K&B, LLC co-owner and instructor Don Alley is a martial arts, personal protection, and emergency preparedness writer. Many of his articles originally appeared in Examiner.com. As these articles are able to be retrieved from old web caches, they will be posted here.

What makes a martial artist a master?

Originally published 02JAN2011 for Examiner.com

The phrase “martial arts master” evokes a lot of imagery from people. It might be the aged, wrinkled, white haired Asian guy, sternly yelling at anyone for anything. It might be a Caucasian martial artist, a leader in his community who makes the lives of his students more meaningful and fulfilling. It might be the lithe, gritty and battle-scarred warrior of hundreds of tournament matches. It might be the wise, secluded man that sets himself apart from society. They may talk with brief, curt  answers, or long flowery prose about the questions their students ask.

For most, a martial arts master is likely a person who has studied a very long time, and has a deep understanding of their art, all the applications of various moves in their arts, and how their art relates to other arts. People who have done this rarely consider themselves masters. They definitely see themselves as having knowledge and can teach others, but they have a wisdom-based understanding that there is so much they do not know, that they cannot rightly call themselves a master.

Finding such an instructor is a gem, because they will be more focused on their art and their students than what ranks or titles they accumulate for themselves. They seek the betterment of those people who have chosen to walk the path of the martial artist, not to set themselves above others on the path.

Unfortunately, there are many instructors that give this title to themselves. Anyone who calls themselves a martial arts master is a charlatan, businessman, or braggart. The distinction of being martial arts master should be made by history, by their peers who have seen the sum of the instructor’s teachings, the values he’s instilled, and the positive influence he has brought to his students and to the community. Look for the instructor that strives to make the student better than himself, not the one that tries to stay above his students in skill and knowledge.

Then, you will have found a master.

(But he/she won’t admit it.)