The martial arts are touted as teaching integrity among other desirable traits, but of all the available traits why is integrity such a hot commodity? In today’s world the media reports scandals in every walk of life, making honorable role models the exception instead of the rule. We must look diligently for men and women who display the characteristics we wish to see emulated. In martial arts, earning a black belt is more than just knowing physical skills; it is also demonstrating a black belt attitude. An attitude ingrained with traits such as honor, self-confidence, focus, respect, courtesy, self-discipline, leadership and above all, integrity.
Why are these traits so prevalent in martial arts? Because unlike other activities, there is a tangible progression through belt ranking, and each student is empowered with the ability to reach the rank of black belt. To reach black belt, a student doesn’t have to climb over the competition, because it is an attainable goal for each student. It may take longer for some students, but the direction is always forward and it is seldom a lonely trek. As students learn new skills, they are encouraged to share their knowledge with newer students. By sharing their skills, they are reinforcing their own knowledge and forming friendly bonds with other students.
The bond building is essential to building trust and no one wants to lose it once it has been earned. Trust is necessary to comfortably practice and demonstrate the physical aspects of the sport. Every student should feel confident that a sparring partner would know the right amount of force to land a punch without causing physical harm. Celebrities, politicians and CEO’s don’t have that relationship with the average person, but martial artists see each other weekly.
As students get closer to earning their black belts, they realize family, friends and colleagues perceive them as being highly responsible. By working years to accomplish a goal, black belts don’t want to risk their integrity by doing anything to lose it. The belt will stay theirs, but the way people perceive them and the way they treat people reflects not only on them, but all martial artists. Few people take their first martial arts class hoping to acquire integrity, but after a few belt promotions they realize it is essential to earning the ultimate black belt.
See you in Class.