Upon entering a traditional school of martial arts, the student encounters numerous rules to follow. Courtesy and etiquette are an important part of the learning process. The masters of old passed down certain processes for future generations to follow. They had a reason for all of them, even though the beginning student may not understand it early on.
An interesting analogy I heard recently compared tradition in the martial arts to the roots of a tree.
Strong roots, combined with the proper amount of sunlight and water, make the tree very strong. This, in turn, makes the trunk, branches, flowers, and seeds strong.
If the roots are the tradition in martial arts then the branches are the numerous styles. The flowers could be compared to the sport and showy side, and the seeds conducive to future generations.
Each part should recognize where it came from: the flower from the branch; the branch from the roots. This insures continuity and is comparable to children, parents, and grandparents.
Grandparents only want the very best for their grandchildren. They will share their lifetime of experience if the grandchild will listen and have respect for this experience.
Great troubles can be avoided and more progress can be made with less time wasted if the student accepts and sincerely follows the guidance and direction of a competent and experienced teacher.
As you age, you become the tradition. The way you value and respect the tradition is exactly how you will be valued and respected when time goes by and you are the old one. By giving in and accepting a meaningful tradition you also insure your place when your children (or students) see you as the grandparent.
Anything without a strong root in tradition will be temporary. If you ignore the importance of tradition and decide to do things your own way thinking you know better, you won’t know what you have lost until it’s too late.
Originally published in December, 2003 under the title “The Importance of Tradition”