The Keppan (Blood Oath)
August 14, 2009 · 11:00am EST · Posted by Fujiyama Dojo
Fujiyama Dojo
P.O. Box 20003
Thorold, ON, Canada
L2V 5B3
(905) 680-6389
A blood oath or keppan in current times may sound absurd to many individuals, unnecessarily ritualistic to others, but to those familiar with the history and traditions of classical martial arts, this would not be the case.

The keppan was, and is, used to protect the sacred right of succession in the instruction of the techniques of every art, to be able to control to whom and how those techniques are passed on. They were jealously guarded for many years, and should remain so.

In today's "self-assuming, self-deserving" type of society, we will undoubtedly find the common scorner, incapable of comprehending the sanctity of an honour oath and will be more than willing to betray it at the whim of his own judgment.

The custom of admitting someone into a dojo only by another pupil's recommendation enabled the teacher to find an "aid" or a helper for the newcomer, someone who should be responsible for his attitude. The keppan was almost a binding contract, reaffirming this condition.

Today, the recommending student would not be blamed directly for the other's faults, unless under specific circumstances. So the keppan becomes a symbol of honour and loyalty between Sensei and student to some degree, but basically between the student and him or herself Even if there is a betrayal of it, that nobody ever knew of the student knows, and so he or she would have set his/ her own "worth". The worth of an individual is more accurately measured virtues eagerly shown, which are at best irrelevant. The importance that the student places on the keppan tells us also if he or she is worthy of learning the art. Only those ones who understand honour are deserving of trust.

The promises in the keppan are:

1) I shall not dishonour the dojo.
2) I shall not tell or show the techniques I have been taught to anyone without authorization.
3) I shall never teach the art without authorization.
4) I shall never speak ill of any member of our dojo, and honour my teachers.
5) First as a pupil, later as a teacher, I shall always obey the rules of the dojo and conduct myself in honourable ways.

Teachers may not always be able to know what each student says outside the dojo walls about the art and its ancient traditions, such as the keppan, but it makes no difference, since out of the fullness for the heart the mouth speaks. Each student will be able to define him/herself by their words and their feelings. The true student will speak with respect; the hypocritical one will mock it.

The thumbprint left as a signature becomes a silent testimony to the nature of the spirit, principles and values of each student that will speak directly to themselves. Those whose blood runs as thin as their honour will probably not frame the document, but will keep it well hidden, or will toss it away with the same ease that they break their word. The truth as always lies within.


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