July 20, 2024

Building Trust Between Martial Arts Instructors and Students by KJN Ronald Stone

Building Trust Between Martial Arts Instructors and Students by KJN Ronald Stone

Martial arts training require a high degree of trust between student and instructor.

Students entrust themselves to their instructors for physical and emotional guidance. It has become obvious to many of us that moral character is not something one is born with. It is something that develops in a person due to parental guidance and by an education acquired by following, listening and learning from those who we respect, such as teachers and mentors.

This process however by definition means that the role models we follow must themselves be persons of moral fiber and dedication. By definition people demonstrate pro social and moral behavior when they share, help, co-operate, communicate, sympathize or in otherwise they demonstrate an ability to care about others. While morals tend to be driven by personal beliefs and values, there are certainly some common morals that most people agree on, such as: Always telling the truth. Not destroying the property of others.

Being courageous spirituality as well as physically Keeping your promises. Refusing to cheat. Treating others as you want to be treated. Not judging without all the facts. Being dependable. Anyone with even a short time in a ethical legitimate dojang quickly learns the tenets of the art. Most of these, whether they are Korean, Japanese Budo or part of Chinese philosophy, refer to things like Honesty, Integrity, and Humility. These are usually repeated until they are ingrained in the student disciple.

The above originates in the tenets of the martial arts as based on Warrior Ideology adapted from the book, MooYe Dobo TangJi, written in the 1400s. Here they lay out: Original Martial Arts Moral Principles Be loyal to your country. Be obedient to your parents. Be loving between husband and wife. Be cooperative between brothers. Be respectful to your elders. Be faithful between friends. Establish trust between teacher and student. Always respect all living things. Never retreat in battle. Always finish what you start. Martial artists are no longer thought of as merely brute fighters, but rather as patriotic warriors and guardians and protectors of the citizenry. Just as most military services have a code of conduct and penalties for violation of moral standards such as cheating on academy exams, adultery, stolen valor etc the martial arts have their tenets. Sadly however there is little repercussion today for behavior that violates these tenets. It is a sad fact that most of today’s parents are worried about what their children will be subjected to in the world outside their homes and about what type of education their children might be exposed to.

It is a truly deep concern for most families, and that is where the martial arts may play an important rule. For purposes of this discussion, when we refer to the martial arts we will be referring to traditional well established arts with long standing curriculum and rules and regulations that are to be enforced.

When one examines the violations of moral issues that surrounds the martial arts of today one could include such things as : Misrepresentation of one’s credentials and skills in order to gain admittance to an organization or to attract students.

Fraud whether financial or though some sort of falsification Immoral behavior towards students, relatives or other members of the martial arts community Illegal activity such as use or distribution of illegal drugs, sexual improprieties, drunken behavior, or things such as assault and battery etc. Activities or behavior which brings dishonor privately or publicly to the parent organization In the past sadly there have been cases of sexual abuse in select martial arts schools, brutality towards innocent students or lower ranks, and a number of other behaviors that have brought shame and disrepute to the martial arts.

Ethical instructors don’t buy rank; they earn it through years of practice and a daily demonstration of adherence to the art’s tenets. In return, such instructors don’t promote students simply because money is low and they need income, or because the student or family threatens to leave the dojo if not promoted.

Ethical instructors don’t favor personality over skill, or worse yet, promote a technically skilled but antisocial student over a less skilled but more decent person.

Ethical instructors do not take advantage or their position to proposition parents or worse yet students. Ethical instructors do not charge more to one family than another for the exact same service merely because they can or cannot afford it.

Ethical instructors obviously, do not lie, cheat or steal and for purposes of this discussion that should include exaggerating one’s credentials or skills, or bragging about personal accomplishments.

Ethical instructors do not post or even accept certificates that are fake, purchased, or offered up to the instructor for the sole reason of promoting a new unrecognized organization.

Ask yourself this; you both may be in the same overall art such as Karate, Tae Kwan do etc), but if you have never studied another particular system’s curriculum, or participated in its training for any substantial length of time, then why hang up a certificate of promotion to a style you know nothing of? And if you do accept it, do you let everyone know it is merely honorary or do you boast of being promoted? I doubt an ethical tap dancer who knew no their style would be bragging to others about his new ability after receiving an honorary degree in ballet, even if both are considered dance.

An ethical instructor teaches for love of the art, tradition and respect, not out of greed or ego. An ethical instructor does not physically abuse his or her students in order to make themselves feel superior.

The martial arts are about learning and proceeding at one’s own pace. They were never meant to be about a make em or break em type of training.

An ethical instructor does not spread gossip or promote unfounded rumors about a colleague or competitor. Instead of boasting of achievements, an ethical martial artist should prefer to learn and train more, and realizes his or her limitations.

Ethical instructors prioritize creating a safe and supportive environment that fosters open communication, and demonstrates honesty and integrity. This builds trust, allowing students to learn effectively and feel comfortable pushing their boundaries. I believe that honesty, devotion and dedication to one’s art and to one’s students, their safety and their progress will in the end bring the success one desires.

About the author: R.W. Stone is currently a practicing veterinarian in Central Florida. He is an avid equestrian, a master ranked martial artist, a best-selling western author, and a firearms enthusiast. After joining a martial arts school in 1970 Stone started studying Yudo with a Korean grandmaster. He eventually became a member of the Judo team of the University of Illinois. It was at the University that a Korean classmate and friend introduced him to Tae Kwon do. After graduating veterinary college, he found the martial arts becoming too sports oriented and eventually after moving from Miami to Central Florida he sought out a Hapkido grandmaster. Currently Stone is ranked 8th dan in Haemukwan Hapkido, 4th dan in Daehan Yudo and a second dan in Kukki Taekwondo. He is the Hapkido instructor at the American Dragon Martial Arts Academies.

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