Originally posted on May 16th, 2016 by Geoffrey Green
I seek for knowledge
I give my respect
I give my loyalty
I am ready
(PTK LONG SALUTATION)
giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution
"Is not a man better than a town?...He who knows that power is inborn, that he is weak because he has looked for good out of him and elsewhere, and so perceiving, throws himself unhesitatingly on his thought, instantly rights himself, stands in the erect position, commands his limbs, works miracles; just as a man who stands on his feet is stronger than a man who stands on his head. So use all that is called Fortune..." - Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self Reliance"
Every martial art I have ever studied formally began with an acknowledgement to the instructor and the founder. When I moved to Texas to train in the Pekiti Tirsia Kali Global Organization, my first impression judged it as the least formal of any I have encountered, even among the southeast Asian arts; which, as Tuhon Waid states, are principally characterized by "flow" rather than rigid structure. This informality might be confused with flippancy to the uninitiated. Still, even among the proficient in our art, I wonder whether the measure of loyalty is given its due understanding. Loyalty itself is a deeply personal thing...however, one may try to enforce or standardize it. Absent of sentiment, loyalty only exists as an appearance, and therefore amounts to sycophantic opportunism. Yet, however personal loyalty may be regarded, few consider the standards of the person as the ultimate requisite. In pursuit of the high standards of this organization, which preserves the complete methodology of one of the last remaining blade fighting systems, I wish to articulate here what this sentiment means to me as I have come to understand it.
When I asked what loyalty meant to PTKGO, Guro James Laws of SAPTK informed me that it meant "being honest where (I) received my art from". It interested me that loayalty was immediately acknowledged as a decision. Even more so that it rested completely on the student as opposed to an enforced hierarchical mandate. If this comparative freedom might seem alarming to traditionalists, one might well consider how many have saluted their teacher, system, or founder where the spectrum of such intention could span from gratitude to allegiance and then fall off the path either in silent renouncement or outright betrayal.
In any good school I attended, it was expected that as the student progressed, they would assist their teacher in demonstrating lessons to the junior students. Of course, the responsibility of that instruction varies according to the teacher's confidence in the individual.
In each class I have attended, no two have been identical. The best teachers I've met are spontaneous, flexible, and responsive to the given needs of the students in what is a dynamic environment during a specific segment of instruction; which, although a gift to the committed, also poses the immediacy that the lesson be internalized lest forgotten.
The corollary to me regarding this is that the lesson must be remembered accurately and articulated properly, because the teacher will not necessarily remember it as they instructed it in that particular instructional segment. The more time passes, the more the blank space will be filled in by what the student imagines versus what was shown. This is a natural cognitive process that is a part of the encoding, storage, and retrieval stages of memory. If that student is to be a teacher, there may be a greater risk that the student will pass off their idea versus what was taught.
This is not necessarily a bad thing for the student as new ways and concepts evolve through efficiency of method and the internalization of lessons gives rise to the attributes of the individual - hence martial ART. Yet, if the old ways are not remembered, it spells change to the art itself...and, if indeed as many martial arts claim that the "mistakes died on the battlefield", then one should not take any thoughts of innovation or attempts to make innovations lightly.
A great teacher once told me, "all students are thieves, and the greatest pain of the teacher is not to be stolen from anymore". I did not understand a the time, because I had not lost people close to me yet. As one does, one reconsiders the importance of proper attention to detail. It is from here I regard the origin of loyalty - that of a learned articulation versus a professed interpretation. This distinction is extremely poignant when considering the objective of a true MARTIAL art, where, by the nature of warfare that the desired outcome of the lesson will in fact be passed down as intended, is not certain. As the teacher will someday be gone, so may their lessons as they intended them. This considered, the burden of understanding for the teacher and aspiring teacher is all the more compelling.
The student must listen and train to be PREPARED for their teacher to be gone, while the teacher must empower this in the student they see worthy of the knowledge. For should either fail in this regard, what amounts is a lost treasure...left to INTERPRETATION. It is also worth considering that, as teachers age, their capability of such demonstration will yield to their evolving physical attributes. In the absolutes of the combat flow - range and timing, the execution of such by a older master may likely necessitate a heightened focus on TIMING to achieve their objective of victory. Therefore, if this is all that the student observes...then the methods to manipulate RANGE that victory might be achieved may well be less emphasized and thereby the methods to train will altered. Thus, it is the responsibility of the teacher to remember not just how THEY articulate the art, but how they learned their art.
Considering the pain my teacher spoke of long ago, I never doubt the rationale of extremes true teachers will go through to keep their art alive. Even if the "headquarters" amounts to their back porch. Even if they become injured and have to teach from a wheelchair. No matter what the "compromise", there is such beautiful sincerity in such a training ground and a fortunate enterprise for any student who partakes in it. So long as the principle is sound in the eyes of the student, so will the loyalty continue, if not heighten, out of respect. Seen the other way, the teacher that loses the student who abandons them for such compromise should be seen as even more fortunate.
"Without Honor there is no Art: Only Pretenders in a Brawl" - Mangisursuro Inay
We see that the measure of a teacher is less what one is able to do and more what one is willing to do. For the student, achieving the enormous honor of having the title of teacher bestowed upon them by their teacher represents a crux in the path. This honor of receipt does not have an expiration date and, even when contingent upon continued membership in the organization, the retraction of the title even BY ones teacher does not, in my mind, diminish the accomplishment itself. Yet the honor of commitment to the standard is always to be proven. When the student breaks from the teacher, either by the student's choice, by decree of the teacher to teach others apart from their supervision, or by physical separation; the crux is still considered the same. The path, as the student learned it, is then walked alone. But as long as respect remains for the teacher, it never is.
So, now the question of loyalty surfaces at its final level. Even apart from the organization, I believe it can still be accomplished. But with a distance from the source, will it? This is the question: how well have the lessons been remembered? Will the new teacher continue to represent the instruction of their teacher? How much can change in the new teacher's methods and still constitute "telling the truth about where one received their knowledge from"? The mission, the tactics? the training method? The teachers name? The very NAME of the system itself? How far is too far an acceptable distance to remain genuine?
For those who understand loyalty, those answers do not need be explicated, because the practice of loyalty, as is the motivation for it, is deeply personal. Every teacher who I have considered a master has considered themselves a perpetual student to their own desired standards. The methods may evolve, but the standard is without compromise. The organization of PTKGO is to me exemplary of such loyalty because its members, myself, and even the most seasoned instructors I have encountered recognize without dispute that our Tuhon IS our standard.
Interesting that this standard as the student INTERPRETS it is what led the student to their teacher. But the standard as the student learns to ARTICULATE it is what keeps the student loyal. Hence, it is not the teacher to whom the student is loyal; it is the agreement on what standard they teach. Before this is chastised as opportunism, one should consider to what compromise of ones OWN principles is to be tolerated in their pursuits.
In my experience, such a compromise is more insidious rather than shocking. The teacher guides the student toward the path...while the serious student practitioner always questions their path and validates it through their teacher. The responsibility and evolution is thus mutually cyclical and should be venerated as such.
However, one may consider their skill as "an earned possession" however hard one worked to attain their proficiency. The serious student remembers that others showed the path and therefore this "possession" is a gift never able to be repaid and thereby a gift never forgotten. The gratitude for the lesson is to be demonstrated through mindful daily practice. Loyalty carries over because the principles learned are seen as timeless and relevant. For example, to this day, I do not drop my weapon without intention nor do I enter the training floor without proper acknowledgement. It makes no difference if that training floor is a parking lot or the school itself. As I was told long ago: the address of the "school" is wherever the art is being taught and practiced. My teachers speak of their influences and motivations of their art openly and as their student, I benefit from those understandings. Just as no two teachers are the same, so I believe no two students can regard their training the same. Again, this transcends the lesson and "systematology" to create ones ART and the regard one has for the sacrifice of their predecessors who have offered the art makes all the difference in how once considers themselves an artist.
"I've lost a lot of friends...A realization has come to me very, very keenly, however, that I haven't lost them. That moment I was with them has an everlasting quality about it that is now still with me. What is gave me then is still with me, and there's a kind of intimation of immortality in that." - Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
However devoted one may feel to ones instructor, school, or system. The understanding of loyalty does not come full circle until, with the teacher gone, one practices what it was that was taught...how it was taught. That is the measure of loyalty in full circle. That is when one knows for sure what loyalty means. With the choice to follow the paths of many others, when one still decides to remember and honor those who gave the capacity to even see the difference, only then is loyalty truly understood. The question is: can one realize this while the teacher is still available? It is great fortune to realize the temporal nature of such opportunity preparing for them to be gone by expending everyeffort to internalizing their lessons. It is to me the saddest misfortune to forego the relationship of good people to desperately reconcile with that inevitability.
For me, honoring this is the measure of respect. I am grateful to offer it.