Respect, Honor and Devotion

I saw an exchange between my FB friend Chris Mahuri Heitia and someone who brought up the issue of Respect, Honor and Devotion.

In an ideal world Respect, Honor and Devotion is a good thing. But we are not living in an ideal world. For every master who upholds the positive side of Respect, Honor and Devotion there are many more who abuse it for the purpose of controlling and manipulating students.

When you go to someone to learn something you expect to be taught, not used. However, that is the reality in many martial arts schools, particularly the bigger, more commercially organized ones where every movement upwards in rank means you have to fork out more money and serve your seniors and teacher in so many other ways.

Even then if you actually learn something then the money is at least well spent. What if you learn a lot less than you think you did? Should you still be loyal to the school?

The connundrum here is that if you do not go outside the school to at least take a look around how do you know whether what you have learned is good? A teacher who is confident of his art will tell you to look around because they know that what they have will stand up and compare positively and maybe even better against other arts.

If the student has been taught well he will know the moment he plays with others. Otherwise, all this talk of Respect, Honor and Devotion is but all talk and the person who ultimately pays the price is the student who has been taken for a ride.

A true student of the way seeks to improve by keeping an open mind. A true teacher encourages open learning, maybe not during the period of time the student is still developing his basics, but certainly at a later stage.

It is easy to forget that the teacher is but a means to an end. However, there are some who turn the means into an end and use Respect, Honor and Devotion on susceptible students to keep them under control and to toe the party line. If the student is not careful he could be brainwashed into a cult-like, zombie-like state of mind, imprisoned mentally to serve the master and the school with unquestioning, blind loyalty.

Finally, if students can only learn from one teacher, one school how did we end up with so many styles (or sub-styles) in the history of martial arts?

Summary :-

a) Respect the teacher but not indulge in blind idolatry

b) Honor the institution of learning, not the cult

c) Devotion to learning the art so long as you are taught properly and not taught the diluted stuff meant for non-disciple students and little better than glorified combat exercises

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