Martial Arts Ethics – White Dragon Martial Arts

In martial arts, physical training makes us strong and skilled. Oral tradition trains our minds and hearts. We call this ethical training ‘wu de’ in Mandarin or ‘mo duk’ in Cantonese. All martial artists should follow the oral teachings of their instructors. Here are some things to do and things not to do that my sifu taught me.


1. You must pay homage to all your past masters.

Without past masters, there would be no knowledge for you today. If you show them respect, your students and their students will remember you in the future and do the same for you. During class, please speak respectfully about past masters in front of all your students. In our schools, we always bow to past masters when we start teaching.

2. You must pay homage to your sif or instructor.

Your teacher or sifu is the one who has trained a successful martial artist; Without your teacher you would have no martial arts knowledge or skills. When you become skilled in your art, you may sometimes think that you are better than your teacher, but you should be more grateful to him.

A teacher is someone who is skilled in educating students to be the best. He enjoys that his students can exceed his skill level. You should not disrespect your teacher because you can jump higher or kick faster; he gave you the skill. If you do not respect your teacher, your students will do the same with you. A teacher who doesn’t want his students to be better than him is not a good teacher.

3. You must show respect to your parents.

Your parents raised you and gave you an education. They worked very hard get you go in life. Without them, you would not have a chance to train martial arts, whether or not they supported your training. you he must show them respect and set a good example for his children.

4. You must respect other martial arts instructors and their systems or styles.

There is no such thing as the best master or the best style. There are many great martial artists and most all martial systems offer students positive training and value. If you respect them, they will respect you too.


1. Don’t use your martial arts to abuse or bully someone.

Martial arts are for health and self defense. At one time in southern China. Martial arts was for the patriotic struggle for the anti-Manchurian revolution. Shaolin’s traditional teaching says that you must never use your martial arts skills to conduct illegal affairs or business.

2. Don’t hurt someone with your martial arts power unless it’s for self-defense.

You have to learn to control your temperament; don’t be angry or beat anyone to hurt them. Your martial arts training will teach you patience and give you strength; sometimes you don’t realize how strong it is. You can kill someone with a single blow.

3. Do not intentionally injure your classmates during training or practice.

Some people want to test their martial arts skills and apply them during class sparring. This is very dangerous. If your opponent controls himself and you they are not, someone is hurt. Make sure you don’t do it. This is the worst example of bad morals in martial arts practice.

4. Don’t speak disrespectfully about anyone or their martial arts system.

Respecting other martial arts systems is one of the most important martial arts ethics that you must practice and teach students in your school. If you have nothing good to say about another martial artist, just don’t say anything. It is not necessary to praise others, but make sure that no negative words come out of your mouth. You don’t have to cut someone’s head to look taller.

I know that many masters teach this principle in their schools. But from time to time you have new students and newly trained instructors who might forget about this teaching. It is your responsibility as a head instructor to teach them constantly, especially if you are participating in a business competition between your school and another street martial arts school. Teach your students not to physically or verbally attack or threaten their students.

If they say bad things about you, it’s better for you to find a way to handle the nonviolent situation. You don’t want other martial arts schools to have anything against your reputation. Everyone is always excited about what they have in their martial arts system and in their school. When promoting your school or system, you can say a lot of good things about what you offer, but you don’t have to mention the name and style of the competitor publicly or in any publication. You need to train hard and demonstrate good martial arts skills to stay ahead of your competitors. Violence and slander do no good to anyone.

This article originally appeared in the July 2006 issue Inside Kung Fu magazine, “Training for Life” by Grandmaster Doc Fai Wong.

David Berry

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