The question “What does it mean to be a disciple? To live as a disciple?” is one I have not seen often asked. I have become a formal disciple under different master’s at different times in my life and it to me means a great deal.
It means leaving the realm of being a hobbyist in the art and instead taking on responsibilities to represent it, nurture it and try to pass it on to others. My first Master to take me on formally asked me to take an oath to complete my training with him, represent the art well, help others with what I have learned, always remain a student, and replace myself in the lineage. Alongside all this came the indoor training I was provided not only in the martial art but the traditions and culture of the art itself. Various traditions I was asked to uphold I have even when it has been difficult or distasteful. But in return I have made the time to steep myself in the tea of training for years and reaped the many benefits that do not seem apparent at first. Knowing that I have kept my promises brings me a feeling of self reliance and confidence and helps me move forward working to learn more all the time.
It is not for everybody, guaranteed. It is an antiquated ritual, with old values and promises that do not necessarily fit into todays world. But truth be told, I would rather not fit in anyway. Discipleship is a way to keep the arts moving forward in the way they always have, avoiding hobbyists calling themselves ‘masters’ and keeping pieces of the art from dying, even they are meant to be kept ‘indoors’. I suspect though that the amount of people willing to take on such promises and live up to them is waning considerably.