On a previous training session I discussed the topic of loyalty in martial arts with my students.
The definition of loyal (from www.dictionary.com ) is:
“faithful to any leader, party, or cause, or to any person or thing conceived as deserving fidelity”
From this we can see that you can be loyal to a leader, cause or a person/thing. So which one would be applicable in the case of Karate? Your teacher, style or maybe just to Karate itself? How to choose so as not to upset anyone?
In my experience the most common form of loyalty in martial arts is to the first two – loyalty to a teacher or to a style. Some people get very angry when their student tries someone else as their teacher or trains with another system(s). I believe this stems from a fear and insecurity of the instructor or organisation, or just selfishness, but I will not dwell on this as it has not been something that I have experienced with my teachers.
Instead I would like to focus on how I see loyalty in my club and with my students. This is nothing new and it has been embedded in me by my teachers, for which I am very grateful.
I expect from my students that they be loyal to themselves, to follow their gut feelings in martial arts. Their best guide is their own intuition, which will give them ideas and concepts to follow so that they can achieve their maximum potential. However, with this type of loyalty I also expect them to be honest with me. Not because I want to know what they are planning, but because maybe I can help and guide them to the best possible teacher, saving them the effort of following dead ends that I or my teachers have followed before.
From my perspective the more important aspect of loyalty is that of the teacher to the student. As a teacher I have to provide my students with assistance for them to find their path through martial arts. It is my job to indicate to them other options not just Shin Ai Do and to encourage them to ask questions and to try other arts and teachers. Being loyal to a student is to not judge them on their actions and to understand that they are going through a process of self-development and self-discovery. To be honest I have been going through the same process myself in martial arts for nearly 20 years and I have certainly made some mistakes along the way.
I expect my students to not be afraid to come to me and tell me that they are going to other clubs, teachers and/or organisations. Honest behaviour makes me proud of them and saves us all any unpleasant feelings later. I will not stop any of my students from following their own way and I hope that we will always remain friends.
In my view respect has to be earned from both sides. You earn each other’s respect by following your passion and by being honest. From my perspective as an instructor I am more than happy to see that a student has found their ideal art/activity elsewhere and will encourage them to try it out, with the knowledge that the doors of my dojo will always be open to those that showed the respect and courage to do what is best for them.
Being loyal does not mean to be blindly following a teacher or organisation, it is to follow your own passion with respect to your teachers and mentors.
By Les Bubka