It seems to me that many people today don’t live by the character traits that have led to success and have been the backbone of traditional religions and countless societies for thousands of years. One of these qualities, that is very important to me, is loyalty or an unswerving allegiance to certain people, organizations, or elements in one’s life.
The first loyalty is owed to your family. Many time’s we take this precious gift we call life for granted but in reality, this gift of life can never truly be paid back. I mean, we can’t write a check when we turn 18 and call it even. The only thing that we can do is to uphold the family name by being honest and forthright in our dealings, always trying to do the right thing by demonstrating loyalty to the family.
The martial arts, by bringing us in contact with many worthy individuals, can be very similar in nature to an extended family and traditionally requires that same level of loyalty. In ancient days, students were required to take a blood oath in order to be accepted into a martial arts clan or family system. In China, most styles were family styles and even today many are not taught to outsiders. In classical teaching methodology, regular students are taught movements and basics but only the senior students that have
proven their loyalty are taught the inner secrets of that style.
In many modern martial arts programs, these ways have disappeared, and it has simply become business. In the Okinawa Shorin Ryu Matsumura Seito Karate/Kobudo Federation we try to blend the old with the new and pass on the ancient teachings as they have been handed down to us as senior instructors. We have a basic curriculum that allows a student to learn what karate is all about and during that time we screen them for the qualities that we feel are necessary for continued training towards the rank of black belt and beyond. Once a student demonstrates the qualities of honesty, integrity, loyalty, perseverance, and others, they begin to learn the inner workings of our system. (also see the lesson on Okuden)
I truly believe that learning the martial arts can change one’s life in many ways. How is someone changed when he learns to overcome fears and develops the confidence to go for what they want out of life? What is the value of a young child developing self-esteem to a point where he will not succumb to negative peer pressure and get involved with drugs or join a gang? We feel these benefits of the martial arts are priceless, and the greatest care should be used in selecting those that will become teachers for the next generation.
To be a member of the family also requires one to take on a sense of duty (giri) and respect for the art. A senior student should develop a sense of responsibility to other members of the ryuha and should never use his skills foolishly. A student of our dojo and ryuha represents Hanshi Sei, Kaicho and us all with his actions and deeds, in and out of the dojo. Courtesy, respect, integrity, and loyalty become the normal behavior in and out of the dojo. The character trait of loyalty is a major milestone on the path to Martial Arts Mastery.