Lineage Matters!

Get the most from your training

by James Eke

In the martial arts these days people seem to forget just how important lineage is in their training.

When we are looking for a martial arts school to train at we really need to do our due diligence in finding out everything that we can about the school, the systems and the instructors. Invest for success — both with our dollars and with our time.

Most of us wouldn’t take our cars to be repaired from someone who taught themselves from the internet. We wouldn’t go to a doctor who didn’t attend a decent school and knew what they were talking about. We don’t go to the barber to get a tooth pulled.

The same too should go for the martial arts — or anything.

We need to ask ourselves where the person we are devoting so much time and effort to learn a martial art from got or is getting their education, direction and mentoring from. Are they still actively training? Are they devoting themselves to get the highest level of martial art education that they can get? Are they investing in themselves so that they are investing in their school and their students?

Let’s be honest, martial arts is hard work, it is effort, it is sacrifice, loyalty and dedication — for a long time. It doesn’t end. Doesn’t it make sense to put all of this hard work behind efforts and people that make sense?

Any decent educator understand that they need to continue to seek out and be dedicated to learning first and this learning needs to come from the best that they can find.

Yes, this devotion to research and development takes time and investment. It means life-long learning. It also means an acceptance that you, the teacher, are simply and forever a student.

The easiest thing is to give in to your own ego and believe that you have all the answers. That you don’t need to spend any more time learning. That you deserve…something. This is egotistical, backwards and wrong. Worst of all it sets your students up for failure.

Picture yourself training for years in Bob’s Big McDojo of Martial Arts Awesomeness and you decide you want to teach. The problem is that Sensei Bob didn’t care too much about lineage or who he trained under or devoting himself to getting the best from his own training and as a result has no lineage to pass on. He trained with Sensei Bill and they don’t really get together anymore or maybe he paid some money and got a certificate and it means about as much as the frame he picked up for it from the dollar store.

Even though this student who spent years at the art, loves training and really wants to teach has all the best intentions, he unfortunately learned how to pull teeth from the barber instead of going to a good university, doing the work required, getting himself into a decent dentistry school and truly understands his craft from a line of similarly well educated people.

The martial arts are incredible. They are powerful and change our lives for the best.

In today’s world there are so many opportunities for training that didn’t exist even a few decades ago. Your martial arts school should reflect that — it should have instructors and leaders who are invested not just in building a business but in building a community and of fostering the very best in everyone who trains there. This starts at the top. Every martial arts instructor owes it to their students to devote themselves to learning from the very best, to putting effort in their own martial arts education, to doing the work that is required.

Unfortunately in this day and age there is always someone out there that will sell you anything. We need to understand the true meaning of caveat emptor — buyer beware — that the buyer assumes the risk that a product may fail to meet expectations or have defects. Don’t let these defects be what you are investing your time, your efforts and your love in.

So what does this all mean? Simply that we need to have eyes wide open to what we do and who it is that we are doing it with.

If we teach, we have to learn. We have to grow. We have to lead by example. We have to inspire our students to rise above and take risks and grow alongside other amazing people.

If we are students (and we all are), we have to seek out the very best that we can find. It means hard work. It means investing time, money and effort and an understanding that lineage — the people we train with and the places we train at actually matter. A lot.

You can train at Bob’s Big McDojo of Martial Arts Awesomeness if you want. You can get your teeth pulled by Joe, the neighbourhood barber. You can get open-heart surgery from someone who bought their degree online. It is your life. Do as you wish. For myself however, I want to learn, grow, be amazed, be inspired, feel blessed, humbled, honoured and at times overwhelmed. Training under and with amazing people, the best that you can find does that. And when the best that you can find smile at you, nod their head and acknowledge the work you have done (and have yet to do) it means the world. That certificate, that rank, that belt, that honour means the world because you know who it came from and what that really means.

Be the best that you can be. Train with the best. Realize that lineage matters. Realize that hard work matters.

Work hard.

Have fun.

Be humble.

Keep going!

James Eke is the chief instructor of the Eke Academy of Martial Arts. He has been training in the martial arts for over 36 years, has black belts and/or teaching certifications in eight martial arts and has trained in many others. He counts himself very lucky to be a student under legendary martial artists, Guro Dan Inosanto (studying and certified to teach: Jeet Kune Do, Kali, Maphilindo Silat and Madjapahit Martial Arts) and Professors Jean Jacques Machado and Jay Zeballos (of the Jean Jacques Machado Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Association); all of whom he trains with throughout the year.
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