Why I Call Him Master! By Bohannon Orr (2016)
Valery Nicholaevich Prosvirov:When I was a young boy, I started watching old-school kung fu movies, mimicking the moves I saw on the screen. Honestly, every martial artist these days probably has a passion story that starts out like this, but my aspect became unique when I began to pay attention to the stories in most of these films. Stories such as Kids from ShaoLin, the Prodigal Son, 36 Chambers and the like all had a common theme – a student under the direct tutelage of a master who had proven his worth before taking on the student. It then became one of my lifelong dreams to train directly under a martial arts master while living in the dojo old-school style, then eventually take a Warrior's World Journey toward enlightenment when I was made ready (like 'Bruce' Leroy Green or Ryu from Street Fighter). I never thought I would actually be living that dream. Yet, here I am, under the tutelage of THE BEST martial artist I've ever known, Grandmaster Valery Prosvirov.
One thing I've encountered incessantly since becoming Master Valery's disciple (from both new acquaintances and old friends) is this question, or some ambiguation of it: “Why does he make you call him Master?” “He obviously treats you like a slave, since you work so hard and don't get paid regularly.” “He's taking advantage of you!” Only in this society, this day and age, where everyone expects to receive their rewards for their actions RIGHT NOW without the time and patience that true discipline warrant, could this statement seem appropriate. Back in the days of the TRUE warriors (not the 10-week war machine program we call Basic U.S. Military Training), men who wished to learn the martial arts would give up most of their fortune, devote hours per day, and in some cases even leave behind a life of affluence to study under masters whose skills had been tested by actual warfare and conflict. These were the masters who fought with hands, feet, and blades as their tools for destruction, as opposed to using anonymity and physics to obliterate their enemies from afar like the cowards that orchestrate war campaigns these days. They fought for real principles; freedom from oppression and tyranny, the physical protection of their land, resources, and families. Not for fame or 'against terrorism'. When I have this question posed to me, I almost feel it is laughable to even entertain with a response. Yet, here I am, responding at will.
First of all, Master Valery doesn't make me do anything. I am not mandated or bound by law to be at this school under his instruction. I choose to be. Every single day I choose to be at the dojo, putting forth my greatest possible effort to attain the level of understanding he has, both of martial arts and life overall. And if I had a fortune to give in order to train under him, the choice would be the same, and just as easy.
Second, I do not feel as if I have to call him 'Master'. He has never once ordered me to address him with that title. He refers to himself as the Headmaster of the school, not master over his students. He trains rigorously every day and exhibits excellence, which is what he demands of his students. His level of discipline and integrity are part and parcel with the school, and he embodies all of the principles of his school through his actions. He has shown me that while many men seek to have dominion over others, the only path to true might is to gain dominion over oneself. This principle allows me to see the truth; TRUE MASTERS do not have slaves. True masters have disciples that they groom for mastery of themselves. When one attains this level of wisdom, displine, and honor, the title is then given to him, and he does not have to quest for it or pursue it. Mastery is more than something you attain; it is something you commit to. It is your everyday actions, the way you speak, the way you treat others. I choose to be under his tutelage because I understand that I must achieve this level of mastery if I am ever to do the things in the world that I am set about doing. Therefore, I don't have to call him Master. I GET to.
Finally, speaking on honor, if someone proves themselves worthy of a title that they don't put upon others to use, isn't it simply respectful to use that title? We never hear of Army wives complaining to their E-5 husbands, “Why do you call him Captain? Doesn't that make you feel subservient?” If a military officer earns the title of Captain, we accept it as an understood fact that this person has put in work, made prudent choices, and shown a level of commitment to their organization that warrants them holding that title. The only reason people see it differently with the title of Master is because of the negative connotation the word has received from people who never should have held the title. When the first 'settlers' came to this country and forcibly took it from its native denizens, they effectively defaulted their ability to use this title. When they opened up the Slave Trade to bring people from their native land to commit to the service of building a new country without giving them rights in this selfsame country, they plummeted even further. Masters do not seek to gain rewards by acts of force or violence, but by discipline, hard work, and cooperation. They do not seek to deny others birth-endowed freedoms for their own gain; rather, they help others to find divine freedom by leading by example and advising when the seeker loses his/her way. MASTERS DO NOT HAVE SLAVES; TYRANTS HAVE SLAVES. MASTERS HAVE DISCIPLES. The acts of the first settlers were the acts of tyrants, which is a perfect illustration of hypocrisy, considering their initial reason for coming to this country (well, the reason that they put in the history books anyway). I could actually understand racism to some degree if the Pilgrims came over, showed the Native Americans a better, more functional system that they then asked to be a part of, and Africans subsequently asked to be a part of it as well. The fact is, they didn't. They came, stole, pillaged, murdered, and subjugated their way to the top of the tier, and celebrated themselves for their brutality. In the case of my Master, he already had immense success before I even met him. His lifelong dedication to his art allowed him to structure two schools on different continents before coming to America as an extraordinary individual with a unique and necessary skill set (that's written on his green card, btw). He built something successful that people see and want to be a part of because of its quality and benefits to those involved. In Bushido, there is a saying, “The path to enlightenment can only be reached through service.” I have seen every day the level of devotion and service Master Valery has for his school and his art. He is synonymous with Kung Fu of Golden Dragon, and lives his truth for others to see every day. And since I want to attain this level one day, I consider it an honor and a privilege to be in his service. Valery Prosvirov, in my eyes, is more than just my master; he is THE MASTER.