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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Martial Arts and Morality

Can you be a martial arts master without first mastering the art of being a decent human being? Any traditional martial art has a code of ethics for its practitioners to follow. Students and Masters followed a code of conduct usually based on humility, respect for others, compassion and integrity. Shaolin monks saw their Gongfu as a way to acheive enlightenment (wu-chan). A way to enhance their spiritual practice of Chan Buddhism. Most if not all traditional martial arts have their practitioners follow a moral code. Morality and martial arts seemed to be intertwined, by practicing the latter you seemed to gain a better understanding of the former. You could not be a martial arts student without being a decent human being. There was so much emphasis on this that students would first be put through a trial to test their integrity before ever being taught a punch or a kick. Masters would make students do chores for several years before judging them worthy to receive their teachings. Today the only requirement to studying an art is the ability to pay the instructor a membership fee. Students will receive lessons of morality when they receive the oral history of their art and learn the traditions from their instructors, but the emphasis is not as strong.

One of our Senior Master's with whom our school was affiliated with was accused of a heinous crime. He was accused of sexual assault and harrassment. My instructor made a decision and wanted to break free from our school's affiliation and even brought this to the attention of our Grandmaster. The Senior Master in question pled guilty to a lesser charge and lied to our Grandmaster about our instructor as retaliation for trying to break away and now our Grandmaster has severed ties with our school. Any diligent investigation would exonerate my instructor but I think it was more about politics and revenue than it was about doing what was right. Most of the students at my school including myself have vowed to continue training with our current instructor as we cannot honestly be affiliated with a Master who obviously would violate the very principles of Shao-lin Kung-Fu. I have studied at my school for almost 7 years and this whole debacle made me want to quit altogether. Shaolin at its root is based on Chan Buddhism. Buddhism preaches the eight-fold path of right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration. This master violated every precept and violated the trust of the students he was supposed to lead as a teacher of the way. Martial training is supposed to bring enlightenment. It is supposed to help us not to combat others, but to uproot that which is not right within ourselves. Any Kung-Fu that is rooted in Shaolin cannot possibly allow its 'Masters', the very people charged with its preservation, to possibly act in a manner that is unbecoming of even the most basic of human decency.

Bottom line, you cannot be a martial arts master without first being a decent human being.


eric zaworski; said...

I just wanted to say your blog is very inspiring. I've been looking into start training with some type of martial arts for some time now, and I really love some of the points you bring up. Thank you for the blog, I'd love to see more posts!


bathmate said...

That will be necessary for all. Thanks for your posting.
Happy New Year !!!

Koshin said...

@Eric and @Bathmate - Thanks for the comments, I plan on making more regular posts this year. I plan to put more articles and if you have any topics in particular that you want covered, let me know. I hope you both have a wonderful new year.