Why is loyalty not a primary focus of any serious martial artist? Personally, I’m often loyal to a fault, first mate on the Titanic, which is why it seems to me that it should be at the core of anyone that studies martial arts foundation. However, students and fighters seem so quick to turn their back on the guys that got them there when just a small amount of acknowledgement is asked for. Trust me, most of these “contracts” of allegiance are symbolic at best anyway; a small display of loyalty. So why would anyone disagree?
There always comes a time as a student when an epiphany occurs and it is easy to take sole credit, even though somewhere over the course of years of training a coach has spent months trying to make you understand the same concept. Coaches, though, understand an athlete’s psychology. They understand that letting the baby bird leave the nest and learn to fly on their own is sometimes the only way they learn. Then, years later, when the student finally grasps the concept, the coach will notice and remember all the instruction, sometimes difficult and repetitive. They will understand the hard work paid off and like a proud father silently smiles knowing that, even though the student doesn’t realize and shows no gratitude, the instructor lead them to this moment. Being a coach is often a thankless endeavor, but until you’ve been one, you’ll never understand the pride of knowing you’ve made someone better, often even despite themselves. This is why I find lack of loyalty a mortal sin.
Remember the beginning days when you knew nothing. Remember your first day of training, fresh off the street. Maybe you threw up the first time you rolled, maybe you got beat relentlessly the first time you sparred. Then, throughout the weeks, months, and years, you stopped getting so tired. The hard days of tasting your own blood in your mouth after getting punched in the grill are spread a little farther apart. You toughed it out and what do you know...? You got good. Just because you did the work to get there, don’t forget the guy that got you there: your coach. You didn’t just magically learn this shit by accident. Someone taught you. Someone was there for you when you got your ass kick and sucked, reminding you not to quit because they saw potential. Someone gave up their free time to coach you at Saturday morning grappling tournaments or find you shitty amateur cards to fight on two hours away on a Friday night for free. After, win or lose, you still had a home at their gym. Yes, they charged you gym dues, but did you enjoy uses their facilities? Gyms cost money to run, and your coach needs to eat and feed his family.
The grass is always greener on the other side, and it is easy to assume that another coach has more to offer you. Remember, though: if someone has stuck with you through thick and thin, that should merit a second thought. That big shiny new coach or academy only wants you because you are winning. As soon as that is gone, there may not be a place to go back to. So think it through, guys. No one gets there on their own. When your instructor asks a small display of loyalty, make sure you are weighing your options.
Uncle Coach Kevin
"Spread the art..."