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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Importance of Martial Arts Etiquette , addendum....

I forgot to add a few other points to the importance of etiquette in Martial Arts. These points address the confusing aspects of Wu De (martial ethics):


1) Try to uphold your ethics even if the seniors and teachers don't do it themselves.
---This can be confusing, because we're supposed to follow our senior's and teacher's leads, right? But teachers are human and make mistakes or might get involved with situations that challenge the ethics of your art or even the morality of the general public. Keep to your manners, and stick to your guns. Don't be the lemming that runs off the cliff just because the others do.

2) Dishonesty is not allowed.
--- Don't lie to your classmates or teachers to cover up something. Unless you're keeping a surprise party a secret, don't tell lies to cover up for someone else.

3) If your school's ethics fall by the wayside, ask yourself honestly: "Can I stick around turning a blind eye to the broken manners and still feel good about myself and my training?"
---If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, its okay to take a leave of absence or leave the school if need be. Its your training....take pride in it but don't tarnish it with bad manners or turning a blind eye to bad manners and ethics. If you're looking merely for the techniques then sure, stick around and deal with it, but you won't be studying a true "art" if you're all about the skill and looking cool and willfully ignoring the manners and ethics.

4) Remember, you are in charge of the work you put into the training. You reap what you sow.
---Your teachers have made a commitment to show you their should make a commitment to doing the best you can while you're at the school. YOU do the work. You'll feel really great about it in the long run.

Thoughout my own training, I met people who thought that "Training" meant just showing up for classes. They showed "committment" to showing up, so didn't that deserve a gold star or something? Well yes, it could mean that...*assuming the work they do is hard, dedicated, and earnest. "Sweat and hard work brings one will give it to you on a silver platter", My Dad used to say.


Teachers, its exactly the same as for the students:

1) Try to uphold your ethics even if the students don't do it themselves.
---Remember you're a guide that leads by example. Show them the importance of your school's etiquette and be sure they learn the true nature of it, instead of just having them blindly follow rules for fear of getting punished.

2) Dishonesty is not allowed.
--Do not destroy student's trust in you. (I mentioned that in my previous post). Don't manipulate the students. Remember that one lie begets another, and it will get to the point where you won't be able to keep the lies straight.

3) If your school's ethics fall by the wayside, ask yourself honestly: "Can I stick around turning a blind eye to the broken manners and still feel good about myself, my position, and my school?"
---If the students continually break protocol, you have the right to have them take a leave of absence or leave the school altogether. Its your school and your reputation......take pride in it but don't tarnish it with bad manners or turning a blind eye to bad manners and ethics. If you're looking merely for more students, more money and prestige, then sure, stick around and deal with it, but you won't be teaching a true "art" if you're all about prestige and willfully ignoring the manners and ethics.

4) Remember, you are in charge of the work you put into the training. You reap what you sow.
---Your students have made a commitment to work hard at the should make a commitment to doing the best you can while you're at the school as well. Teach them well, but understand that skill alone doesn't put the label "Martial Artist" on them.

5) Leave your ego and sense of entitlement out of the picture.
--- Your position as a teacher carries many benefits as well as great burdens of responsibility. As much work as you do teaching your students, you do not own them. Don't force them to stay or threaten them if they choose to leave. They too, are individuals and good teachers will let them go if they choose, or dismiss them if they are not upholding a moral standard. Some will stay away, and some will return, and either way you should take it as a learning experience. You are an experienced guide, and good students will continue to follow you if you keep your end of the school's etiquette as well as they. To keep students via manipulation is purely ego-driven.

I've had kids that were all "gung ho" one minute, and wanting to play on the ultimate frisbee team the next. I had a kid who wanted to play on the frisbee league, and I let him do it, saying "Wow, sounds like fun....I bet your Wushu will help that jumping for the frisbee, huh?". Then, some months later, he returned, excited about how his Wushu helped the games and he also learned new things that made his wushu much better when he returned. On the other hand, I have students who have left for other activities, school, or other life reasons. My wushu class is relatively small due to those who have chosen other paths, but "I don't own them", so no harm, no foul. If they choose to return, the door is always open.

There are two types of students when it comes to manners and etiquette....those who follow them, and those who do not.....

Which one are YOU??

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The importance of Martial Arts Etiquette in everyday life.....

Wu De, Dojo Kun,....whatever you prefer to call it, "Martial Virtue" is a very important aspect to learning martial arts and important life skills. When I was a youngster on my first day of Karate training, I thought "Cool! I get to learn how to break boards, and beat bullies up, and look cool!". That first day, was my first taste of "Dojo Kun"....the rules, the ettiquette, and the morals of Karate (and other martial arts). The first thing I learned, was not to punch or kick.....but to *bow*. We learned to come into the Dojo with a humble heart and open mind. We learned that bowing to another was a greeting, a token of mutual respect, a way of saying "please" and "thank you".  We learned more Dojo Kun as the months passed, and soon it became a natural part of training. When I think about it....there were a lot of etiquette factors, but we remembered them. It wasn't that it was hundreds of rules to follow....instead, it all boiled down to polite courtesy.

Times have changed, and so have training methods. Many eclectic fighting styles are out there and the popularity of MMA (mixed martial arts) has skyrocketed. However, these days, some people might have the idea that the "old ways" of respect and etiquette are outdated. When I was learning Karate, we knew what happened if you spoke to others or was moving around aimlessly while Sensei lectured or got pushups. it was rare that Sensei ever gave out pushups, because we all knew the rules. But when those those pushups were given, the offending student immediately did them without complaint, apologized for holding up the class, and it never happened again. 

These days, I meet people that see nothing wrong with talking with others while their teacher is speaking or demonstrating. I've even met people that are proud about how brave they were about back-talking their teacher. I've met people that see nothing wrong with people roughhousing, arguing, belittling others,  standing in disrespectful postures (arms crossed, hands on hips) or even sitting down and playing with stuff on the floor while their teachers are lecturing or demonstrating. I've even heard of students that tell the teacher what they should be learning, or threatening to quit if they don't get the belt they want or the special treatment they think they deserve.

Granted, each school is different. I know of schools where the teacher's first name is used, not their title. I've been to schools where bowing is not required. That's great...but the basic tenets of courtesy are followed. That's all that Wu De is....courtesy, acknowledgment, gratitude, and respect for students and teachers.

But what are these "basic tenets"? Well, as I said, each school is different, but the common factors are:

  1. Respect your teachers
  2. Respect your classmates
  3. Do your best in classes, don't be lazy
  4. Be the best you can be
  5. Come to class ready.....uniform clean and body clean, have all necessary gear
  6. Work together to keep the school clean and neat. Don't expect the the seniors and teachers to do it all for you.
  7. We are all training together for a common purpose. Work together to make training a good learning experience
  8. Do not get angry at other students for silly reasons. 
  9. Use proper titles if your school requires it.
  10. Don't be arrogant or over confident in your skills. We all have much to improve upon.
  11. Set good examples for lower ranked students
  12. Be patient in your training. Do not demand more knowledge from the teachers. If you're ready, the teachers will teach you.
  13. Be humble, don't brag
  14. Don't be afraid to speak to your teachers about questions or concerns you may have. To fear a negative response from your teacher, is unneeded fear. A good teacher will listen and work with you, so long as you don't do rule #12
  15. Don't think of any concept or technique as "simple"....again, we all have much to improve upon.
  16. Be honest in your training. Are you *really* pushing that stance down, or are you watching others do it and assuming you are as well? Your classmates are not doing your work for hard on your OWN improvement and be honest with yourself. Leave your ego out of your training.
  17. Don't take corrections from teachers so personally.
  18. Be grateful for the opportunity to train in your art.

Some schools carry many more rules of etiquette, some less, but it boils down to courtesy and basic morals. As for the people that threaten to quit their Dojo if they don't get taught the kobudo kata they want so badly, or if they don't get to test for the next belt they think they so rightly deserve....think about it.....there IS a reason why you're not being taught it yet. You're not ready for it! Oh, you might *think* you're ready, but that's merely ego pushing itself into the limelight. Train hard and show your teacher how hard you are willing to work, don't sit around and wait for for it. Teachers are happy to teach, so long as you're willing to work and take corrections. You'll be surprised sometimes, how much the teachers will teach you when you show the willingness to learn.  As I've always said to my own students: "If I took my Master's corrections personally and got mad because I got corrected, that would be like saying I was better that my Master. How arrogant that would be! In that case, I would be teaching my Master! And I don't see that happening until the day I leave this Earth...."

So far, I've spoke of just the student's responsibilities in Wu De or Dojo Kun. However, it is a two-way street. Teachers should also take the above listed rules to heart as well, with certain additions, such as:
  1. Be patient in your teaching. Do not demand perfection from your students....instead, demand that they try their best to be the best people they can be. Your definition of "perfect" is probably different than your students. Be the experienced guide, not the dictator, along the path..
  2. Do not destroy the student's trust in you.
  3. You are the example for your students.
  4. Encourage the students, do not belittle them.
  5. Make classes enjoyable yet disciplined......don't sacrifice Dojo Kun to have fun.
  6. If your students are working hard to learn, work just as hard to teach! 
  7. Be balanced and honest in your teaching. If your student is not quite ready for the next kata (or boxing combo, or whatever else), then don't teach it to them yet and give them good pointers on how to improve their current skillset. Don't teach anything merely because a student demands it of you, and be ready to stick to your guns.

There's so much more Wu De for both teacher and student....and as I mentioned, each school differs. Learn the protocol for your school or gym, and stick to it as best you can. For me, protocol and etiquette is much, much more than antiquated, old style customs.....they're what make a martial system an "art" as opposed to just a "beat people up" art. You may argue "Well  MMA (or insert fighting-only system here) doesn't have all that outdated etiquette junk!". Well, to these people, I ask.....when was the last time you tried talking back to your coach? When was the last time you didn't say thank you to your training or sparring partner? When was the last time you purposefully was lazy in your training session?  Did you get disciplined when you were being lazy? Well, then.....Not quite so outdated, is it?

Courtesy, Respect, Gratitude. That's all Wu De or Dojo Kun is. Whatever you call it, the etiquette forms a wonderful network between students and teachers, and with other arts as well. Remember, your art is only as strong as its practitioners.....if the practitioners are weak in manners, then the art becomes weak. If you brag a lot about your skill, then blame others when you're defeated, you're not a warrior, martial artist or even a're just bragging and blaming, that's it...period.  Manners of the Martial Arts are what really tests us.

"Are you merely just 'all fists', or are you 'all finesse'?"
Martial Etiquette is what gives us our finesse.

A few sites with Wu De or Dojo Kun examples:
My school's Wu De:

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Pleased to meet you..., I'd shake your hand, but.....

..."If you have a clenched fist, it is difficult to receive. If you let it go and open the fist, you have a hand. Then it is easy to receive...." -John Rogers, Peter McWilliams, from their book "Life 101"

I normally do not blog about topics such as my own personal beliefs, because honestly, I don't think its anyone's business if I believe in Christian beliefs, Buddhist beliefs or even the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But, here we go on the subject. Lately,  some friends and I have been discussing the topic of "acceptance" and the meaning of "spirituality". Does "Spirituality" only mean that one has to believe in a "one Diety"??. Although our discussions started out talking about different religion's views and wondering about some people's lack of acceptance of other people's beliefs solely because they do not match their own beliefs, I had to sit back and wonder why skeptics of Deity-beliefs are just about as hard nosed about the non-existence of Deities, as the believers are insistent that they do exist.

Either way, folks, its not going to prove your belief wrong if you actually listen to what the other side has to say. Most people would assume that I'm talking to extremist religious folk when I say that, but I'm also talking to the hard nosed skeptics. Both sides want to prove the other side wrong,....admit it already, both sides!. Skeptics will try to bring out tons of "scientific proof" that "God doesn't exist", or provide unanswerable questions to believers, just to stump the believers and make them realize their religious beliefs are merely superstition and are good for nothing except for superstition and ritual.

On the other hand, Religious folk will slate "proven" miracles, asking the scientific side "explain *that* with your science junk! Of course the skeptics will always find a scientific explanation.

Geez, all that work to prove your point. What's the point? Really.....WHAT'S THE POINT? The point really isn't whether or not a God or Higher Power or Source exists.....If you boil it down, all this arguing of "science is King" or "Jesus is King" is really just based on your own ego wanting to keep what you believe in, as your rock of proof. Its your justification for your personality and ego, if you really think about it.

When either side is closed-minded (i.e.....clenched fist), it going to be impossible to see the other point of view. Actually, its not a matter of "seeing" the other point of view (because gosh forbid....others might think you're not a skeptic (or a religious believer) anymore!), but respecting it. Open your least that way you can meet people properly, by shaking hands. Shaking hands doesn't mean the other person will magically convert you into a believer or skeptic. Get over it, folks.

There are extremists on both sides.....there are those skeptics that will troll the world for information that proves religious believers are wrong, and those that will try to cite timeline parallels between recorded history and their spiritual books to proof to skeptics that their deities exist.  And, on both side, sometimes it can get violent when people get angry that their beliefs are being questioned. Come on is NOT an insult to your intelligence, and your social standing is NOT going to drop a few notches just because you respect a religious person's view without trying to condemn it as "superstition".  And on the other hand, Religious people.....its not an insult to your god(s), nor is your social standing going to drop a few notches just because you respect a skeptic's person's view without trying to condemn them as "going to hell" or something like that.

Oh.....and for those of you wondering where my own beliefs are......I prefer to say that I follow a spiritual path, but I do not practice any orthodox religion. I believe, that the word "spirit" itself, does not necessarily *only* refer to God(s). I believe that the journey of raising awareness toward one's own consciousness of being and our relationship to anyone and everything is a journey toward Source. So there, I said it. 

 "Hi, my name is Restita....and I'm spiritually / energetically inclined....pleased to meet you.
Its a Pleasure to shake your hand."