These are questions we all need to think deeply on. I can't tell you how many discussions I've been in with other practitioners regarding lineage or credentials, while completely disregarding physical skill and knowledge. In the martial arts community as a whole, we've become too obsessed with paperwork, signatures and names. It's become an ego stroke for people to sit on their high horse because someone else's instructor wasn't as well known as theirs, or somehow their piece of paper (that they probably can't read) means more than someone else's piece of paper. We've become superficial, placing too much value in the "art" of martial arts. We've forgotten what it means to be martial. We've forgotten what it's like to train for survival instead of prestige.
History is important to remember, mostly so that we do not repeat it. Lineage is great if you have it, but does it make you less skilled or less knowledgeable if you don't? We've grown to respect the belt, the paperwork and the rank rather than respecting the practitioner. Yet when we talk about the masters of old, no one ever mentions them because of their lineage. They're remembered for their skill, for their knowledge and wisdom, all of which seems to be a lost concept in our generation.
Coming up through the ranks, we've all heard of the nearly superhuman feats our martial arts forefathers could perform. From Mas Oyama cutting the horns off a bull with his bare hands, to various Chinese masters creating so much energy that their body's begin to steam and their students crowd around them for warmth, it's hard to imagine that we're even the same species as they were. But no one stops to think why. As a society, we've become materialistic and superficial. It's all about what you have, not why you have it. But why did these practitioners train in such a way? Rather than seeking to emulate them. we should be seeking what they sought.
Be proud of who you've trained with, but just because your instructor is world renowned does not make him/her better than someone who teaches part-time and is more than happy to fade into obscurity. And it certainly doesn't mean you've gained some superhuman stature from their legacy. You are human. You have faults and weaknesses. You are flawed. Even the most skilled practitioner in the world can be caught off guard. Tell me how your lineage will protect you when you're flat on your back with someone stomping your head in.
The truth is that it won't. Nothing your instructor does or has can save you. We all have this gang mentality of needing to belong to something larger than ourselves, but why? Is it because you're too insecure to stand alone? If all you have is your paperwork to fall back on, are you truly extraordinary? Without your lineage or your documentation, who are you? Are you defined by those who came before you, or are you you're own practitioner? Can you stand on your own merits without needing to name drop someone you once took a seminar with 30 years ago? Stop standing on everyone else's shoulders and make a name for yourself.
Everyone has become a keyboard warrior, including myself at times, and it needs to end. Life is too short to worry what other people think, or what other people do.
I am me. I create my legacy. Not my instructor, not his instructor. Me. This is my story and I will function in the best way I know how in order to teach and guide my students. From here on out, I will create my own lineage. My students train with me. They don't train with my instructor, or his instructor, or with Minamoto Yoshimitsu from the 12th century. Some Japanese guy who lived 800 years ago won't impart some secret knowledge from the grave that will protect my students. Only their training can do that, and that is with me. The only lineage they need, and all anyone needs, is their direct instructor.
So forget your lineage. Forget your standards and regulations. I will do what I think is right. I will wear what I want and have been given. I will teach what I know. If that makes me a fraud, or if I have "some really weird things going on," feel free to either un-follow my articles or pay me a visit. If you don't like what I'm wearing, come take it off me. My school is 15 minutes from Disney World, make a family vacation out of it. Either way, here is where I stand. Sometimes it takes a reality check to put things in perspective. Domo arigato gozaimasu, Hatfield sensei. Sumi masen.