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Martial arts

In every traditional martial arts class around the world, your behaviour is a factor. Attitude, etiquette and conduct must be addressed when learning a martial art.
The art is simply too dangerous to allow 'outside' attitudes into the training hall.

Leave your ego at the door

One of the reasons why students bow to the instructor upon entering the training hall is to immediately remind themselves where they are. They are not at home, at work or out socialising.
It is necessary to acquire new habits of behaviour. Egotism, vanity, pride and showboating will be sternly curtailed

The student has nothing to offer but an absolute willingness to follow the teacher's instructions and direction without question or comments or personal improvisation.

(Dave Lowry)


Modern culture encourages egotism. When a student demonstrates arrogance in a tai chi class, it is the duty of the teacher to quash this. Many people are unwilling to recognise that they are at fault.
Rudeness, cockiness and selfish behaviour are entrenched and familiar to them. Letting-go is not an option.


Many martial arts students falter badly in actual combat. The reason why is simple. Their technical skills may be accurate but their behaviour is at fault


You cannot expect actual combat to be akin to hanging out with your friends or being at work. This is hopelessly naive and foolish. Combat is scary, dangerous and high risk.

Act the part

The fastest way to gain combat aptitude is to act the part. This means addressing your behaviour. It is not an invitation to become macho


Your own worst enemy is yourself. If you want to become a martial artist, you have to make behavioural changes.
Moods, disorganised schedule, an unwillingness to set time aside to train... this is not how a martial artist behaves

When you come to the dojo, it is a recognition the teacher there has something you want. He will give it to you in his own way. You must accept that. If you do not, you are free to leave. The dojo, however, is never run by consensus.

The sensei is not a therapist. The goal of the dojo is to make healthy people healthier, physically and psychologically and spiritually. It cannot be expected to repair badly damaged human beings. As so if a member exhibits serious personal problems, the sensei's job is to get rid of him, gracefully if possible, forcefully and definitively if necessary.

(Dave Lowry)


Martial artists do not care to make excuses. If they cannot do something, they simply say so. They do not try to placate, manipulate or 'play' people
. They speak plainly and directly.

Take responsibility

A martial artist takes responsibility for their conduct. They do not foist their problems onto somebody else.
e.g. if you cannot make a workshop or you have inadvertently 'double-booked' yourself, make a concise, polite apology for your absence.
Don't ask the instructor to re-schedule the workshop to suit you or to give you a refund. That would be misconduct.

Do not do anything useless.

(Miyamoto Musashi)


One appalling trait occasionally seen with beginners is the desire to negotiate with the instructor. This is just plain dumb. There is no parity. No room to negotiate.


Adhere to the ethos of the school or quit. An instructor would rather lose a student than have to explain/debate every conceivable lesson with them.

Don't be a tool

Egotism and selfishness are offensive in martial arts. Combat offers no charity, no leniency, no quarter. Learn to be strong. Have integrity. Cultivate self-discipline.

Who are you talking to?

A martial arts instructor is not a personal trainer. They are not your mate. When you negotiate, the instructor is just being polite with you. 
But at the back of their mind they know that you are a lost cause
. You have not invested in the art at all.

 Upon reaching what is perceived as an ideal goal, the artist discovers something entirely different. The artist is suddenly confronted with the fact that what was thought of as perfection of technique was merely the introduction to it. An entirely new vista has opened. The artist must be prepared to turn his gaze from the heights that have so recently been gained, and prepare for the ascent of the peak suddenly found beyond them.

(Dave Lowry)


If you are keen, prove it. Become quietly adept at your chosen art. Do not expect a pat on the head or any sort of praise.

Even if you're told that your practice is coming along, recognise that it can always be better. Complacency leads to stagnation, and egotism indicates weakness of character.


Don't wait to be told. Step up. When bowing, bow first. Bow well. Look for opportunities to demonstrate initiative.
Cultivate necessary combat skills: decisiveness, focus, precision, purpose, integrity.


A martial artist needs to be smart. Asking playground questions such as - "Which martial art would win: MMA or tai chi?" - indicates a notable lack of intelligence. Surely, the answer is obvious?
The art itself does nothing. It is the individual who makes manifest the skills and the strategies. This is what determines the outcome.

Extraordinary life

Being a martial artist is not easy
. It is a way of life that is at odds with how most modern people live.
To become truly skilled you will need to make many sacrifices. You will need to become quite a different person. Could you right now deal with an assault from a very earnest attacker?
What is it going to take to become someone who can?

Too early in the morning? Get up and train. Cold and wet outside? Go train. Weary of the whole journey and longing for a moment to stop and rest? Train.
Continue on in the spirit of perseverance.

(Dave Lowry)

Loss of 'self'

Japanese martial arts classes have traditionally provided an excellent environment for character refinement. Usually they are well organised, disciplined and strict.
Unfortunately, Chinese classes are not always like this.
This is an instance where the Japanese way is better and students could learn a lot from seeing how a Japanese martial arts student behaves.


Traditionally, a martial artist had dignity. They were not selfish, egotistical, mean or petty. Dignity is a powerful virtue.
It suggests: proper, decent, fitting, appropriate, ethical, honourable, gravity, grace, worth and value. How often do we behave with dignity or accord it to others?

Silent power

We take our affluence and freedom for granted and ignore the plight of others. It is easy to pretend that things do not matter; that nothing can be changed or that it is somebody else's responsibility.
At the heart of dignity is a quiet integrity; a nobility of purpose. Without fanfare or outward show, a person can act with courage, composure and resourcefulness. They can subtly change things.

Confronted by limitations of effectiveness, the martial arts of the West responded with a continuous crafting of superior equipment. Confronted with similar limitations, the Asian warrior responded by fashioning a better self. The Asian warrior turned not to technology in making his sword a better tool for fighting. Influenced by contemplative aspects of Taoism and Buddhism and by the self-discipline of Confucianism, he turned inward. He fine-tuned his body and mind in order to better manipulate his sword.

(Dave Lowry)

Worth reading

Are you a martial artist?
Learned helplessness
Standing in your own way
The Way of the Warrior
You make it happen

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Page created 18 April 1998
Last updated 26 May 2001