Ethics in Martial Arts
When we talk about a good martial artist having high ethics, or displaying ethical behavior, what do we mean?
Ethics can be described as a high level of socially conscious behavior which embodies the spirit of martial arts. It involves the ability of a martial artist to incorporate their body and mind, not just in their ability to focus on a technique, but also to guide their everyday actions and judgement. It is the manner in which one behaves righteously in both word and action. Ethics should be an integral part of the study of any martial art, setting the moral guidelines for all practitioners of that art, from the beginning students to the Grandmaster. Ethics and ethical principles stem from the traditional and cultural elements of a martial art, whilst taking into account modern society and its laws. Of major importance is the concept of nonviolence, respect and courtesy for others, loyalty to one’s family, friends and country, and the tolerance of those who have differing ideologies. Many instructors constantly preach ethics to their students, when often the best way to transfer these values is when the student can observe it in their own instructor’s deeds. Making students memorize the tenets of taekwondo or a student oath for the purpose of ceremony or testing does little for their development of these social principles if they are not demonstrated by example. Ethical behavior and principles cannot be forced upon someone in a short time; good ethics must be cultivated with leadership bringing about a long-term change in thinking and lifestyle. A proficient exponent of martial arts should not only be a superior athlete, highly competent in combat, but also an upstanding citizen of their community, with high moral and social virtues. It should be the goal of any instructors to develop not only great practitioners and ambassadors of their particular style, but also people of high upstanding character. The ability to kick, punch, sweep, throw, use weapons are all forms of combat, involving physical skills which do not necessarily require one to be a martial artist in order to perform. Naturally however, a well-trained exponent will perform them better, if taught effectively, you would expect. Most martial arts organizations have their school rules, or a Code of Conduct, which provide behavioral guidelines and expectations of its members. But what about the instructors and the more senior ranks within those organizations, who often create these rules, what guides them? As an instructor, the easiest thing to teach are the physical aspects of the art, as most good instructors can perform and students can imitate. It is much more challenging to be able to provide students with a living model of high ethics and upstanding integrity, both inside and outside the dojang, over a long period of time.