illegal, or immoral
True loyalty encourages one to follow an instructor who in turn demonstrates honest care for their students’ wellbeing. A good martial arts instructor works diligently to develop a personal sense of integrity and a actually feels deep gratitude for the opportunity to teach someone what they have learned from their masters. Such an instructor knows that such personal behavior will cause their student to strive to demonstrate those lessons learned in their life and to be grateful for the time and care the instructor has poured into them.
Loyalty is a behavior or emotion that requires honest action. A martial arts instructor must illustrate loyalty in his or her daily actions. This usually requires self-sacrifice. By this we mean showing up to class on time every time, being meticulous in dress and behavior to create a role model, and never compromising one’s ethics, morality, or legal behavior. Most importantly is means never bending to fear of failure, of economic hardship or peer pressure. One should never lower standards, show favoritism or compromise their integrity to make their personal life easier. The martial arts are about teaching and learning to survive combat, not about accepting lesser standards to turn a profit or to win an award.
By demonstrating the true path to martial arts success in an unflinchingly honest manner is to be loyal to the art, the style, the school, the students and finally to one’s own self. Loyal teachers make sure they’re in class at the right time, properly dressed in whatever uniform is required, and are always there for their students. They always do their best to teach what they know and all they know. Loyal masters protect their students from harm and slander and as said they place the welfare of the student over the all mighty profit margin.
Loyalty, in other words, is in a sense a two-way street. Students in turn must demonstrate their loyalty by leaning the history of the art and style and by living and competing by its philosophy. Allegiance and obedience is required but as previously mentioned it should never be offered blindly or ignorantly. A student should never allow themselves to be forced to do something inappropriate. If however the request from the instructor is correct then the student should demonstrate loyalty and respect to the instructor, the school and to fellow students by following the instructor’s commands.
About the author: R.W. Stone is a veterinarian in Florida. He is an avid horseman, martial artist, best-selling western author, and a firearms enthusiast. Currently Stone is ranked a sixth dan in Haemukwan Hapkido, a third dan in Daehan Yudo and a second dan in Kukki TaeKwondo. He is the Master Instructor at the American Dragon Martial Arts Academies in Ocoee, Florida. Read his daily thoughts on Martial Arts at www.facebook.com/groups/koreanmartialarts For more information visit www.kmaia.org