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Wastelander's picture

Loyalty is a touchy subject in the martial arts, and one that has recently become a hot topic of discussion in the organization I'm a part of. I have my own thoughts on loyalty in the martial arts, but I'm curious about what others think. To whom, or what, should a martial artist be loyal? How is that loyalty displayed? How does loyalty change over the course of time? When are you being disloyal?

Ian H
Ian H's picture

I see no one "absolute right answer", rather different answers that can work for different people.  The key is for those in a group to be on the same page in terms of what loyalty means to them.  The biggest problems arise when people are not "on the same page" and one person does something he sees as innocent and acceptable, and the other person takes offence.

That said, I think one can still debate the relative merits of the different approaches.  Generally, I find the extremes at both ends to be less satisfactory.  When the members of the dojo treat each other with mutual respect and civility, an appropriate level of 'loyalty' tends to find its way into the equation anyhow.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

The last but one podcast has a section on Loyalty. It was part of a discussion of Nitobe Inazō's “eight virtues of Bushido”: Righteousness, Courage, Benevolence, Respect, Sincerity, Honour, Loyalty and Self-Control.


The section on loyalty is copied below and I hope it adds something to the thread.

All the best,



To me, this means fulfilling your obligation to the group such that the group of which you are part can thrive. No regard for the collective whole is ultimately problematic because if the group suffers; all the members of the group suffer.

We need to be able to count on people in the same way others know they can count on us. Loyalty is important for both the individual, the group and society.

However, it is important not to confuse loyalty with unthinking slavishness.

Nitobe wrote that, “Bushido did not require us to make our conscience the slave of any lord or king … A man who sacrificed his own conscience to the capricious will or freak or fancy of a sovereign was accorded a low place. Such a person was despised as a cringeling, who makes court by unscrupulous fawning or as a favourite who steals his master's affections by means of servile compliance.

So the loyalty we are taking about is not sycophantic nor does it require us do what we personally feel to be wrong.

A good leader will ask for honesty in order to best serve the group (which is why honesty is pretty much a universal virtue). They will not ask for people to “tow the party line” under the false guise of loyalty. Such false loyalty harms the group.

The individual within the group must also know that if the group takes the wrong direction the group, and all its members, will suffer. So true loyalty to the group can be found in refusing to support the group's consensus / ruling of the leader and going with your own conscious.