Loyalty as it relates to Tradition

SahBumNimRush

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I originally started a thread in the Karate forum, but I think it's something that spans all martial arts.

How much emphasis is there on organizations and associations in your art? How much emphasis is "loyalty" to your instructor/org/association/school placed in terms of the tradition of your art?

History has shown that many arts have derived from students leaving their school/org/association and creating their own.

Does leaving your teacher/org/association/school automatically mean that you are breaking tradition, thus being non-traditional. IF it does, how to you then teach "tradition" in your new school?

A recent discussion on FB, Christopher Bowers posted:


[h=5]"Most Grandmasters who have large martial arts organizations did not achieve serious credentials at all. Most never reached above the level of Black Belt (first degree) in any particular style. In some cases, they promoted themselves, sometimes friends promoted them. Sometimes they gained additional rank from someone after founding their schools.

Nevertheless, most did not have any qualifications above first dan when they started a school. Here are a couple of examples:

In Hyuk Suh: Founded the art of Kuk Sool Won. Was able to train briefly with his grandfather before he died who was a martial artist of the royal court. Later learned other techniques from other people and incorporated every martial art he could find. His organization now spans the globe with hundreds of students and dozens and dozens of black belts.

Hwang Kee: Never received even a first Dan, and copied movements of others when he was young. He supposedly trained under a Chinese Master for four years and was the head of one of the largest organizations in the world as well as the founder of Soo Bak Do. Thousands of black belts, and who knows how many students.
Professor Robert Clarke: Founder of the World Jujitsu Federation. Supposedly trained in Japan but could never produce any Dan certificates. His organization has flourished with hundreds of students, even after his death. His martial arts videos represent both innovation and a high quality of technique.

Bruce Lee was an avid dancer in the Cantonese Opera, but he only trained in Wing Chun formally for a year under Yip Man. When other students found out that Bruce Lee was of mixed ancestry (His mother was only half Chinese/Half Caucasian) they wouldn't let him into the studio. He continued to recieve lessons from Yip Man from time to time, but it could hardly be said that he was a disciple or a black belt or had recieved a teacher's license. He only trained for two years with Yip Man in total. Much of Bruce Lees other training came from getting into streetfights (which he was very good at) and from Boxing. Bruce was a boxer in his High School and won the championship regional title twice. After going to college he started teaching Jun Fan Kung Fu (Literally Bruce's Kung Fu) which was a more rugged approach to Wing Chung that included street fighting and techniques from Boxing and other martial arts he learned (which included Judo, Jujitsu and several other arts). This later became Jeet Kune Do, with thousands of students worldwide, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Ed Parker recieved a black belt in Kenpo under James Mitose and never looked back. He incorporated numerous techniques from a diverse number of styles including Chinese Splashing Hands, Kajukenbo, and a host of other martial arts turning the style into one focused on speed, circular quick strikes and overall effectiveness, calling the new style American Kenpo. Today American Kenpo is a worldwide organization with many offshoots and thousands of students.

The point is that having a high rank or dan or degree in Martial Arts isn't neccisarily the mark of mastery, or the mark of a leader. A lot of times it can just mean you're a really good follower. The most famous martial artists of our time had very thin credentials. What they had was the desire and drive to challenge themselves and be good teachers."[/h]
So was this a slight or sign of disrespect against the aforementioned martial artists' respective teachers, by leaving and starting their own association/style/org?
 
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SahBumNimRush

SahBumNimRush

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I give what I get. Nothing more.

To me this is what tradition is. I think that if what you got, and are thus giving to your students, is good, there is no need to demand/ask for any loyalty. The loyalty will be there inherently.
 

sfs982000

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To me this is what tradition is. I think that if what you got, and are thus giving to your students, is good, there is no need to demand/ask for any loyalty. The loyalty will be there inherently.

I couldn't agree more, but I would also add that even if a student expressed a desire to branch out and learn something different there really isn't a reason for an instructor to hold a grudge against that person.
 

celtic_crippler

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“Seek not to follow in the footsteps of men of old; seek what they sought” ~ Matsu Basho

I give credit to my roots and where I came from but I’ve been to long in martial arts to ignore the benefits of what other arts have to offer.

I routinely train with others in order to share and continue to explore. And, as the immortal Bruce Lee once said, I “take what is useful, and discard the rest.”

The system I teach currently is an eclectic blend of techniques that contain various approaches to different scenarios, not only influenced by the art-form of my base lineage but also the influences of many talented people from other backgrounds who have also contributed to what has evolved into my personal “style.”

You see, I believe a “style” is uniquely personal. There are many martial arts “systems” and if you completely mimic what your instructor is doing then you have adopted their “style.” But if and when you begin to break that paradigm and explore on your own through experimentation and critical thinking, you will eventually develop a “style” that is uniquely your own.

We are all distinctively different from one another, and what works best for one may not work as well for another; there are psychological, physiological, and anatomical differences to name a few contributing factors. Therefore, I encourage my students to always question and once they demonstrate a grasp of the principles associated with our root art and achieve the rank of black belt I “kick them out of the nest” and tell them to go study something else. If I’m lucky, they come back and teach me something new.

In this way, the arts as a whole are perpetuated and we all grow as individuals.
 

K-man

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How much emphasis is there on organizations and associations in your art? How much emphasis is "loyalty" to your instructor/org/association/school placed in terms of the tradition of your art?

None, any longer.

History has shown that many arts have derived from students leaving their school/org/association and creating their own.

Does leaving your teacher/org/association/school automatically mean that you are breaking tradition, thus being non-traditional. IF it does, how to you then teach "tradition" in your new school?

Not in my experience. The tradition is in what you teach, not the organisations or individuals that you may have been associated with. At some stage, as you pointed out in the OP, many top MAs have left their nests and set out on their own journeys.

So was this a slight or sign of disrespect against the aforementioned martial artists' respective teachers, by leaving and starting their own association/style/org?

Maybe. But it could also mean that the person leaving has matured and needs the freedom to follow their own path.
After several decades of training and seeing what goes on in organisations, I think it all boils down to personalities and politics. I observed first hand the destruction of one organisation when my head instructor's right hand man took all the top black belts away with him, promoted them all of course, and set up his own rival organisation. This was done in a particularly unsavoury manner and the new organisation thrived for several years but eventually disappeared.

I experienced 'loyalty' from above, reciprocated, until it suited that person to do something that advantaged himself and disadvantaged a number of others. And, I was accused of gross disloyalty when I left my previous organisation with two students after the head of that organisation had encouraged most of my black belts to leave my school to go out and set up a rival school. (That little effort was precipitated by money.)

If you do the right thing, loyalty follows. If you are devious and scheming you eventually get what you deserve. That is why I have a school with loose affiliations but no one to give me directions. Live for long enough and someone above you will almost always shaft you!

But eventually it comes down to a person maturing as a martial artist and needing space and freedom to develop their own ideas. The guys mentioned in Bowers' article successfully transitioned from student to master by their knowledge, efforts and ability. Others leave an organisation, without those virtues, and become clones. Many never achieve a level beyond where they came from. :asian:
 
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SahBumNimRush

SahBumNimRush

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“Seek not to follow in the footsteps of men of old; seek what they sought” ~ Matsu Basho

I give credit to my roots and where I came from but I’ve been to long in martial arts to ignore the benefits of what other arts have to offer.

I routinely train with others in order to share and continue to explore. And, as the immortal Bruce Lee once said, I “take what is useful, and discard the rest.”

I was taught that "no one owns a technique." I was encouraged to train with anyone I wished, and take what I found effective and useful. I teach these eclectic techniques, giving credit where they come from. However, my base is still TKD/TSD, and that is what I teach. I blend in the other techniques as seamlessly as possible during training, where appropriate.
 
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SahBumNimRush

SahBumNimRush

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I belong to a small association under my KJN (10 schools). I also belong to the USTW, whose mission statement is to preserve traditional TKD. At one point it was a somewhat large organization, now it is smaller. I love my art and I do my best to maintain the tradition that I was taught. I hold my first loyalty to the art, and it is the art that is most important to me.

That said.. .

Back in the 80's we used to support many of the Korean master's in the surrounding states. For one reason or another, (moving, dying, political reasons) we no longer support other schools' competitions. It's not the lack of competition that is disconcerting. It is the lack of camaraderie that bums me out. I respect my KJN's wishes, and we no longer go to these events, but I long for the days that I would go to a place where everybody knows your name (**insert CHEERS theme song**).
 

dancingalone

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From a karate perspective, we know that some of the old masters had multiple teachers, sometimes at the same time. Presumably they learned different things from each of their teachers, probably complementary information to each other for the most part, but it is not hard to speculate that some of it was contrary too.

These guys like Kyan, Funakoshi, Mabuni, and Nagamine went on to take their own students and what they taught began to be codified into 'styles' (frequently by the students). And each of them now is revered by the karate world as historical legends, rather than rabble-rousing iconoclasts like Bruce Lee apparently was. What is the difference? Elapsed time since their deaths? Okinawan/Japanese mores instead of Lee who embraced the West?

And what is the lesson we should take from this story? My thought on this loosely is that we actually honor our martial heritage by embracing progress, keeping in mind that karate by most people's reckoning is not a koryu art, and thus has always been intended for practicality rather than adhering to customs and artifacts more rooted in the past.
 

DennisBreene

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While I primarily train in Arnis now, my roots are strongly in Tang Soo Do as taught by my master. Even he had multiple backgrounds and continued to study other arts (like kenjitsu). I find a very natural blend between my previous studies and my current training but I also wish to preserve the core of Tang Soo Do because of it's historical value.
 
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SahBumNimRush

SahBumNimRush

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These guys like Kyan, Funakoshi, Mabuni, and Nagamine went on to take their own students and what they taught began to be codified into 'styles' (frequently by the students). And each of them now is revered by the karate world as historical legends, rather than rabble-rousing iconoclasts like Bruce Lee apparently was. What is the difference? Elapsed time since their deaths? Okinawan/Japanese mores instead of Lee who embraced the West?

And what is the lesson we should take from this story? My thought on this loosely is that we actually honor our martial heritage by embracing progress, keeping in mind that karate by most people's reckoning is not a koryu art, and thus has always been intended for practicality rather than adhering to customs and artifacts more rooted in the past.

I do find the topic intriguing. I think that as long as the art is "reality tested" and not trying to portray something that it isn't, why shouldn't an innovator be recognized in a favorable light?

I do find certain aspects of my art rooted in the past, at least as far as Confucian influence is concerned. This may have little to do with customs or artifacts of the art being rooted in the past, but having more to do with my KJN being the picture of the Confucian Patriarch.
 
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SahBumNimRush

SahBumNimRush

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I find a very natural blend between my previous studies and my current training but I also wish to preserve the core of Tang Soo Do because of it's historical value.

IMHO, as long as you are giving credit to the previous studies when teaching/using the technique, you can still preserve the core of Tang Soo Do while teaching other ideas/methods/techniques. Providing you are teaching predominately the core of TSD, with minor additions of other ideas/methods/techniques.
 

DennisBreene

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IMHO, as long as you are giving credit to the previous studies when teaching/using the technique, you can still preserve the core of Tang Soo Do while teaching other ideas/methods/techniques. Providing you are teaching predominately the core of TSD, with minor additions of other ideas/methods/techniques.
Thank you. As I have the luxury of only being a student, with a few simple teaching opportunities that usually benefit me more than the student I'm working with, I only have to try to keep it straight in my own head. Our Grand Master did admit, on occasion, that there were times when he wasn't sure where the Kajukempo slipped into the Tang Soo Do. Watching films, I think it was most notable in one step sparring and self defense techniques. There is a distinct Kajukempo flavor to some of the counters and defenses.
 

Rich Parsons

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I teach two systems of FMA.

I am loyal to both of my teachers and tell students of mine what techniques or approaches to teaching came from where. I also teach the two arts separately. There is cross over, as there is between any two systems, and as they have common trace back points the commonality is greater, yet I find I can keep them separate.

As to students, I have helped some find the art they wanted versus just training with someone close and cheap.

I have helped some leave as they were not beneficial to the environment as well as others as I thought they might be a danger to others.

Some have left on their own, for and then trained with others later. I hold no ill will or issues with them. Some have talked down to me for still doing the same things over and over, while they have gone off and gained black belts in multiple arts. I cannot control what they do, so to be upset by this would only lead to negative energy which would not reflect well on the overall training. Let them go and hopefully they will learn.

As others have stated, it is a two way street.

Some lead by example. Some expect the loyalty, but as they have given the respect to the student they expect the respect and loyalty in return. I have seen some who demanded respect. In the cult places it seems to work for a while, yet in the end I have seen it cause more issues.

Personally, I give the white belt respect when I put them in front of the class to lead the counting drills or striking drills. They are leading. I let them. I watch, and will address issues if required obviously, but while they are up front I am also in line doing what is expected. To me this shows everyone in the class that respect is given, and hopefully and returned as well. Of course if people are being disrespectful to you one may have to address those issues.

I bring all this up as it leads to loyalty. Those who respect their teachers usually are loyal. There might be some that are afraid of never getting promoted or of loosing certification renewals or what have you. And eventually this environment will collapse in on itself. Maybe not while the charismatic leader is in charge, but as soon as they are gone, then everyone else will break away.
 

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Once, some years ago, a student of mine was teaching at the Army War College. He told me that he had been asked to make a few changes to the curriculum, and would I mind if they did it. First, I was honored to be asked. Then I explained that we all ultimately travel down our own paths. I had given them a good foundation upon which to build. Now it was time for them to adapt to the new reality.
 
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