be careful who you trust


Martial Arts
Martial Arts (Photo credit: Tom Gill.)

A martial arts acquaintance of mine recently posted the following quote on a social media site:

“Only act with honorable people. You can trust them, and they you. Their honor is the best surety of their behavior even in misunderstandings, for they always act according to their character. Hence, it is better to have a dispute with an honorable person than to have a victory over dishonorable ones. You cannot deal well with the ruined, for they have no hostages for rectitude. With them there is no true friendship, and their agreements are not binding, however stringent they appear, because they have no feelings of honor. Never have anything to do with such people, for it honor does not restrain them, virtue will not, since honor is the throne of rectitude.” -Baltasar Gracian

Reading that got some wheels spinning in my head. The first association I made was with a previous post I authored here called “Learning good things from bad people”. There I addressed the issue of people overlooking the character flaws of some Martial Arts instructors because they believe that they can separate a teachers “issues” from the “good stuff” they teach. That post ended with the following:

What is the deciding factor that determines what you will overlook for that “good training”? Is it money? Is it just that the guy is close by..he’s “there”?  Is what he’s teaching really THAT much better than anybody else can show you? Is it because the instructor/style that you have invested a lot of your time, your money, and to some extent your “self” in is involved with this person?

Where do YOU draw the line?

In another mindstream I was mulling over a study I discovered a few years ago called Instructor-Student Commonalities in the Martial Arts: Leadership Traits and Similarities by Martin Thomas McGee. A snippet of this study states:

In a rigid social hierarchy, like martial arts, it would make sense that people would become more similar as a function of time, because everyone’s situational experience is relatively the same within the dojo. However, this hypothesis is not supported by Sylvia and Pindur (1978). Their findings suggest state that socialization takes place early and is independent of time and rank.

Martial arts schools are hierarchal, indoctrination-like social systems. Because of their rigidity, participants share the same experiences. Also, during this same time, modeling of super-ordinate positions occurs. These in-class experiences and modeling yield similar personalities among members. These similar personalities contain leadership qualities, such as a high need for cognition, strong locus of control, and strong motivation. Due to the subjective and reflexive nature of evaluation, those who have leadership qualities most similar to their instructors will be promoted to the next rank. Those who lack leadership qualities similar to their instructor will not be promoted. Not being promoted has nothing to do with being liked by the instructor, but not being qualified by displaying the attitude of one who is to be promoted to a higher rank. Or, because of this lack of attitude similarity as perceived by the student, there are differences in values that cause him or her to withdraw from classes. Hence, time “weeds out” those who are dissimilar from their instructor.

In other words, the “leadership”/instructors of a system are naturally self-selected from people who share personality traits with the head instructor.

In my opinion, the hangers-on of some of these teachers…even though they may deny it…are picking their side despite their assertions that they disagree with an instructors character but desire the skills nonetheless.

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