Loyalty is a word commonly used in martial arts. It is often included in the "tenants" of the art being taught or in the creed of the school. Unfortunately it is not always used correctly. The concept of loyalty is often confused with ideas far more restrictive, and in some cases sinister, than its true meaning.
The concept of loyalty has nothing to do with being subservient or blindly following the direction of an instructor or other "personality". Loyalty is a two-way path of support based on integrity and gratitude. Loyalty can be perverted by some martial arts schools to look more like the example of the "Cobra Kai" from the movie The Karate Kid. The instructor in the movie demanded a form of loyalty from his students that required they follow his commands without question. In his version of "loyalty" all the instructor cared about was his own "reputation" as a fighter and "winning instructor". This focus led to misfortune for his students and his own destruction. True loyalty leads the to follow an instructor who shows honest care for their well being. A good martial arts instructor works to demonstrate integrity and a deep gratitude for the opportunity to teach someone what they know while the student strives to demonstrate those lessons in their life and gratitude for the time and care the instructor pours into them.
Loyalty is not a sign of weakness of mind or spirit, instead it gives us power far beyond our own natural abilities. In the example of the "Cobra Kai" style of loyalty the instructor attempts to use loyalty to "brainwash" his students. Instead of using loyalty to create inspiration he uses it as a form of control. Ultimately this effort leads to failure, he and his students miss achieving their goals. Real loyalty should act as a catalyst towards success.
Martial arts training teaches us what real loyalty looks like and the impact it can have in our lives. Loyalty reveals our love for one another and our trust in each other, it creates deeper and more meaningful relationships that can positively impact our lives. During our training we forge friendships that can last a lifetime, providing us a support system that can see us through even the toughest of times. When we train diligently we learn to avoid "Cobra Kai loyalty" and to seek the type of loyalty and trust in our friends that allows us to succeed in every aspect of life. Finally, when we experience "success through loyal support" we understand that we must ask ourselves "Who's shoulders am I standing on right now?" True loyalty gives us all the power to "stand on the shoulders of giants"!