I realise this article may make me come across as elitist, pretentious and uncompromising – but honesty is a virtue.
Over the years I have always been passionate about martial arts, for different reasons. As a kid I found it to be the most awesome type of action ever, but as I grew up I also came across a number of personal lessons hidden within the exercises and trials you would face as part of your training. Even later as I took a further interest into martial arts in general I came to realise how each style has always been deeply intertwined with the culture and history it comes from, and how martial arts have come to walk hand in hand with human civilisation.
This has all left me with a profound respect for martial arts and the heritage it has amassed over centuries of human history. To some degree I see the same reverence in my fellow students (and more so in my teachers) but not so much in others. Society in general seems to be constantly losing respect of what came before us, which is a shame. Just compare classical music to what’s being created today and my point should be proven.
I realise there is hardly anything I can do about this, but at least I can define a code that I believe should be followed by all martial artists. Maybe others will agree or take some inspiration from it.
The Code of Martial Arts
I swear to remember that all martial arts originates from the purpose of survival in combat, but in many cases the purpose of the arts have grown to encompass more than mere survival – it is often a form of living history, a keeper of rich traditions and an expression of the culture from which it emerged. As such, I will respect and honour this heritage and recognise what privilege it is to be a part of it. I swear to apply this respect to my art past by remembering its founders and the lineage of teachers that have carried the torch over the years all the way through to today, thus providing me the opportunity to learn in turn.
I swear that as a student, I will respect my school, my teachers and my fellow students. Teachings and rules have a purpose, and I will study and obey these in order to learn their lessons. As a teacher, I will respect all students and earn their trust by acting with integrity at all times, and aim to teach them so well that one day they surpass me in skill. As a practitioner, I will stay true to my art – never will I pervert its purpose and history by turning it into a commercial farce in order to make a profit, or to use it for any other political, selfish or superficial gain. I will embrace change when it is for the better. In time I will aim to give back to martial arts what I have gained – through teaching, demonstrating and inspiring others to follow the path, should they so choose.
I swear that I will never use my skills and knowledge unless in defence of my own life, or to protect those who are innocent. I understand that what I have learned could be abused in order to injure and even kill others, and that this knowledge is never to be taken lightly. I realise there is always a choice, and that it is always mine to make. I will never use violence from momentary rage, fall to peer pressure or allow myself the delusion that anyone could ever make that kind of choice on my behalf. At all times I will strive to use my best judgement in these matters, but if I find that have acted in error I shall stand by my actions and accept the punishment they may bring.
I swear to recognise that martial arts are as diverse as humanity itself, and that all styles have value. Just as there are many kinds of people, so is this reflected in the rich variety of martial arts. As such I will refrain from any immature judging of other styles’ quality in comparison to my own, as it is more a matter of personal preference and choice than a question of superiority. I realise that, regardless of my own choice, we all have our own path to tread on the mountain that is learning martial arts – and all these paths lead to the same summit. We are all united in this purpose.
I swear to always strive to better myself as a martial artist and as a person. I will not only commit myself to the training and teachings of my art, but also do my best to condition my body, mind and soul. If there are questions, I will seek the answers. If there are obstacles, I will do my best to overcome them. I will recognise and accept all my weaknesses and failings, in order to face up to them and rise above them. I will see temptations as challenges to my soul, and physical pain and injuries as the fire that will temper the sword. I will embrace my fear as a voice of council, but never allow it to rule me. Discipline will be my armour and my shield. I will remember my successes and contemplate my failures, as they all bring lessons to be learned. I will ever aim for peace, within and without.