Most martial arts programs have a unique culture and religious philosophy derived from their country of origin and founder's beliefs. Via Potentia's culture is different from most martial arts offered today in some interesting ways.
Country of Origin
Via Potentia was created in the United States of America, and in some ways reflects how Americans relate to each other and to their government. First, in Via Potentia we treat each others as equals in human dignity. We do not bow to nor are we obligated to obey each other. Rather, we work together towards the common goal of improving our physical conditions and developing self defense skills.
This is not modeled after an "American" social perspective as much as it is modeled after the practice of some monastic organizations in which all participants are equal "brothers" (or sisters). Though one or more people might lead the organization, it is clearly understood that they are all equals and need to maintain attitudes of humility and service.
Martial arts originating in the east have a different perspective regarding human life, liberty and the relationship to government, and emphasize obedience to government. Though we do not encourage rebellion or antagonism, we are naturally skeptical of government (with very good reason), and do not believe that people exist as its servants or slaves. Rather, government exists for the purpose of defending fundamental human rights, especially those of life, liberty and property. We encourage people to become informed and positively involved in government insofar as they are able and motivated to do so.
Most martial arts are rooted in Eastern religions and philosophies, usually dualistic ones. Via Potentia does not promote nor is it rooted in any particular religion. We do not believe that a martial art, alone, is a sufficient instructor of morals and are skeptical of martial arts that present themselves as such.
However, we do promote seven specific ethics. These are rooted in a philosophical tradition called "natural law" dating back a couple thousand years. We share many values with other martial arts, but ours and their articulation is much more likely to be compatible with monotheistic religions.
(In the interest of full-disclosure, the founder of Via Potentia is Catholic.)
All human organizations require some kind of hierarchy. Via Potentia's is rather flat. Each school is, effectively, a group of members all having equal dignity, led by one or more instructors, who are organized by an administrator (who is likely the lead instructor). The schools are relatively independent, but instructors have a relationship with either a nearby master (peritus) or the head school, which provides assistance and patronus exams.
There may be different ranks in the class, but these reflect tests passed and skills demonstrated, not authority over other people.
There is nothing wrong with outward acts of self discipline, but we are not strict about uniforms, lining up, standing at attention, and the like. True respect and humility is found in and springs from the heart.
We do have Latin terms that refer to the different levels of participation, but we actually don't use them much:
- Discipulus Inceptor: Beginning Student
- Discipulus Intermedior: Intermediate Student
- Discipulus Ultimum: Advanced Student
- Patronus: Protector or defender -- someone who has completed the complete curriculum and is a full member
- Magister: Instructor
- Peritus: Master
- Rector: Head Administrator of Via Potentia
It usually takes at least three years to make it to patronus.
"Master" is a common term in martial arts. In our use it has nothing to do with mastery over others -- no one here is your "master," but your servant. When someone receives the title of peritus (master) we mean that he has demonstrated mastery of the Via Potentia program and philosophy.
Via Potentia does not exist for the purpose of extracting money from its members and transferring it to the owners or organization. Rather, it exists to promote virtue, a healthy lifestyle, and to help people develop effective self defense principles. Profitability is ultimately necessary, but it is secondary. Therefore, we do not engage in the gimmicks found in most martial arts, like test fees, multiplication of belts, long-term obligatory financial contracts, and we do not push equipment and uniforms on the members.
Via Potentia exists to serve others, and so we do not mind adapting the curriculum to people's needs. When we see a way of improving the program, we will do so.
We do not believe that Via Potentia is intrinsically better or worse than any other martial art. We might be more informed and honest about what we are doing, but the truth is that Via Potentia is very general. Other martial arts will exceed us insofar as they focus on training in areas where we provide only basic training. On the other hand, our members will have very well-rounded, practical skill sets and excellent general conditioning.