I remember when an Aikido instructor from Helena, Montana, was arrested for inappropriate contact with a minor. It was the second arrest involving the same girl. The first was earlier that same year.
I have met the instructor, and I know people who have trained with him. As for his martial skills, he was very talented. His years of training in Japan showed. I had only heard positive things about him until the news of his arrest.
It saddens me each time I see a martial artist in the news for committing a crime. It is even worse when the individual is an instructor of the arts. Sure, I recognize that martial artists are human, and with any group you will have the bad apples. But when it is part of “your” group, you feel a bit worse. I feel the same when attorneys break laws and do things to discredit the profession. However, I’ve practiced martial arts for many more years than I’ve practiced law, and while law is a profession, martial arts and warriorship are part of who I am.
I’ve always believed that those of us that teach others martial arts need to be held to a higher standard. We are teaching people how to possibly hurt or kill others. With this comes the responsibility to ensure these skills are not misused. This must go beyond just telling students, “Only use your martial art training for self-defense.”
Warriors must adhere to a higher standard. Character is essential. Character development should be prominent in an instructor’s teachings. You must study and teach the qualities that make up the character of the warrior. More importantly, you must live by these traits and ensure that they become who you are inside. These traits include honesty, discipline, honor, and integrity among others. They must be developed through study and training. They must be lived. If you instruct, they must be passed on to those you teach.
On my training trips to South Korea, I learn more than just techniques from my instructors. During one conversation, Kim Hyun told me, “You must think right, speak right, and be right in the heart.” He continued, “A teacher is very important, students always see. You must always do right.” This was a much more valuable lesson than the techniques he taught in the training hall. These words have much wisdom and are extremely important for anyone who trains in the warrior arts. They are essential for those who teach.
I know that we all make mistakes. We all falter. Warriors are no exception. However, as Richard Strozzi Heckler wrote in his book In Search of the Warrior Spirit, “The path of the warrior is lifelong, and mastery is often simply staying on the path.” Warriorship is a journey, not a destination. Stay on the path.
All of us that practice martial arts, all modern warriors, must live by the warrior’s code. We must all live with discipline, honor, and integrity. We must live it and we must teach it.