AIK Kenpo Juniors: Loyalty

Kenpo Juniors Blog - Loyalty#1

As you’ve figured out by now, how you think and act as a warrior is much more important than how you fight. Because of that, American Institutes of Kenpo use the Bushido Values to help our growing warriors think about the ethical and moral aspects of martial arts training.

The Bushido Value for this testing cycle is loyalty. It’s a word you hear in daily life, and you already know what it means:

Loyalty (n) the act or trait of giving firm and constant support or allegiance to a person, group, institution, or idea

That’s the dictionary definition, but in the context of Bushido, we would like you to consider this as well:

Loyalty is the fuel which drives the other values of Bushido.

If Bushido is an engine that helps take you from the warrior you are to the warrior you want to be, loyalty is the gas that makes the engine run. Here’s how that works with all the values of Bushido: Truth, Bravery, Courtesy, Compassion, Sincerity and Discernment.

Truth can be described as demonstrating loyalty to a person by making sure that person has accurate information when making important decisions. If you lie to your mother about having homework done, she’s not able to do her job of raising a successful student. That’s not very loyal.

Bravery happens easiest and best when you care about something more than you do about yourself. If you are loyal about growing as a person, you might try things that scare or intimdate you because growing is more important to you than being comfortable.

Courtesy is how you show that you are loyal to a person by helping that person feel comfortable. Sometimes you are courteous to show loyalty to a place (for example being polite to a rude guest because you’re loyal to a sense of welcoming in your home), or loyalty to an idea (for example keeping your temper with an annoying person because you value the importance of keeping your temper).

Compassion is a lot like courtesy in this way. You might be compassionate out of loyalty to a person, to a place, or to the idea of compassion being important. But embracing that loyalty can help you stay compassionate when it’s hard.

Sincerity is the most abstract concept in Bushido, in our opinion, but it’s still driven by loyalty. It takes immense loyalty to yourself and to the spirit of martial arts to be so fearlessly aware of yourself. Without that loyalty, sincerity can often feel too difficult to be worth the bother.

Discernment means thinking clearly and making good decisions. At times when the best decision isn’t clear, loyalty can help you figure out which decision to make and which things to give more importance when they seem of equal value.

We’re not saying that loyalty is the most important value in the Bushido Code. Every value has its own place and they are all equally important. But loyalty is one of the strongest motivators for staying true to Bushido.

Loyalty and Roles

One way to practice loyalty is to take a page from Stephen Covey. Mr. Covey was a person who wrote about how to live a life that made a difference in the world and to the people you love. One of the things he wrote about was identifying the roles you play in your life.

Your teacher Mr. Knight has several roles: father, husband, business owner, and martial arts teacher are four of them. He does a lot of other things too. He reads, watches TV shows, goes hiking, sees movies. But those aren’t roles in his life. They’re not important to who he is.

What are the roles in your life? Student, martial artist, and son or daughter are three of them. But what are the rest? Take a moment to write them down.

Now, for each role ask yourself who or what are you loyal to that makes this thing an important part of your life?

Mr. Knight is a father, which means he is loyal to his son. He’s a husband, which means he is loyal to his wife. He is a business owner, which means he is loyal to his staff and his students, and the community in which he does business. He’s a martial arts teacher, which means he is loyal to the art of kenpo and the people who study it.

As a son or daughter, you are loyal to your parents. If you’re a brother or sister, you’re loyal to your siblings. As a student, you need to be loyal to the idea of learning as much as you can.

People study martial arts for different reasons. Some martial artists are loyal to the people they love, so they want to be able to protect them. Others are loyal to the study of martial arts, and want to honor the tradition of that study. Others are loyal to themselves, and use martial arts to grow as a human being. There’s no wrong answer here as long as it’s true.

So think about loyalty this month. What are you loyal to? How does that make your life better? Does thinking about your priorities and relationships in terms of loyalty make it easier to make good decisions?

Parents’ Corner

This month we’d love to suggest an assignment for you as a parent. If you’re like the rest of us, your parenting years are an ongoing seige of different priorities pulling your time, attention, and energy in multiple directions. It’s the curse of raising interested, active children while trying to remain an interested, active adult.

What’s helped us out is doing that exercise we just mentioned. Make a list of your roles, and of the loyalties that drive those roles. Most adults who do this exercise find one or two things taking up their time that don’t serve any of their important loyalties. And once you drop those things, you find all the important stuff gets that much easier.

Just a thought. As always, our team at AIK is here to help you with this or anything else.

Kenpo Juniors Blog - Loyalty#2

On Thursday, December 7, 1941, Japanese pilots engaged in a sneak attack against mostly sleeping American naval men at Pearl Harbor. They attacked a country which was not at war with them, and scaled up a war that would ultimately kill millions of people. Ultimately, that attack culminated in two atomic bombs being dropped on Japan after a campaign of conventional bombing that crippled the entire nation.

Why would those pilots agree to make a sneak attack with such terrible consequences?


Loyalty, like we talked about last month, is a powerful fuel. It helps to drive the other Bushido Values, and to motivate you to do right by the people you care about. But it can also be dangerous, if misplaced or made more important than the other values.

Last time we talked about how loyalty can fuel the other values of Bushido. This month, let’s look how the other values can keep loyalty from getting out of control:

Truth can help you keep from being loyal to somebody who isn’t acting deserving of loyalty in a moment. If you’ve ever lied to cover for a friend, you know what this looks like in action.

Bravery is tricky, because people use the accusation of cowardice to spur misplaced loyalty. But you can ask yourself if loyalty to an idea or person is motivated by bravery or by fear. If by fear, that person or idea does not deserve your loyalty.

Courtesy is a way of “faking it til you make it” with loyalty. As warriors, we owe courtesy to everybody, whether we are loyal to that person or not. Courtesy invites meaningful conversation, which includes exposure to ideas you might not have considered before. When you’re exposed to those ideas, you sometimes look hard at your loyalties to make sure they’re not misplaced.

Compassion can also show where you have put your loyalties out of order. Any time your loyalty to something calls on you to ignore compassion, there’s a good chance your loyalty is being abused. Think carefully any time you find yourself in this situation.

Sincerity is about being truthful with yourself. It’s one of the best tools for examining your loyalties. As with bravery, you can use sincerity to measure why you are loyal. And understanding the why of it can help you understand how appropriate and beneficial your loyalty is.

Discernment has an interesting relationship with loyalty. On one hand, it can help you tell who or what deserves loyalty the most. On the other, it’s easly clouded by loyalty gone wrong. Just checking in on yourself and making certain you are using your discernment well is one of the best ways to be certain your loyalty is not misplaced.

As an exercise for this month, pay closer than usual attention to two books, movies, or tv shows. They are full of characters who are loyal to somebody or something they shouldn’t be. Take a look a that, and think about how that same problematic loyalty might change your own life.

Parent’s Corner

With apologies in advance, this particular month’s exploration might end up with your teen asking some uncomfortable questions. (Or, if she’s like many teenagers, coming to you a little aggressively with uncomfortable and misguided answers). We submit that, while this is annoying, it can be a good thing. Part of the challenge of raising a teenager is they can put their loyalties in troublesome places. Having the conversation early and often about what loyalty means, when it hurts, when it can help is one way to help your teen guard against those influences.

Kenpo Juniors Blog - Loyalty #3

Enrichment Topic - Destruction Elements

You’re a martial artist and a tween or teen, and that means you’ve already figured out about how to get around bullies. Bullies prefer easy targets, the kind of people they can look strong in front of. It’s been a while since somebody was able to look strong by standing up and trying to make you small.

You’re also confident enough in your martial arts that you don’t have to fight somebody just because he says he wants to fight you. You know you’re being compassionate by not making somebody “learn the hard way” what you can do.

But sometimes, violence happens to people even when they’re not looking for trouble. The worse news about this is that the violence, when it happens, is by people who are looking to really hurt you. In those situations, you need to be able to fight back hard, and decisively.

Lee Sprague, one of the most important members of your kenpo lineage, talked about five “Destruction Elements” that can end a fight quickly. These are not things you want to use while sparring, or fooling around with friends. They are things that can cause permanent injury to somebody who is trying to badly hurt you.

These are the Five Destruction Elements:

Seal the Breath by attacking your attacker’s ability to breathe. Attacks to the throat and solar plexus work for this, and leave him gasping for air instead of punching at you.

Displace Bone. Breaking a bone damages the structure of the body, and means one part of your attacker no longer works like it should. Strikes to fragile bones like the nose, orbital socket, collar, and top of the foot work for this. So do joint locks, if you’ve trained hard with those techniques.

Attack Organs. Like bone breaks, these attacks disable part of an attacker’s body, leaving him more worried about the damage you’ve done to him than damaging you. Attacks to the eyes and the groin are the two easiest ways to attack an organ.

Activate the Nerves. Nerves exist to feel pain and give instructions to the body. If you attack the nerves, it activates the pain while interrupting their ability to carry instructions. Nerve strikes are complicated, and hard to apply, but hitting the radial nerve along the inside of the forearm is a good example.

Tearing Ligaments or Tendons. Ligaments connect bones together, and tendons connect muscles to bone. If you damage one, you can limit an attacker’s ability to use an entire limb. Any strong strike or lock to a joint can do this for you, especially at the knee or elbow.

Kenpo is full of techniques designed to apply these Destruction Elements. Some time this month, take a close look at a dozen of your techniques and see which Elements are part of each.

It should go without saying that these Elements are for using only when somebody is trying to harm or kill you. Somebody trying to cause you a little pain or embarrassment doesn’t deserve to have his throat crushed, or his bones broken. You know trips and locks and escapes for dealing with people like that. These techniques are for serious life-or-death situations.

One interesting side effect of knowing things like the Five Destruction Elements: the better you know them, the less likely you are to have to use them. Bad guys choose easy targets, and can tell when somebody is good at defending herself. People who know how to use these techniques are obvious to those bad guys, and get left alone.

Parent’s Corner

Learning life-or-death self-defense is a serious responsibility, but we are confident our students will take that responsibility...well, um...responsibly. Part of a martial artist’s job is to know how to protect themselves and the people they love, and to think about unpleasant things like what happens during violence.

We are always here to help you in any way you need, as part of the village for your teen. In this case specifically, do not hesitate to contact us if you feel your child hasn’t fully internalized the seriousness of the information from this month. We will work with you to communicate with him until he has.

Kenpo Juniors Blog - Loyalty#4 (Assignment)

Testing is this month. By now you’ve practiced your material enough to be able to do it well on testing day. You’ve checked with your parents and teachers about your family and school citizenship and scholarship. You’ve confirmed the time and date of your test and invited the people you want to be there for your support. And on the day before testing, you’re going to wash and iron your gi.

You’re also going to spend this month doing your loyalty assignment. Like so many other parts of being a warrior and martial artist, this assignment is more about observing and thinking than about physical activity.

Your mission, which you choose to accept, is the following:

Watch two movies or read two books. Choose a bad guy and a good guy from each. Spend a little time thinking about their loyalties and the roles they play in their lives.

Now think about motivation. You know what the word means, but you might not know that in drama and literature, motivation specifically means why an actor or character is doing the things he or she does in the story. Think about how loyalty impacts the character’s motivation.

Talk to some of your friends and family members about this for each of the four characters. Think about how that character’s loyalties push them to make the decisions they make.

Once you’ve done that, choose one of the good guys and one of the bad guys. Then write a short paper about how the good guy might actually be a bad guy and how the bad guy might actually be a good guy, because of their loyalties.

For example. In the Star Wars movies the Emperor is the bad guy. In the books, he created the Empire because he had a prophetic dream that powerful invaders were coming from another galaxy. He wanted his galaxy to be strong enough and organized enough to defeat that invasion. In a way, you could say he was a good guy. He was being loyal to every innocent person who would be hurt in the invasion.

Now look at Luke Skywalker in the same light. You could say that his loyalty to his friends made him not think about why the Empire needed to be so powerful. That blind loyalty might, in the future, mean millions of creatures get killed by the invaders. Had he chosen to examine his loyalties more carefully, he might have saved many lives.

After you write your paper, read it to a friend or parent and talk about your ideas. Then write the paper a second time incorporating some of what you talked about. Once that’s done, spellcheck and proofread it, then turn it in by the due date.

We may share your reports online. It helps people who aren’t martial artists understand better how kicking and punching is only a small part of what we do.

Parent’s Corner

Can we ask you for a favor? This exercise isn’t only a good one for loyalty. It’s a good exercise in studying compassion and discernment, two other values in the Bushido Code. As you talk with your teen about their assignment, please ask them about how the actions and motivations of the characters they consider have compassion and discernment...or not.

In the example we used, Luke Skywalker shows great compassion, but you could argue he wasn’t as discerning as he could be. The Emperor had long-reaching discernment, but became a bad guy because of his utter lack of compassion.

Whatever characters and story your teen chooses, it’s a fair bet the conversation can get at least that interesting. If you get the chance, have it. We think you’ll be glad you did.

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