July 23, 2024



Ethics in the Martial Arts: Concepts and Practices by KJN Ronald W. Stone

Ethics in the Martial Arts: Concepts and Practices by KJN Ronald W. Stone

“The ethical man knows it is wrong to cheat, while the moral man would not cheat.” (Ducky on NCIS)

`When one examines the negative issues surrounding the ethics of today’s martial arts, and one could include such things as:

A) Misrepresent ion of one’s credentials and skills to gain admittance to an organization or to attract students

B) Fraud, whether financial or though some sort of falsification

C) Abusive behavior towards students, relatives, or other members of the martial arts community

D) Illegal activity such as the use or distribution of illegal drugs, sexual improprieties, or drunken behavior such as assault and battery etc.

E) Activities or behavior which brings dishonor privately or publicly to the parent organization

In the past sadly there have been cases of sexual advances in select martial arts schools, brutality towards innocent students or lower ranks, and several other behaviors that have brought shame and disrepute to the martial arts. Some instructors have sold rank or claimed rank from non-recognized institutions, or worse yet have even invented rank.

One such school posted a framed certificate allegedly from the Shaolin Temple establishing credentials for the instructor. This was impressive until someone who spoke Chinese realized it was a framed receipt for imported Chinese fireworks. In another case a Korean instructor proudly referred to his Kukkiwon certificate on the wall of his dojang. Proudly until a Grandmaster fluent in Korean read it for what it really was, namely a framed copy of his Korean army discharge papers.

There is little doubt that these instructors would be considered unethical.

Whoever first said that “one bad apple ruins the barrel” may have been thinking of martial arts instruction in the west. Without a legal or governing body some so called “martial artists” motivated by greed or ego have betrayed the tenants of the traditional martial arts by unscrupulous behavior in the belief, or perhaps true realization, that there would be little to no repercussions.

Sadly, this seems to have been the case as in the west there have been some criminals, deserters, pedophiles, and embezzlers who have escaped their native lands and set up in the west where little is known of their activities, and very few here speak their native language enough to investigate their backgrounds. Some have purchased rank and proceeded to invent new belt rank colors to promote their own status.

With the advent of the international communities uniting though the Internet, and if legitimate parent standards are established and enforced, it is hoped that soon there will in fact be some sort of penalties for such actions.

It has become obvious to many of us that moral character is not something one is born with. It is something that develops in someone due to parental guidance and by an education acquired by following, listening, and learning from those who we respect, such as teachers and mentors. This process, however, means that the role models we follow must themselves be persons of moral fiber and dedication.

It is a known fact that a great majority of alcoholics, abusers and sexual deviants come from families where one or more of the parents have these proclivities. Today the word grooming has arisen to describe the process of altering a child’s mind and behavior to fit a particular deviancy. Those who are righteous, devout, or even merely conservative in their moral outlook are horrified by the idea that such grooming even exists.

Most of today’s parents are worried about what their children may be subjected to in the world outside their homes and the type of education their children might be exposed to. It is a truly a deep concern for most families, and that is where martial arts may play an important role. For the purposes of this discussion when we refer to the martial arts, we will be referring to traditional well-established arts with long standing curriculum and rules and regulations to be enforced.

We are also referring the type of traditional martial arts training that is complete and comprehensive and not competitively driven by aggressive tendencies intended to put winning some sporting match at all costs over a benefit to the practitioner.

Anyone with even a short time in an ethical legitimate dojang quickly learns the tenants of the art. Most of these, whether they be Korean, Japanese Budo or part of Chinese philosophy, refer to things like Honesty, Integrity, and Humility. These are usually repeated until they are ingrained in the student disciple.

Obviously respect for others should be demonstrated daily when the student of the martial arts is expected to bow to higher ranks and those black belts demonstrate their respect by returning the bow even to white belts.

Ethical instructors don’t buy rank, they earn it through years of practice and a daily demonstration of adherence to the art’s tenents. In return, such instructors don’t promote students simply because money is low and they need income, or because the student threatens to leave the dojo if not promoted.

Ethical instructors don’t favor personality over skill, or worse yet, promote a technically skilled but antisocial student over a less skilled but more decent person.

Ethical instructors do not take advantage of their position to proposition parents or worse yet students.

Ethical instructors do not charge more to one family than another for the exact same service merely,

Ethical instructors obviously do not lie, cheat, or steal and one should include exaggerated bragging in this discussion.

Ethical instructors as stated do not post certificates that were fake, purchased, or offered up to the instructor for the sole reason of promoting a new unrecognized organization.

An ethical instructor teaches for love of the art, tradition, and respect, not out of greed or ego.

An ethical instructor does not spread gossip or promote unfounded rumors about a colleague or competitor.

Instead of boasting of achievements, an ethical martial artist should prefer to lean and train more and realize his or her limitations.

Bruce Lee once told martial artists to “Be like water.” Good advice but I would also recommend ET’s advice to Elliott at the end of the movie: “Be good.”

About the author: R.W. Stone is currently a practicing veterinarian in Central Florida. He is an avid horseman, a master ranked martial artist, a best-selling western author, and a firearms enthusiast. After joining a martial arts school in 1970 Stone started studying Yudo with a Korean grandmaster. He eventually became a member of the Judo team of the University of Illinois. It was at the University that a Korean classmate and friend introduced him to Tae Kwon do. After graduating veterinary college, he found the martial arts becoming too sports oriented and eventually after moving from Miami to Central Florida he sought out a Hapkido grandmaster. Currently Stone is ranked 8th dan in Haemukwan Hapkido, 4th dan in Daehan Yudo and a second dan in Kukki Taekwondo. He is the Hapkido instructor at the American Dragon Martial Arts Academies.

Be sure to follow us on social media.