Role of Character in Martial Arts

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?



About wujimon

taiji, meditation and health
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4 Responses to Role of Character in Martial Arts

  1. Chris says:

    Martial art practice does not automatically make you an moral or ethical person. Hopefully though, it will make you more keenly aware of the choices you make, and their consequences. After acknowledging your power and responsibility, you can decide whether or how to develop your character.

  2. wujimon says:

    Hi Chris,
    I agree with your point. What I’m curious about is the effect of morals/ethics on the transmission of knowledge from teacher to student. What role or impact do you think it plays in that regard?

  3. Pingback: wujimon » Personal Demonstration of Skill

  4. Chris says:

    Every teacher I have met has their shortcomings, ethical or otherwise. Sometimes it interferes with their ability to teach, sometimes not.

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