By Professor Josh Skyer
“A serious student is much more concerned with training his mind and disciplining his spirit than with developing martial skills.”
― Eiji Yoshikawa, Musashi
It is said that true men remain loyal to those to whom they are indebted. This virtue is taken from a 400-year-old Martial arts scripture entitled, “The 8 Virtues of the Samurai”. As a student of the Martial Arts, I have always been taught to use the practice as a vehicle for personal development and self-improvement; consequently, loyalty has taken on great meaning for me.
As most experienced practitioners know, training in the martial arts requires a very high level of personal hygiene. Finger and toenails must remain short as to not accidentally scratch our training partners or ourselves. So as I sat with the nail clipper recently preparing myself for training, I took a good look at my own feet. It was in this otherwise mundane moment that I came to a stunning realization about my own experience as a student.
I realized that the bottoms of my feet have never touched a Jiu-Jitsu mat other then the one on which I took my first class. This is the same mat which my instructor, Professor Glick, put down with his own 2 hands. I will have trained from white belt to Black Belt at one school, on one mat, with one instructor.
This exercise in loyalty has been nothing short of amazing, and not very common in today’s Martial Arts climate. It’s as if the old cliché about how “the grass is always greener” has taken over the mind of the modern martial artist.
It is commonplace in Jiu-Jitsu schools to have an open mat, on which students from all over town can “pay to play”, training without feeling like they are violating the code of the Samurai spirit. In other words, they seem to never worry that they might be “cheating” on their own Professors and fellow training partners. This was something to which we never subscribed at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and for which I thank God. What is has given me is an immense sense of loyalty and depth of feeling inside the dojo I train in.
In a lot of ways the popularity of mixed martial arts – and the too-relaxed, laissez-faire, anything goes, revolving-door dojo – has turned today’s martial artist into a consumer. Traditionally, as the quote above would have it, the martial artist’s role in the world was not as a consumer, but rather as a producer. But a brief glance around the world of martial arts today finds the consumer everywhere: consuming classes, and training partners, all over town, as opposed to producing self-change, a stronger and more vibrant community and an overall sense of loyalty both to the dojo and to all those they encounter.
Not us. Again – the bottom of my feet have never touched the mat of another dojo. And I am happy to say it. On the day I’m able to have Professor Glick place a black belt around my waist, I will know that that decision will have been, for me, the glue that binds me to the martial arts forever. OSS!