Martial Arts Musings – Integrity

Integrity is a quality that is often espoused but is as rare in the modern world as it was when Diogenes searched ancient Greece for honest man. Ambition, greed, and self-absorption have always lessened a light that was meant to a beacon of the human spirit. Perhaps it is the rarity of this virtue that makes it so special and powerful. “A man imbued with the qualities of courage, integrity, and hope can change the world.” – Anonymous

Those of us who train in the martial arts are supposed to be part of a rare breed who understand this concept and who foster its development. Unfortunately, we as a whole are no better than any other group. There are martial artists who embrace the virtues of integrity and there are those who, well lets just say that their moral compass doesn’t always face true north. Sometimes the behavior is deliberate and other times it comes from self-deception.

The litmus test for understanding integrity is motivation. It has been said that if you are doing the right thing for the right reason then you are demonstrating integrity. Unfortunately it is sometimes difficult to know what is “right”. Perspective plays a large role in our understanding of human behavior. What may seem logical and right to one person may appear less than ethical to another. It is the point of view of the person viewing the behavior that gives color to the action.

Rather than utilize a broad motivational category to define the parameters of integrity in the martial arts, I believe that it imperative that we drill down to the core of the matter and ask … “Can you celebrate and promote the success of others by your actions?” As human beings we tend to self-centric and altruism is rare. Yet integrity at its most basic level is not just understanding what is right but doing what is right. Few can argue the merits of considering the welfare of others as we consider our own.

As a teacher are you concerned with the development of your students and the promotion of your art … or does the bottom line drive you? As a student are you more concerned with your next rank or with the knowledge that comes before it? While there is absolutely nothing wrong with making money from something you love or looking forward to a promotion, it is wrong if they are sole goals. Integrity is have the ability to recognize that inherent good in doing what is right and standing up for that belief even if it is not popular.

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