As we progress through the martial arts, we accumulate debts...
Peter, I wonder where this idea of "debt" comes from, and I wonder if it's a healthy and constructive POV. Giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin. Teachers would not be teachers without students. And obviously, students give teachers a platform on which the teacher continues to grow and evolve.
Something you might find interesting is GI Gurdjieff's concept of the "three lines" of a school, which evidently comes from the esoteric tradition.
1. Work on oneself. 2. Work for others. 3. Work for the school.
In my studies on nearly any subject I've put a lot of time and energy into--music, cooking, martial arts, etc..-- I'm often in the role of teacher, but ultimately I'm a student. I feel no "debt" to anyone, nor do I feel anyone "owes" me anything.
In fact, the idea of giving something to someone, and expecting something in return, is called a "loaded gift."
I've continued on well past my 10,000 hours in various pursuits, not because of any kind of debt, but from a general love, passion, and inner drive that just doesn't seem to quit.
Giving is the breath out, and receiving is the breath in. Both are aspects of the cycle of the whole. That old yin/yang stuff.
Any time I've been in the presence of a teacher, I've also given them the gift of being their student. And they've given me the gift of being the teacher. In the end, the exchange is as fruitful, or not, based on the attention and energy from both sides. And, of course, the giving and receiving continues long afterwards as both parties progress down their own paths--for years--for lifetimes--to future generations.
I have had students ask me what they could do to repay me. I have always said, "nothing." They give me the gift of their presence and attention. In many ways, they are the ones who are giving. The exchange, in every moment, is equal.
When I've asked some of my teachers something similar, the response has usually been, "pass it on." I was never placed in a position of being indebted to a teacher. I also don't come from a position of "owing" anyone anything. Thereby allowing exchanges and relationships that are unencumbered and free, with no one in a higher or lower position, and no score kept.