Boom! The phone starts “blowing up” with one message/text/voicemail/email after the next.
“Did you hear the he/she is training over there now!?” Ahh, the joys of owning a martial arts school…
For over a decade now, every day, and by “every” I mean “Yeah, almost every frickin day”, I’ve had the pleasure of jumping in my car, driving to my academy, opening the door, turning on the lights and taking in the most amazing sight my eyes have ever repeatedly seen…my heaven on earth…The Jungle Gym (my academy) mats. There’s a stoic fulfillment in knowing something is going to be there for you, day in and day out, with little to no chance for abandonment. Oh yeah. I revel in the blessing that my mats will ALWAYS be there for me.
Now “people? Not so much. Upon checking my stats I figure to have had over 1500 students grace my mats over the last 10+ years. That’s over 100 students per year if every year I signed up a totally new 100! Having become a pretty well-networked school owner consultant over the past few years, it turns out that not only is this aspect of school ownership the norm, but I could argue that my academy is better than most at minimizing this degenerative toll. Simply put, I’m pretty good at keeping students training.
Now, you ask, where does “loyalty” come into this? Well, that’s the million dollar dilemma. See, I don’t know what it’s like to BE another martial artist. Try as I may, I have a very personal unique code of living and everything I do bears its influence. I don’t know what betraying friends feels like. I don’t know what abandoning an established relationship for “greener pastures” feels like. I don’t know what it’s like to not be there for someone after I’ve committed to do so. But, again, this is very much a ME thing. Jungle Gym Martial Arts is, therefore, very much a ME thing.
All of those obviously negative traits and behaviors are acted out, or avoided, with a very individualized perspective. I mean, is my definition of “betrayal” universal? Probably not. Is what I deem “abandonment” the consensus? I wouldn’t bet on it. Truth be told, many of those principles we hold most noble turn out to be more relative than we’d like to think. So, are we back at square one on this whole “loyalty” thing? Hardly. If there’s anything I’ve ever learned over the span of my 39 years breathing, it’s that everyone is different. People have different interests, are able to endure different amounts of “pressure”, have different levels of ambition…the list goes on. To expect anyone to match, code for code, principle for principle, what I stand for, would be not only inaccurate, but unjust as well. Think about it. You’re starving and you come upon a single serving of bread. As you advance to get it, another person comes out from around a corner and sees that same piece of bread and you observe them to be in an equal state as your own. Well, here we are. What do you do? In my opinion, you’ll find three main schools of thought:
Get the bread at any cost to save yourself. Survival of the fittest.
Share the bread. Teamwork is the only way to survive.
Let them eat it. It’s only a single serving and you refuse to kill another just to survive another day.
Now, which one is right? If I had the ambition to actually track you readers’ answers I’m sure I’d find division. To what extent? Who knows, but everyone would answer the problem “their own way”, and THAT is what I’m getting at.
Their own way.
Here’s my definition of loyalty, as best I believe it…
“To bring honor to one’s legacy by remaining principled in one’s commitment to a relationship.”
Now, it may not be noticeable at first glance, but the variables are numerous in that sentence. Let’s take a closer look:
“Bring Honor” – It’s an act, not a circumstance. Beyond that, “honor” is the requirement, meaning one can only be loyal if one’s version of honor is being manifested as a result of the relationship.
“One’s Legacy” – The waves of eternity matter. How does this speak to the ears of future generations? Positively, if what you’re doing is to be considered loyalty.
“Remaining Principled” – Your code is the filter of your actions. If it breaks your code(s), by definition, loyalty no longer describes the commitment. Beyond that point, I’d argue a weakness of character is the better assessment. For example, don’t get caught wearing a Nazi uniform during WWII and claim, despite their atrocities, you’re just a “loyal guy”.
“One’s Commitment” – There is no time limit on what’s to be considered loyalty. It’s a switch that you purposefully turn on, with no intention of it’s undoing when you do.
“A Relationship” – Probably the most important component, in my opinion. Loyalty relies heavily on how two people(s) “relate”. There needs to be interaction. The balance of emotion and intention is a dance that brings loyalty’s most beautiful powers to life. Yes. It is a two way street.
So, as you can see, it isn’t as simple as some would like, nor is it confined to the community of martial arts and its practitioners, nor is it as simple as others still would have you believe. Nope. Loyalty is a complex, but truly noble tool we all have at our disposal. Be true to yourself in its use and you will bask in a glory not found elsewhere. Disregard any of its components, and you will suffer the consequences of a void no man should bear.
PS: The only thing I enjoy better than expressing my viewpoints on various topics is discussing them amongst friends. Please feel free to share this expression on social media, or comment right here on this very page. Either way, you have my gratitude. ~ MC