Martial Art’s Ethics


Doc-Fai Wong

In martial arts there is physical training to make us strong and skilled and there is oral tradition to train our minds and hearts.  We call this ethical training Wu De in Mandarin or Mo Duk in Cantonese.  I suggest to all martial artists that they should follow the oral teaching from their instructors.  Here are some Dos and some Don’ts which were taught to me by my sifus. 

The Dos: 

1. You must pay respect to all your past masters.

Without the past masters, there would be no knowledge for you today.  If you pay respect to them, your students and their students will remember you in the future and do the same for you.  During your teaching hours, please speak respectfully in front of all your students about your past masters.  In our schools, we always bow to the past masters to begin the classes. 

2. You must pay respect to your sifu or instructor.

Your teacher or sifu is the one who trained you to become a successful martial artist, without him or her, you would not have any martial arts knowledge or ability.  When you become skilled in your art, you might sometimes think you are better than your teacher but you should be more thankful to him or her.  A teacher is someone who is skilled at training students to be the best they can be and enjoys the fact that his students might surpass his skill level. You should not disrespect your teacher because you can jump higher or kick faster because he gave you that skill.  If you disrespect your teacher your students will do the same to you.  A teacher who doesn’t want their students better than he [is] is not a good teacher.  

3. You must pay respect to your parents.

Your parents were the ones who raised you and gave you an education.  They worked very hard to get you going in life.  Without them you would not have had a chance to train in the martial arts regardless of whether they supported your training or not. You must pay respect to them and set good examples for your children. 

4. You must respect other martial art instructors and their systems or styles. 

There is no such thing as the best master or the best style.  There are many great martial artists and most all martial systems offer positive training and values to students.  If you respect them, they will respect you too.  

The Don’ts:

1. Do not use your martial arts to take advantage or bully someone.

Martial arts are for health and self defense.  At one time in southern China martial arts were for patriotic fighting for the anti Manchurian revolution.  The traditional Shaolin teaching is states that you must never use your martial art skills to do illegal affairs or business such as extortion and etc.  

2. Do not injure someone with your martial art’s power unless it is for self defense.

You must learn to control you temper, don’t get angry and hit someone to injure them.  Your martial art’s training teaches you patience and gives you strength and you sometimes don't realize how powerful it is.  You can kill someone with a single blow. 

3. Do not intentionally injure your classmates during workout or training time.

Some people want to try their martial arts skill and apply it during class sparring.  This is very dangerous.  Your opponent is controlling himself and you are not, someone is going to be injured.  Make sure you don’t do this.  This is the worst example of bad morals in martial arts practice. 

4. Do not speak disrespectfully of anyone or their martial arts system.

Respecting other systems of martial arts is one of the most important martial artist's ethics that you have to practice and teach the students in your school.  If you don’t have anything good to say about another martial artist, just don’t say anything.  It is not necessary to praise others, but make sure no negative words come out of your mouth. There is no need for you to chop off someone's head to make you look taller.  I know many schools are teaching this principle in their schools. But from time to time you have new students and new trained instructors, who might forget about this teaching.  It’s your duty as the head instructor to keep teaching them.  Especially if you are engaged in business competition between your school and the other martial arts school down the street, make sure to teach your students not to physically or verbally attack their students or threaten them. If they say bad thing about you, it’s better for you to find a way to handle it in a non violent situation.  You don't want  other martial art schools to have something against your reputation.  Everyone is always excited about what they have in their martial arts system and their school.    When you are marketing your school or system, you can say lots good things about what you are offering, but there is no need for you to mention the competitor’s name and style openly in the public or in any publications.  You must train hard and show good martial art skills to keep yourself ahead of your competitors.  Violence and slander won't do any good for anyone’s business.