Teaching the Pillars of Martial Arts
on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments
by Jeremy M. Talbott
Honor (on-er) n. Honesty, fairness, or integrity in one’s beliefs and actions
Integrity (in-teg-ri-tee) n. Adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty
These two words are the major pillars of martial arts. Without them we are nothing more than a bunch of thugs with fighting skills. However it is ironic that even though these two items are so important in the martial arts, we rarely see a class about them. Sure they are talked about or mentioned in passing, but they are seldom taught as a specific lesson. So after pondering this for a bit, I would like to try and communicate possible ways of teaching these two items.
Let’s start with honor, and when we go through this exercise use the definition above in order to shape your answers and opinions. Would you say an instructor—who has practiced martial arts for a long time and now claims to be a tenth-dan in a style that he or she does not teach or have any real affiliation with and now flaunts the title Hanshi or Grandmaster—is honorable? What if an organization comes around and promotes an individual to a high rank in an art that they are not affiliated with, doing the promotion strictly for political reasons, is that an honorable organization?
Now take the exact opposite of that. What do you think of an instructor, who was legitimately promoted to a master position within an art he was associated with, and only allows himself or herself to be referred to as Sensei or Sabumnim and refuses to be called Master, Shihan or Grandmaster? Is that person reflecting honor? What if an organization promotes someone to a high rank based on a board of review from someone’s peers or an outside examination board, is that organization honorable?
There really isn’t any right or wrong answer because we have to look at the last part of the definition: “one’s beliefs and actions.” You see there are plenty of people who would think the first example is fine while others may not. It is strictly based on your own moral system. When teaching this lesson you must make sure that you leave it open ended so that the student can discover on their own—sometimes that is the best lesson of all. As Forest Gump might say, honor is as honor does.
So let’s move on to integrity. Integrity is a bit simpler in nature since, for the majority, we all subscribe to common morals of not stealing, not lying, not killing, etc., regardless of our upbringing. So when you have someone spread rumors about another or speak ill of them behind their back how much integrity do you believe that person would have? Would you say that person would have more integrity if they were brave enough to at least confront the person of who they are spreading the rumors about or talking ill about? Some would say so while others would say it is best never to talk ill or spread rumors in the first place.
You will find that most people who have no integrity or very little integrity are really cowards trying to supplement their shortcomings and one of the ways they do this is by perpetuating rumors. It is sad that even in martial arts there are those who call themselves Master, Grandmaster, Hanshi and Shihan, yet display no integrity at all by doing such things.
As instructors, our first way of teaching this is definitely by example. However, we should be mindful to directly address the topics of honor and integrity and not just in passing. As students, we should listen close to those lessons, even if they are in passing, but moreover we must implement them into our everyday life. It can be as simple as walking away from someone telling you a rumor to something more involved like helping with a charitable event. As an instructor you should challenge your students, or if you are a student challenge yourself to try and find ways to exercise your honor and your integrity. Sometimes one act of random kindness can be felt all over the world.