Martial Art Philosophy


There is an old saying pertaining to the martial art philosophy which states, "One must first learn civility before he can learn the art, and one must first know his ethics before he knows his skills."

Civility here refers to good manners, courtesy, respect and consideration for others. Ethics, on the other hand, is a fundamental set of acceptable behavior which codifies the spirit of martial art philosophy and which martial artists can rely on to cultivate their body and mind, and to guide their everyday actions and judgment.

Ethics is an indivisible part of the study of any martial art and sets the moral guidelines for martial artists. Ethical principles serve as the traditional, cultural and social standard by which practitioners are trained in the martial arts. Central to these principles is the concept of non-violence, respect for oneself and others, and loyalty to one's family, friends and country.

The adherence to ethics confirms our moral obligation of society and fellow human beings. The concept also includes the attitudes, lifestyle as well as the social and moral behavior of the practitioner. It is the manner in which one behaves in both word and action. A practitioner of martial arts is not only a superior athlete, well-versed in combat, but also an upstanding citizen with good moral and social virtues.

Fulfilling the ethics principles in martial art philosophy is the true spirit and ultimate goal of the way martial arts inspire all of us (less than perfect beings) to continually strive for perfection within ourselves.


Traditionally, the study of martial arts consists of both the practice of skills and the adherence to ethics. The skills learned from martial arts practice hone our physical bodies, sharpen our reflexes and strengthen our resolves and they should be counterbalanced by good conduct.

Martial art philosophy demands the achieving of harmonious values by individuals who live by peace, wisdom, morals, love and self-discipline through intellectual means. The primary goal of learning martial arts is to become a better person who lives with a greater understanding of society, and also a greater expectation of a sincere life.

A good quality of life also requires having a healthy life both mentally and physically. The martial arts cannot exist without the mental aspect, which is the foundation that physical improvements are built upon. Martial arts is much more than just a workout. It is an alteration, both physically and mentally, of ones lifestyle that will last a lifetime.

Any worthwhile accomplishment requires a certain amount of dedication, effort and discipline. This is no less evident in martial arts training. Every aspect of martial arts requires the harmonization of the mind and body. This harmonization is achieved through mental focus and concentration combined with proper breathing technique and accurate reproduction of the physical forms.

The aim of the martial arts training is the welfare of the practitioner. Not only self-defense skills should be attained, but more importantly the focus should be on the individual's character development. A well rounded personally can be realized only if the spirit is right.

Therefore, according to martial art philosophy, the main goal in martial arts practice is to cultivate a person's mind and body; not to use it as a means to vent one's anger, frustration or emotional problems. As serious martial arts practitioners we should accept a philosophy of non-violence – a physical confrontation should be avoided wherever possible. The use of force is condoned only is an act of self-defense or in the defense of those who are defenseless. It does not condone meaningless rivalry, foolish stunts, intimidation of others, violent behavior, criminal activities, self-preening vanity, any vices or addictions.

The martial arts practitioner displays this courage in the use of his skills to satisfy the demands of ethics, and in defense of his country or fellow human beings against unjust violence, to the point of supreme self-sacrifice, if necessary. The martial arts practitioner should use his knowledge only to protect himself and others from harm, and then only to the extent to protect and remove himself from the situation.

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If it is necessary to use martial arts against an adversary, the practitioner should still use self-restraint and good judgment. A properly trained martial arts practitioner will do everything possible to avoid a physical confrontation, not only because he knows that such confrontation is unnecessary, but also because he knows that he has a better than average chance of successfully defending himself, and because a physical confrontation is philosophically degrading, as it indicates that all other means of avoidance have failed.

Another aspect of martial art philosophy demands that the martial arts practitioner should also adopt an attitude of self-control – he must bend like the willow. All of these help him become a better person and, at the same time, help him avoid unnecessary confrontations. It is the inner peace and confidence that the practitioner develops that makes this possible. Patience is the key.

Discipline is the exercising of self-control. In martial arts, this concept encompasses the emotions, actions, and mental activities of its practitioners. It is one of the cornerstones from which mastery is attained.

The ability of defend oneself greatly improves self-confidence. Self-confidence combined with better judgment, integrity and overall improvement in lifestyle brings a positive attitude.

[Side Note: Martial art philosophy is an important part of the training in my dojo. Click here for details on San Fernando Valley Martial Arts - The best martial arts school in the San Fernando Valley.]

Subtle Changes in Thinking

The mental aspect of martial arts is not quickly seen when compared to the almost-immediate physical improvements. Improvement of physical ability gained from training will be immediately visible to the practitioner himself while the improvement of the mental aspect will be recognized by those around him.

Physical activities used to enhance mental conditioning are helpful in developing a positive self-image. The physical aspect of training is a direct mirror of how much energy the individual is putting into his own internal growth. The harder he trains his body the more he grows spiritually.

As it was said, the primary objective of practicing martial arts is perfection of character. And in order to perfect one's character, one should be grateful for the abundant blessings of nature, as well as for the great love of parents; one should realize his enormous debt to teachers and be ever mindful of his obligations to the general public.

Every practitioner of the martial arts should realize that honesty is the foundation of all virtues. Kindness is the secret of business prosperity. Amiability is the essence of success. Working pleasantly is the mother of health. Strenuous effort and diligence conquer adverse circumstances. Simplicity, fortitude, and humility are the keys to joy and gladness; and service to humanity is the fountain of mutual existence and common prosperity. Courtesy, respect, modesty, loyalty, generosity and dedication are not only the source, but also the reward of the training.

Any training that does not also include a deep understanding of martial art philosophy is truly a waste of time.

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