New Myths


Pride & Loyalty

One of the advantages of doing a range of martial arts is getting to interact and embrace the culture of different arts. Lately, two topics have interestingly surfaced as critical and have spurred a few thoughts that I thought I might take some time to note.

Pride is something that many of us confuse with ego – which is a shame. Pride is defined as:

a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

Whereas egotism is:

the practice of talking and thinking about oneself excessively because of an undue sense of self-importance.

Being involved in the competitive aspect of several arts gives me a front row seat to both egotism and pride. You can see the difference very clearly in these circles: the egotistical competitor is the one who celebrates his own accomplishments, where the proud competitor celebrates the team or their place within the team. The egotistical competitor is unconcerned with how s/he represents the team or instructor and is solely concerned with their own performance. I see this manifest in lots of different ways: lax use of school/team patches, shunning one’s own coaches in favor of others and putting oneself forward in competition without the school are all examples. To my way of thinking, one should want to proclaim and acknowledge their school. For example, when I enter kickboxing tournaments (a sport not explicitly taught by my taekwondo school) I proudly list my school – they gave me the foundation that got me into kickboxing and it’s those students and instructors who take time, sweat and bruises to help me practice. I recently saw pictures from another competition by another organization and I saw patches from all sorts of organizations, with several people sporting patches from old schools. Where’s the pride? We spend hours upon hours sweating and struggling in classes with the same group of people – why wouldn’t you celebrate your inclusion and membership? In BJJ, I’ve recently switched schools due to shifts in programs (completely amicable on all sides), and you can be 100% sure that I won’t be competing without my new school’s patch (just as I never competed without my old school’s patch). This isn’t to say that you can’t be egotistical and proud – and that’s a combination I’m not real fond of either. But if you train at a school consistently, you must find something about if valuable. Take pride in it.

Which leads to loyalty. In BJJ circles, loyalty has become a huge topic, if I read one more blog post with creonte in the title, I may scream. I’m not one to say that a martial artist shouldn’t train at other schools or should never switch schools – that’d be a pretty hypocritical stance for me. To the contrary, I think people should cross-train freely – the benefits are just too numerous to forego this training approach; and sometimes you need to switch schools – there should be no shame if it’s for upright reasons. But, there are obligations one has when one is part of a team. I do not believe that martial arts training is a simple exchange of money for services; instructors take a vested interest in their students well beyond making sure the student’s ability to properly execute an armbar. These activities we do involve dangerous levels of physical activity and there has to be a trust relationship that goes both ways. Teachers trust that their students will behave responsibly and with the safety of their classmates in mind and students trust that their instructors will not push them to do things that could result in serious harm (a little harm is good ;) ). This is the foundation for loyalty – shared trust between a student and teacher and students amongst themselves. This in turn leads to loyalty:

a strong feeling of support or allegiance.

When we have mutual trust, it creates that “feeling of support or allegiance” between people. It’s a two-way street – I will always give my instructors and school loyalty (trusting in their instruction, supporting my class and teammates and treating the members of the school with courtesy and respect – from the newbie up to the master) and I expect that they in turn will be loyal back (investing time in me, helping me to get where I want to go and not giving up on me when I just don’t get “it”). This is why so many martial arts teams gather outside of class – to break bread, to compete in other sports and to just plain hang out. It’s why they act as a unit, cheering each other on at tournaments, testings and training. Loyalty is the outward display of pride and trust. When that loyalty is broken, there is a clear absence of trust and pride.

I don’t think of either of these concepts as some sort of metaphysical or philosophical construct unique to marital arts – pride and loyalty are present in any team activity. I think they are harder for martial artists who compete in sports-based competitions because there is always the possibility of two teammates competing against one another. While this is good (and reflects very well on the school that creates such situations), I think it makes it harder for some to understand the importance of pride and loyalty outside of such competitions – we may be competing in an individual sport, but we are not training as individuals.

posted 8 February 2015 @ 13:58 by Josh Street » 0 Comments

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