Authority vs. Authoritah

So I was thinking about an element that I’ve witnessed in the teachers and instructors that I look up to. It’s the idea of authority. We all strive for authority in what we do and how we live our lives. Now there are different specific definitions of authority, but I’m mostly referring to it in the sense of truly grasping a subject, material, information, or understanding in a way that makes it truly yours. This level of internalization is always the goal since it is only through this process that the full extent of an individual’s potential can be used to inform and enrich the information. Once it is filtered through that person’s experience and personal makeup, the information takes on a whole new life. It becomes something new that potentially offers access to a whole new demographic or group of people. This is very important and one of the best reasons for the free flowing exchange of information as well as the cultivation of honest and caring instructors. The more people out there doing their best to present existing information in a new or more efficient way, the more people have the ability to benefit from that material. One of the most impressive expressions of true authority I’ve seen is when the person wielding it has absolutely no feelings of possession or entitlement. There is no sense of mastery which would put them beyond the human experience and into inscrutability. Their desire is to provide others with the opportunity to internalize the understanding and further share it with more people. This is a very wonderful thing to see in an authority figure of any type. When proficiency and understanding become personalized it grounds people even more deeply to the common experience that we all share as people. This aspect is a hallmark of really great instructors. They can command real authority and all the respect that comes with it, but in a way that is totally organic and maintains genuine accessibility for those learning from them.

Now what about Authoritah? I feel like this is what happens when a person mistakes true authority with control. Authoritah is power and consequence dispensed on others in a way that is artificial and self-serving. The person who wants to be in a position of power in order to exert control over all the external elements in their life because they have so little control over the internal elements. As smarter people than me have pointed out; certain fields including martial arts, combatives, and especially self-defense training are fertile grounds for corruption and leveraging of authoritah. By virtue of their nature and application certain activities lack the opportunity to persistently demonstrate real world efficacy. Many practices like defensive training are basically impossible to fully acid test without risking permanent detriment to future training and study. This lack of accountability is the perfect safety net for individuals seeking a forum to exercise their authoritah without any consequences for ignorance, willful or otherwise.

The only real antidote to the pursuit and abuse of authoritah in any field is education and proliferation of individuals with true authority who actively share it with others. The greater our collective authority is as people, the greater our potential for advancement and improvement of life in general. This puts a great deal of consequence on those who would presume to seek authority on anything, but especially authority in the fields of little to no accountability. To teach in these areas implicates a deep level of personal accountability, and requires those who do it to maintain a ruthless level of honesty and divorce from emotional attachment to their pursuit of authority. Sharing and fostering growth in others is among the best things people can do for themselves. It’s ultimately a selfish and altruistic endeavor all at once. And really, what’s better than helping other people and helping yourself at the same time? However it does require embracing a sense of community, and if identity and personal motivations begin to guide a practitioner’s choices, they are at great risk of losing themselves in the scramble for authoritah.