On the drive into work this morning, I asked myself, what is the role of ethical/moral character in martial arts? More importantly, is there a correlation between character and skill? Ultimate, I think not, but what questions me is how much faith can we put in the teaching? I’m not sure if I am wording this correctly, but consider the following scenario (fictitious for demonstration purposes): You are training in shaolin kungfu under a shaolin monk. This monk transmit tons of knowledge and insight into the shaolin arts, but later you find out that he is not really a shaolin monk. He doesn’t really practice chan buddhism, he secretly has a wife and child back in china and he partakes in alcohol, women, and other unmentionables for monkly character. Does this affect or lessen the knowledge transmission?
Can the transmission be true and of value if the source is not of sound character? I often look for examples of people who “practice what they preach” and question the actions of perceived masters with conflicting characters. For instance, what if a taiji master was very great and skilled in push hands and was known around the world, yet he liked to induldge in alcohol and women? What if another master developed key principles in understanding martial arts yet he’s a bit sadistic or has unfavorable relations with his students? Can we separate the character from the teachings? Can we have faith in the teachings though we don’t have faith in the character?