Integrity and Character Development in the Martial Arts

Richard Norton with quoteMartial art virtues include such things as courage, discipline, and character development. Part of living with what I call the Warrior’s Edge is based on the role martial arts can have in helping a person develop character. And I do believe there is no more essential or defining aspect of a person than their character.  But what is it?

To me, a person of character lives by personal ethical virtues like honor, reliability, trustworthiness, and kindness. A person who has good character is thought to be especially worthy, virtuous, or admirable in terms of moral qualities. Character is comprised of those principles and value that give your life direction, meaning, and depth. They constitute your inner sense of right and wrong.  Character is concerned with doing the right thing. Honesty, courage, fairness, generosity, and integrity are essential attributes of good character. Showing respect to others is part of character. These are essentials for true martial artists and those who learn how to hurt, or even kill others.

I agree with how John Wooden described integrity: “Integrity is purity of intention. Integrity speaks for itself. Sincerity, honesty, and reliability are components that encourage and lead to integrity. We must never sacrifice our morals or values.” And like physical strength, virtues grow through practice. Remember that, just like your martial techniques develop through the hard work on the mat, your virtues only become stronger and better through practice in your daily life.

Integrity is the consistency of our actions, values, and principles. It is not enough to read or recite a pledge that may hang on the wall of our place of training. Nor is it enough to just say that the martial arts help with character development. We must practice good character. This is more than just saying no to vices, but rather pursuing what is right and good. Remember what Gary Ryan Blair once said, “It is a lot easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.” Practicing good ethics and character is hard. But for the true martial artist, the true warrior, and someone who wants to live powerfully with the Warrior’s Edge, it is essential. Character is a must, and this includes integrity.