What Do We Really Value in the Martial Arts?

There are many things we value in life. It’s sometimes difficult to get people to agree about which are worthwhile and which aren’t. What we value can be defined by the needs we have, what stage of life we are in, as well as how and where we grow up. A child may value a certain toy or playing a certain game that he or she may not value at a later stage in life. Our values change according to what we desire and where we are in our lives. Values also come from where we live and what our beliefs are. They come from the many influences in our lives — our family, friends and teachers.

Many values about life and what part the martial arts play have come from you, the teachers of the martial arts. We hold a great responsibility in the lives of our young students. They look up to us for guidance in understanding and getting along on a daily basis.

Many people value money, fame, power and prestige. This is not all bad. Money is the lifeblood of commercialism, and having enough of it can provide a great sense of freedom. A little “fame” is good when someone recognizes something we’ve done that has helped them, or improved their lives in some way. For me personally, this happens when someone tells me how much he or she has enjoyed my books or programs. Real power is good too. By real power I mean having the clarity of mind and the strength of character to live a life that is intelligent and kind. But these conventional values can be misused and abused, and there’s no one alive today who has not seen this happen.

But is there more to what we value in the martial arts and in life that we want to teach our students? Are there “universal values” that have nothing to do with the conventional dominance we give to money, fame and power? It seems to me that there are, and that is why the martial ARTS are truly more than just a means for the enhancement of conventional values. What the martial arts has, like no other endeavor in young people’s lives, is a Code of Conduct that helps them to define a life worth living that goes beyond fame and fortune.

What is this unique Code of Conduct that can give a child a road map for life? Is it important enough to teach as the foundation of all martial arts — beyond the teaching of self-defense or the sport of the martial arts? Does this Code offer our children a foundation that no other endeavor in a child’s life can offer? I believe the answer to these questions is “Yes.”

As I have said time and again, the most important goal or value in the martial arts is to understand and resolve conflict peacefully. This was the primary intent of the original martial arts long ago and should be the guiding factor of the martial arts taught in the 21 Century. Everything else we do in the martial arts follows from this basic intent to create a total Code of Conduct for sane and intelligent living. In other words we need to teach:

  • Courtesy – Acting In ways that are well mannered and considerate
  • Gentleness – Living with affection and compassion
  • Honesty – Being truthful
  • Humility – Acting without self-importance
  • Intelligence – Understanding what prevents peace
  • Kindness – Caring for others, as we would like to be cared for
  • Order – Being aware of what creates disorder
  • Responsibility – Meeting life’s challenges with a brave spirit
  • Wisdom – Living without fear
  • Courage and Commitment – Fighting Injustice
  • Respect – Honoring the dignity of all life
  • Love – Living the Martial Arts Code of Conduct

Creating a program that teaches this Code of Conduct is the true intent of the martial arts. This is how we give our children the greatest value — peace. The key lies not in what we say, for words are easy, but in actually how we live, not as hypocrites but as fallible human beings aspiring to be great.