Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

It has been observed that many students of masters (whether martial arts or spiritual traditions) have an inclination to be over-zealous in their loyalty and devotion to their masters.  

While it is good to be loyal to one's instructor, school, tradition.  However,  one's devotion and loyalty  should always be tempered with integrity, reason, and morality.

Many over-zealous students sometimes had learnt important and crucial martial skills and principles from masters who are not their 'principal masters' of choice.  However, they often failed to acknowledge the very important contribution of masters who are not their 'principal masters'. 

One thing that I learnt from the late Punong Guro Edgar Sulite (founder of Lameco Eskrima) is that we should give credit where credit is due.   Punong Guro Sulite told me many times how he admired Guro Dan Inosanto as a person of integrity.   He told me that Guro Dan has such a fantastic memory.   Even after learning from so many dozens of masters and styles and substyles (including from Edgar himself),   he remembers all the variations of techniques and can remember who taught him which variations of the technics.  He would attribute the variations to the master he learnt it from.   Edgar said he copied that behaviour from Dan in all his seminars after that.   I witnessed it myself when I visited him and accompanied him in his seminars.   "This is from XXX"   "XXX taught me this"    "XXXX showed me how to do this"     "This is from XXXX"   "XXX likes this technique"   "This is the trademark of XXX"    "This is XXX, and this is YYY,  and this is ZZZ"    I was very happy to see this change in Punong Guro Edgar Sulite

I have observed that some people who join a martial arts class sometimes hide their background and associations with other styles and even existing masters,   some of whom are very well known and famous names around.   However,  this sort of 'secrets' are not easy to keep for long,  and the truth will eventually be revealed sooner or later,  because the martial arts world is not that big!   These sort of students will usually not last too long in the class because the initial motive for learning is not so much to learn and develop oneself,   but more to pinch from another art to combine it within your art on the quiet without giving any due credits.   They are the “pinch and leave” and “we had this in our own system but never exposed it  types.

From discussions with some teachers,  I have been told that many of such students,  when first joined a class,  have some difficulty in performing the moves initially.   They were still awkward because they are not yet familiar with the moves.  In other words,  the moves are reasonably new to them!  After a while,  after they have began to move properly,   they eventually start making suggestions that  'who-and-who' (usually a well known name,  or,  their previous teacher,  or,  their ‘grandfather’)  who taught them whatever style,  taught them to move that way.   From experience,  the moment they start talking like that,  their departure from your school is imminent. 

I,  myself,  have also noticed this.   Once,  I brought my son in to act as my assistant.  A private student showing me the art that he learnt from his previous teacher.  Since the footwork of the student was clearly inefficient,  I told him straight away that he or his teacher would die in a real situation.   To Kalis Ilustrisimo,  this footwork would end in disaster.   I took great pains to correct the footwork.   A few months later,   when he was happily practising the footwork we taught him,   he remarked that his previous master moved like that and taught him that!    It was always in the art,  but was kept a secret and only taught to a few insiders.   Opps!    I would surely remember that I taught him that footwork because it was so irritating to watch his previous footwork.   Now that he has mastered it,   he says that it was with him all along.   Thank you!   
*  If that were so,   I would not have taken great pains to correct him in the first place!   
*  If he always had it,  why is that he did not know it when I first taught it?  
*  Why is that he can not execute that move properly when he started with me? 
*  Why is that he executed moves that were contradictory in principal to the moves

    I taught?

When such students mumble this sort of remarks,  it is the omen that they will go back to their old style and master soon.  And will never admit to anybody they have learnt from the source.  

Many other teachers have told me similar stories. 

It is dishonesty and lack of integrity,   and not having a good motive.  

Whatever art your main style and whoever is your main teacher,  that is not an issue.   The real issues are:- 

*  your dishonesty and lack of integrity.  

*  not giving credit where credit is due. 


Hence this article.  I urge all martial artists to try to give credit where credit is due.  

This is a form of respect and appreciation for the knowledge and skills we have acquired from the teacher.  It would really please all teachers if they knew their students are good people who respect and appreciate them.   THANK YOU!!!!!



Written by John Chow,  a TCM practitioner, masseur, healer, martial arts and spiritual teacher.