“L.M.F.” (Copyright Feb. 2011, Anthony Walmsley)
It is well documented that Martial Arts masters of the ‘Old School’ would observe a student for ‘three years’ before accepting them. It is also well documented that prospective students were not initially shown or allowed to participate in training, instead they were given menial and often humiliating tasks around the school, whilst the Master apparently ignored them.
When this period of probation was judged by the Master to be at an end, the person under observation was accepted and training began, or, they were considered ‘unsuitable’ and were ejected without explanation. Martial Artists today are generally enthralled by these ‘anecdotes’, however, few would subject themselves to a similar ordeal and few, if any, present day teachers would implement such ruling.
Given that virtually anybody can be trained to coordinate their body to perform a series of complicated and taxing movements necessary to a Martial Art and in the process hopefully improve their physical health, what were these Masters looking for? It is the ‘psychological level’ that needs to be considered here, and the morality of the teacher and the taught.
By ‘morality’, I am not talking about ‘social mores’, belching, picking your nose or scratching your bum in public. What I am attempting to look at is ’moral rectitude’ and probably the most obvious and quantifiable quality which a person has, or lacks, is ‘honesty’. There is nothing more disconcerting and disorientating, than to realise that the student or teacher in whom you have placed your trust is “being economical with the truth”.
Having been involved in the Internal Martial Arts since 1984, it is my observation that instructors and students alike, eventually come up against the issue of ‘morality’ whether they like it or not, and probably in a lot less than three years.
As a beginner, I quietly left a number of schools because in each case, the actions of the instructor were at odds with the ‘morality’ he pretended to teach. As an instructor, I’ve found myself in the uncomfortable position of having to ask certain students to leave my classes because their resistance to facing ‘morality’, was impeding their progress and negatively influencing other students. Some ten years ago I resigned my position within a certain highly visible organisation that has international ramifications, on discovering that the actions of the person in charge do not reflect the ‘morality’ he purports to represent, and this raises the question of making choices.
I know practitioners who are ‘brilliant’ at Martial Arts; they can stand in a static Qigong stance for an hour or more without so much as a quiver, train for hours every day in forms, weapons and combat sets and turn triple backwards summersaults with swords and sabres coming out of their ears. They have large numbers of students, write magazine articles and books, promote workshops and produce videos but this does not mean that their morality is intact.
A number of them are in the habit of saying one thing while doing the contrary. Some refuse to admit to making mistakes and refuse to take the consequent responsibility, falsely represent their capacity or steal information from another's research and publish it under their own name, or insult other schools, students and instructors, etc., etc., etc. Sadly, the “Psychological Chemistry” which should develop them as an all round person through training in the Martial Arts, is totally absent , reducing these most sophisticated systems of “self development”, to mere physical exercise or sports.
Many martial arts practitioners are blinded by technical capacity and see only the short term results of being associating with a person suffering from this dichotomy, however, the old adage, ‘birds of a feather flock together’ is pertinent here. You are known by the company you keep and in the long run will suffer the consequences.
The following is my father's account of his experience during the second world war on being accepted for officer training in the Royal Air Force.
The first months were dedicated to intensive courses in the technicalities of navigation. He was also trained in handling weapons, parachuting, self defence, and survival methods in the event of being shot down. At the end of this exhausting period, to the surprise and joy of all, he and his fellow trainees were taken to a large country house for a two week “holiday” and this, let's not forget, with a war in progress.
There, all rules and regulations were relaxed and they could do pretty much whatever they fancied; get up and go to bed whenever and comply with or totally ignore, set meal times. They were waited on hand and foot, food was lavishly served and although rationing was in force in the UK at the time, they could eat anything they liked and in any quantity. They could play tennis, golf, squash and swim, or simply sit around in the bar which was free and always open.
The more intelligent amongst them, realised that far from being “on holiday”, they were actually being ‘tested’ and were under constant observation.
At the end of the two weeks , those who were considered to be ‘officer material’, including my father, were congratulated and assigned to further duties. Those who did not come up to requirements were presented with a resumé, which indeed listed all the technical training they had received and the level they had attained. There was no mention in this document of having ‘failed’, nor were they informed as to why they had been rejected, instead, stamped on the last page in large red letters they found,
(Lack of moral fibre.)