There are a number of Japanese words that have found their way into the American vernacular through the martial arts. One of the concepts that were universally accepted during the early days of the martial arts seems to have disappeared in the modern practice of the arts in the western world. The word I refer to is giri. Loosely translated it means duty but actually it can’t be translated into just one word. It has too many layers of meaning for that. The word was used during the days of the Japanese samurai. It meant fealty or fidelity. It expressed total loyalty to ones lord, superior or leader. But then again, as it applies to the martial arts there are other more subtle layers to the word, several of which I would like to explore. I would like to speak briefly on authority, responsibility, ownership and respect. All of these are implied by what giri expresses in the martial arts.
I have learned much since I inherited the leadership of the Black Dragon Fighting Society. Formally my title is ‘Head of Family’ which implies much more to me than would the title of ‘Senior Grand Master’. I am referred to as both but in my mind the former is a heavier responsibility to bear. In a family the head is the father. I am not old enough to be a father to many of the members in the organization. Some are older than me and some senior to me in the martial arts. I bow in respect to those individuals but somehow the role of leadership has fallen on me. Probably not because I am the best person for the job but because of my position in the lineage of our founder and my rare position as the last actual member of the BDFS still active in the organization. I don’t take this position or its duties lightly. I am totally dedicated to the organization and its membership. It is my duty and more than that it is a labor of love. I honor and respect every member from the lowest to the highest rank. I am in effect placed in a position of servitude because I am responsible for the well being of the organization. In the end being a leader means being a servant. The greatest lesson that I have learned is that authority must be assumed. A position can be bestowed upon an individual but he has to step into the authority that it implies. I still have much to learn but I have to learn in the saddle.
Responsibility is another layer that is implied by the word giri. The Black Dragons has grown into a rather large organization and it is still growing in both size and influence. As a leader I can’t keep an eye on every member. I wouldn’t even if I could. I depend on the loyalty and integrity of each member to govern his actions and to be responsible for his conduct. I have found that the BDFS has become too big for one person to govern every aspect of its operation. Therefore authority is delegated in various aspects of the operation of the organization. Those placed in those positions will hopefully be able to operate in his position without constant supervision. I don’t believe in micromanaging. If I assign or offer a position to an individual it is because I feel that he or she can be trusted to do the job asked of him without my continual input. That means that such an individual fully accepts the responsibility of his office and operates faithfully in it.
Each of us must learn to take ownership. This is our organization. It wasn’t Count Dante’s organization or Dr. Day’s organization and it certainly isn’t my organization. Each of the leaders of the BDFS has been and is a small part of the overall organization. My position, though more visible is no more a position than is that of the newest member. We are the members of one family. Each has his place and each place is important. Leadership is important but there can be no organization without the rank and file of the membership. As we grow we don’t want to lose sight of the individual. We are all important and each of us has a part to play. I am asking each member in the BDFS to make it a priority. It doesn’t have to be THE priority in your lives but it should hold enough importance to each of us that we are willing to take some ownership in its growth and its wellbeing.
Lastly I would like to remind us of the need for mutual respect within the organization and the martial arts in general. We are fighters and warriors. Each of us has the ability to do great good or great harm. Like the samurai who was governed by the code of bushido we must have and display mutual respect. That means that we must respect our peers, our seniors and our leadership. Our loyalty should be to our family, our organization and our leadership. I ask each member to support those who labor in the day to day operation of our organization. Let giri guide you in your loyalty to the organization and its heads. Lastly I ask for your confidence and your support. If any of you have concerns or suggestions I am very approachable. As the HOF of the organization I serve you. You are my priority. I am dedicated to the Black Dragons and its success and its position in the martial art world but along with that I am dedicated to our membership. You are my martial art family.
My love, honor and respect to each of you. I ask God’s richest blessings on our family.
Rev. Dr. Donald Miskel