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Integrity as a function of training


A training program must have integrity with the style.

Integrity is often viewed as a nebulous concept that some people develop. People talk about it as if hope was your only option. Many things in the martial arts are supposed to develop integrity. They are misdefined and perverted by the ignorant, but they are there. On this page I will go over some of the things which are supposed to build integrity, but don't, and some reasons why.

Code of conduct:

Every school has a code of conduct. You will hear things like...always say sir!...bow to your instructor...don't wear shoes on the training floor...whatever. Obviously respect is a big issue, but how does a code of conduct build integrity?

Integrity is a qualitative measure of a structure's capacity to maintain itself. Conduct is important to the martial arts, not because it impresses the parents but because it develops the mind set for effecient learning. When you enter a kung fu school, you are not going to the store. You are not hanging with your friends. You are entering an environment much like a laboratory. People are working on things that you don't understand and there are rules to follow so you don't get hurt. "Don't drink the acid!" is not good enough. "Don't touch anything without proper safety precautions!" allows you to then teach those precautions which are actually codes of conduct. The same is true of Kung Fu.

Do not walk up to someone who is training and say anything. If he is trained to strike what he sees and looks at you while striking then you will probably get hurt. If he has a weapon then it gets messy quick. I will begin with the bow. The bow is probably the most missunderstood aspect of martial arts. In any bow, irregardless of culture, the eyes are often kept focused on a point, the hands are shown, and the body is lowered for some reason. Keep in mind that the hand shake is not a bow but a military greeting first used by african hunters/warriors while they were holding weapons. It allowed them to maintain weapon readiness during the greating. A bow is used to show that you are not at war. The body is lowered in a manner which indicates, for that culture, that you are requesting attention and not demanding it. The hands are held in a position which shows the lack of a weapon or that the weapon is in a rest position (if held). The eyes are held focused on a point lower than what would be considered confrontational. How low the bow goes would imply the social/military position of both people. The bow, and all its aspects, would indicate the type of interaction between any people and the level of formality. In a kung fu school the bow tends to be very specific. There is the bow when you enter the facility, the bow when you enter class, bow when you meet instructors, and so on. While the bow tells others that you are ready to learn or not. It also reminds the student what his mind is supposed to be focused on. The bow walking into the facility is to remind you that you are here to learn. This is your school and you belong to it. This is not a place for arrogance or uncertanty. You can trust these people or else they, or you, would not be here. When you bow to your instructor, you are saying that you are ready to learn and they bow back to say they are ready to teach. When you bow before sparring you are telling each other that this is training and not to the death. You bow at the end to say you are done. The bow is sign language and how the bow is done, and where conveys, much information. It is also important to remember that the things done in a kung fu school are not normal. They are dangerous and require much focus. The bow is to show that you are prepared to do these things and show when you won't in a manner that won't be confused for some other social interaction.

Much print has been devoted to stories of people who would bow before a fight and get hit while bowing. The interesting point, which has never been brought up, is that a bow is done from a specific distance. If the opponent is too close then you step to distance. If the opponent enters your range without bowing then they must want combat, not sparring. You bow at the beginning and end of sparring, you bow at the end of a fight. Where I train there is a bow for training and a bow for combat. The bow is reserved for other students, not strangers.


Other codes are much easier to understand. Don't swing a weapon where you will cut a fellow student. Stay away from a student doing weapon work. Do not walk in front of anybody who is training. Don't make unnecessary noise. Usually a few rules about lying, stealing, and other betrayls. Don't betray people who may one day be holding a weapon to your throat. They might "slip" at the wrong moment (training accident, didn't mean to hamstring you, sorry).