AIK Kenpo Seniors: Loyalty

Kenpo Seniors Blog - Loyalty #1

As martial artists, we study not only the physical skills for harming attackers. We also study the philosophical and ethical precepts of the Bushido Code, a set of principles designed to help warriors live a good life and bear the responsibilities that come with their skills and their role. The Bushido Value for this testing cycle is Loyalty. You already have a general idea of what loyalty is, but to a practitioner of Bushido, the definition gets wider and tricker.

First, Bushido considers three different kinds of loyalty:


Loyalty to a person

Loyalty to a group

Loyalty to an idea


Loyalty to a person is often the easiest to understand. There are people in your life you trust and will do for more than others because they have earned your loyalty. Other folks, usually your children and other members of your family, get your loyalty because loyalty to them is your responsibility. At its best, this kind of loyalty is the basis for love, friendship, and most of the best things in life. At its worst, it can get you into bad situations where you give loyalty where it isn’t deserved, or to somebody who makes poor decisions.

Loyalty to a group is most familiar when you think about your family. Lots of us have a sibling or cousin we don’t even like and certainly don’t trust, but we’re loyal to because he’s kin. Group loyalty also applies to the company you work for, a church you belong to, members of your karate school, and patriotism. At its best, loyalty to a group helps us to rise above our own selfish needs and to serve others with passion. At its worst, group loyalty can lead people to forget that people outside the group also have needs, feelings, and humanity.

Loyalty to an idea can be empowering. Loyalty to the idea of self-improvement is part of why you train. Loyalty to a religious ideal is how Mother Theresa happened. Loyalty to the Code of Bushido keeps warriors from becoming thugs and predators. The dangerous side of loyalty to an idea is that it can create fanatics -- people who lose sight of the fact that not all ideas are right for all people, and that people can choose not to embrace an idea without being bad people. Holy wars are the worst example of what happens when loyalty to an idea gets out of control.


Loyalty and the Way of the Warrior

As a martial artist and warrior, loyalty is the fuel that drives your engine. Your loyalty to people is what motivates you to protect them and keep them safe. Your loyalty to groups is how you serve your community with the skills and knowledge you have. Your loyalty to an idea is what pushes you to work harder, and take risks, all in the name of self-improvement and voluntarily shoulder extra responsibility.


Loyalty appears as a central part of many of the roles a warrior might take on.

As a soldier, a warrior’s loyalty to his army and squad keeps him effective and alert, and enables him to “keep it together” when other people might be too afraid to act.

As a protector of a person or a group, a warrior’s loyalty to that community is what helps him overcome the fears and doubts inherent into risking one’s life. It also helps him stay humble and compassionate, so as to avoid abusing his power.

As a teacher, loyalty to the principles of martial arts helps him to teach the arts in the best and most empowering way. Loyalty to the students helps avoid conflicts of interest or abusing power.

As a judge, which warriors are often called on to act as because they must sometimes decide life and death in an instant, loyalty to the Bushido Code and other moral structures keeps ego, fear, and other inappropriate motivators out of the decision.

In the coming months, you’ll read some more essays and do some exercises about loyalty and how it interacts with your training, your relationship, and your life. For now, just think a bit about the kinds of loyalty that motivate you, and how loyalty plays a part in the roles you fill each day.



Kenpo Seniors Blog - Loyalty #2

One of the most interesting and challenging aspects of observing loyalty as part of the Bushido Code is what to do with conflicts of loyalty. With a value that’s so important on multiple levels, these conflicts can truly eat at your conscience and potentially lead to questionable choices.


Loyalty conflicts usually come in two flavors:

Conflicts between separate loyalties

Conflicts between loyalty and other important values


Both can be awful, and both have different solutions. The good news it, many of the solutions come from the Bushido Code.


Conflicts Between Separate Loyalties

We’ve all been here, and we’ve seen at least three movies where this was the central story. You have two brothers, who you love and are loyal to equally. Both need something, but you can only help one. Who do you help, and who do you refuse?

Some of our older students might remember the popular book from the 80s, The Book of Questions. It posed moral quandaries like “You’re in the jungle with your best friend and your father. Both get bitten by a poisonous snake and there is no way you can get to medical attention in time. You have one dose of anti-venom. Who do you save?”

Those are simple, but visceral examples of this conflict. A lot of the time, the answer is clear. You help the brother who needs the help more. Your dad would probably insist the younger man get the cure. In other cases, it’s not as clear. But Bushido offers some guidance for the trickier situations.

Truth asks which person is being the straightest with you about his or her need. Sometimes the best person to help is the person who is telling you like it is.

Bravery asks you to look hard at your own motivations and beliefs. It’s possible some of our loyalties aren’t as well-founded as others. Having the courage to look at them can help us decide which loyalties take precedent.

Courtesy isn’t the most important metric in this particular case, but can be a tie-breaker. If all things are equal, and you can’t otherwise decide which loyalty to follow. Go with the person or group who’s been the most polite. Or the one that allows you to be the most courteous.

Compassion is one of the most powerful and important guide when faced with a conflict of loyalty. Who needs your loyalty the most in this moment? Who will be helped the most by your decision, or hurt the worst by you choosing somebody else?

Sincerity, truthfulness with yourself comes into play when you ask yourself about the fundamentals of your relationship with the person or idea you’re loyal to. Is it relationship worthy of the loyalty you give it? Or is it one where you get taken advantage of? Is it a relationship where your loyalty has flagged, and this is an opportunity to do better?

Discernment can usually answer the question on its own. Simply look at the situation from multiple angles, consider them deeply, and make a choice. Using your perception, insight, and wisdom with intentionality and focus often makes an apparently difficult decision crystal clear.

We’re not saying that choosing between two loyalties is easy, but it’s often as simple as adding another lens with which to view the decision.


Conflicts With Other Values

You’ve lived long enough to see these conflicts in action. Here are just a few of the ways it happens on an all-too-frequent basis.

Truth. Your buddy asks you to lie for him to cover a mistake he made at work, or while he cheats on his wife. We’re not talking about “little white lies” here like helping plan and execute a surprise party. We mean lies where somebody (your buddy’s boss or wife) gets hurt.

Bravery. Sometimes loyalty can push you to avoid looking at hurtful things, whether because you don’t want to admit a friend is making poor decisions, or you’re not comfortable that an ideology you have embraced might be flawed.

Courtesy. Your friend is acting rude and obnoxious in a situation where it’s inappropriate, and seriously bothering other people. When called out on it, she turns to you and demands you support her in the conflict.

Compassion. Loyalty to an idea sometimes leads people to ignore compassion. This is where wars, and gang violence, and terrorism get their start...but it can happen in smaller ways. Many folks, for example, fail to think about the feelings and needs of people who disagree with them, or to make the compassionate assumption those people have good reasons for their own beliefs.

Sincerity. Have you ever failed to be honest with yourself because what you wanted to believe about a person or idea outweighed your desire to see the truth?

Discernment. Loyalty can cloud your judgment, making you want to look less at some things and hard at others so they validate your support for a person or idea.


This one is an even simpler situation in most cases, but is in no way easy.

Misplaced and misguided loyalty can be very dangerous. Its ultimate expression is terrorism, where a person becomes so powerfully loyal to a broken ideology that he makes that loyalty more important than basic human decency.

In cases where loyalty conflicts with other Bushido Values, that’s a strong indicator that your loyalty is in some way misplaced. Without an exceptionally compelling reason, we recommend you go with the other value.



Kenpo Seniors Blog - Loyalty #3

Enrichment Topic - Destruction Elements

I’m going to tell you something you already know:

As a warrior and martial artist, the day may come when you have to hurt somebody.

I don’t mean punch someone in the nose, or push him outside a bar on a Friday night. I’m talking about injuring, maiming, or killing somebody intent on doing worse to you, somebody you love, or an innocent bystander.

If you find yourself in that situation, your job is to end the fight as quickly and efficiently as possible. No other response will do. Fighting without the intent to injure and kill puts you at risk because you are pulling your punches.

Lee Sprague, one of the most beloved teachers in our lineage used to say “If you fight, kill him. If you’re not comfortable that killing him is the right thing, you shouldn’t fight in the first place.”

That’s part of being a warrior. It’s a part few of us will actually experience, but it is a part you will have to prepare yourself for. As part of that preparation, read this essay, based on Mr. Sprague’s thoughts on combat and self-defense.


The Five Destruction Elements

When you have to end a fight quickly to keep yourself or somebody else alive in the face of a determined attacker, there are better and worse ways to go about it. The most effective techniques are those that make an attacker unable to continue the fight. These techniques destroy some part of the body, rendering it useless. The five categories of these Destruction Elements are:


Seal the Breath. You attack the enemy’s ability to breathe. Short-term, this takes their focus away from harming you. Long-term, it can easily lead to death.

Examples include crushing the trachea with a half-fist or elbow strike, causing the diaphragm to spasm with a kick to the solar plexus, and stabbing or shooting the lungs.

Displace Bone. Attacking and fracturing or breaking the skeletal structure of the enemy. Short-term, this elminates tools your enemy can attack you with (it’s hard to punch with a broken hand). Long-term, these can lead to permanent disability.

Examples include shattering the nose or orbital socket with a hammer fist, stomping the instep to break the bones in the foot, and breaking the arm with a club.

Attack the Organs. Organs are what makes your body work. If you ruin one, it reduces your attacker’s ability to use his body to attack you. Short-term, these can be rapid showstoppers. Long-term, they can mean disability, illness, and death.

Examples include spearing the eye with a thumb, rupturing the liver with a punch under the ribs, and stabbing the heart through the rib cage.

Activate the nerves. Nerves sense pain and deliver orders from the brain. Activating the nerves can be overwhelmingly painful, and interrupt the orders that tell your attacker how to fight. Short-term, the pain and interruption can paralyze. Long-term, nerve and brain damage can be deadly.

Examples include striking the groin to overwhelm the nerves there, raking the radial nerve to make an attacker drop a weapon, and a “knockout strikes” with an open palm to the base of the skull.

Tear Ligaments and Tendons. Attacking the connecting tissue can disconnect the muscles and bones from the rest of the body. Short-term this renders a limb useless. Long-term, the damage can mean permanent disability.

Examples include dislocating the elbow with an arm bar, cranking the neck by rotating the chin, and kicking the knee to disclose the patella.


But here’s the trouble with those destruction elements. You’re a good person. Your attacker is not. You will be hesitant to, and feel remorse about, causing or even risking permanent damage to another human being. The kind of person you would have to use these skills against actively enjoys harming other people. It makes him feel powerful and important. He will never hesitate to hurt you badly, and doesn’t care if you die.

So how do you fight effectively against that kind of attacker?

The answer is state elicitation and a willingness to go beyond.


State elicitation is a tool you can use to assume a mindset you’re not normally in. It allows you to become somebody who doesn’t care if this particular individual is hurt, because that person is a threat to something you hold sacred.

That’s where the willingness to go beyond comes in. As a martial artist, you must think about what you are willing to kill or risk death for. How far are you willing to go to protect your people? What things are you unwilling to do no matter what? As a martial artist, you must consider these things early and often, so you have already decided what you will do before the question is asked in rapid, and deadly fashion.

These are heavy topics. Don’t hesitate to ask one of your teachers if you have any questions or concerns.



Kenpo Seniors Blog - Loyalty #4 (Assignment)

Testing month is upon us, and that means it’s time to get ready. Time to polish your testing material until it shines. Time to invite your friends and family to come celebrate with you. Time to check in with yourself and see if there’s a way you can grow yourself mentally and emotionally as well as with your physical martial arts prowess.

And, of course, it’s time to complete you Bushido Values assignment for the month. It goes a little something like this.

As an adult who lives in the modern world, whether or not you spend a lot of time on social media you probably are aware of what goes on in websites like Facebook. Well, there’s a lot going on there but one of the things that happens is people discuss and debate opinions about politics, philosophy, morality, martial arts, and pretty much everything else.

Although the conversations can get salty on occasion, we’re all for them. Having a courteous discussion with people you disagree with is one of the best ways to keep your mind sharp and your compassion strong. It helps us understand that people can be good, and smart, and informed even when their opinions differ.

It’s not for everybody, and if it’s too much in that particular forum there’s nothing wrong with that. You should participate in that sort of thing only to the degree you’re comfortable.

But participate or not, you might have noticed something developing in conversations online and “in real life:” loyalty-based opinions.

Bushido suggests that a loyalty-based opinions are dangerous. They can lead to fanaticism, losing compassion, and abusing our powers as warriors. This is what we mean by a loyalty-based opinion.

In recent history, we have had two very divisive presidents. Whatever you thought of Barak Obama or Donald Trump is your business, but it’s hard to deny that people had strong opinions about both. And your opinion of either president is your business.


But, you might have noticed a pattern. President Obama would do a thing, and some people would cheer him for it and some people would complain loudly about it. Then President Trump would do the exact same thing. Some people who cheered President Obama for that thing would lambaste President Trump for it, and those who derided President Obama for it would praise President Trump.

That’s what we mean by loyalty-based opinions. Approving or disapproving of an idea or an action not on the merit of the idea or action, but on who voiced the idea or performed the action.

That’s a dangerous slope. In some cases, it’s a matter of loyalty to the person and trust in their intent. But in other cases it’s a kind of blind allegiance. Warriors, being passionate individuals, are unusually susceptible to blind allegiance. Being powerful, that makes the potential danger of our blind allegiance greater than with others.


So, this is your assignment your Bushido assignment for this testing cycle.

Examine three opinions you suspect are loyalty-based.

The first opinion is low-hanging fruit. Choose a new article you’ve seen online, or in a paper, or on the television, that you suspect is motivated by loyalty to an ideology rather than placing importance on what actually happened. Make some notes to yourself about what was said, what probably actually took place, and what was misrepresented. Then think about who the news outlet might be loyal to, and what that group or ideology stands to gain from the misinformation.

The second opinion is also easy to find, but can be frustrating. On social media, or in conversation, identify a conversation where one or both people are practicing loyalty-based opinions. Again, make some notes to yourself about what was said and what might have been meant without being said. Then think about what each person in the conversation believed to be true based on where the information came from rather than the quality of the information itself.

The third opinion’s going to be the tough one. Take a look at yourself, at some of your deeply held political, philosophical, or personal opinions. The sad truth is, every single one of us has at least one loyalty-based opinion that we hold on to like the hardest facts. The good news is even as you read this you probably know what it is. Think about it. What makes you believe this thing that probably isn’t true, just because it’s in line with an idea or a person you support? How does believing it help your cause? How does supporting something that’s untrue hurt it?

Once you’ve taken a good, long look at all three of those opinions, write some stuff down about what thoughts that look inspired. If you want to write it in a journal you don’t share, that’s perfectly fine. If you want to write a paper and turn it in on testing day, we would love to read it. If you want to blog it for the world to see, just mention us somewhere.

As always, we’re here to help you if you have any questions, concerns, or trouble with any aspect of this assignment.

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