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#409701 - 10/16/08 08:05 AM Ethics, morals, values and character building
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
Okay...we hear it a lot...that martial arts can be good for the character. Lots of 'ideas' in people's heads when they sign the kids up in the local dojo. But looking around, the reality is...there are a lot of jerks in the martial arts...so whatever possible 'character building' aspects can be absorbed in training...might have more to do with what the MAist brings to it to begin with.

My question is this: what is the difference between 'ethics', 'morals', 'values' and 'character building'? I see many threads, here and elsewhere, that touch on this subject, only to be derailed by these terms. Are they interchangable...synonymous with each other?

What are your thoughts/experiences on this subject?

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#409702 - 10/16/08 12:41 PM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: harlan]
butterfly Offline
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Registered: 08/25/04
Posts: 3012
Loc: Torrance, CA
Interchangeable? Maybe. Regardless, I think it's what the person brings to the game, not the what the game does to firmly pound these into the individual.

Like all things that belong within the personal scope of your interactions with others, you either have this moral identity and follow it or you don't. This doesn't mean you can't fake the attachments to good ethics and float along with the rules and regulations of the group to which you belong, but you are who you beleive and choose to be, not how you are forced to be.

A thief may not practice theivery among the MA clan he belongs to; and a liar and braggart may shy away from larger than life tales while ensconced in his practice; but even a dog knows not to poop in its own bed. Pooping on someone else's shoe out of doors? That's a different question.

Now if the environment is conducive to helping a person with moral body building and the individual decides to allow this to help him, more power to that person. Still it doesn't change the fact that it has to be an individual choice on behavior that reflects personal ethics.

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#409703 - 10/16/08 01:08 PM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: harlan]
Ronin1966 Offline
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Registered: 04/26/02
Posts: 3116
Loc: East Coast, United States
Hello Harlan:

I have just a few brief moments before I need to prepare for my next class. It is an interesting question.

"Change" is never an instant pill, though an ephiny <sp.?> surely can happen. This kind of change will never occur in the fast-food mentality too many possess concerning martial arts. It does not work like that.

If that is the approach used, the mindset... any kind of introspection is doomed IMHO. Change demands obscene amounts of time, not for seconds, minutes, hours but for months and years of earnest study. It is as much a process of "fire" internally in every single class. It is as much a process caused by interaction among other classmates as it ever was from any "teacher".

Good instruction challenges our internal beliefs, our internal perceptions and nudges them, challenges them as necessary. There is always someone better, stronger, faster. This awareness is built. There will always be someone who's "bloodlust" their temperment, their perception of things always draws them into completely avoidable situations...

The kind of changes you are speaking of happen when we make "sentient choices" and knowing the possible outcomes of them draw our particular boundries. Fighting is a bad thing to be avoided by grown-ups, people with even half a brain! If we must fight, it is best to do what must be done and walk away quickly.

This awareness will not happen instantly. This consciousness does not come easily and requires being challenged in multiple ways subtle and blatent over time. If we stay, and continue earnestly in our study(ies) becoming conscious of our changes, our realization hey maybe I don't need to do "X" it certainly does not help me here with this/him/her or at work either.... hummmmngh, maybe I should change that....

Does that help?
Jeff

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#409704 - 10/16/08 06:00 PM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: harlan]
everyone Offline
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Registered: 01/02/07
Posts: 597
Loc: USA
Sorry Harlan,

I hate to disillusion you (I think you know this already) but martial arts doesn’t teach those things. It’s just marketing B.S. some school owners put on their brochure. Martial arts teaches how to fight. Way too many people try to fill a spiritual/emotional void with it. If a MA teacher is promoting this, RUN as fast as you can from the cult! However, if the teacher is a good person and you respect them, you can learn (morals, ethics, etc…) from them like anyone else.

As far as defining terms, Webster would be better at it then I.

Michael

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#409705 - 10/16/08 11:34 PM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: harlan]
Cord Offline
Prolific

Registered: 01/13/05
Posts: 11399
Loc: Cambridge UK.
Quote:

My question is this: what is the difference between 'ethics', 'morals', 'values' and 'character building'?




Ethics and morality are governed by the culture and/or society that agree with them. They are a 'code' of acceptable conduct, enforced through law of land and dominant religion. What is ethical and moral in one country, may not be so in another.

Values are personal beliefs as filtered through the societies 'code'. The further away from the code someone's outlook is on life, the more they will be accused of having 'no values' or 'poor morals'.

Character building is the act of indoctrination of a person into a societies 'code'. The more they believe and invest in it, the 'better' that society will percieve them to be as a person.

That is why we can cheer for a soldier, and hang a terrorist, for essentialy doing the same thing. We filter the same action through a 'moral filter' pre-determined by the culture we are part of.
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#409706 - 10/17/08 12:20 AM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: everyone]
dandjurdjevic Offline
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Registered: 05/10/08
Posts: 844
Loc: Australia
This seems to be a fairly hot topic on the web: sites like Bullshido can show you any number of examples of so-called top intstructors who don't have any semblance of ethics, morals etc. It is described as one of the big "myths" of martial arts and there are no shortage of people wanted to fulfil the role of "myth buster".

However is there even an argument?

Traditional martial arts might be associated with a particular ethos or philosophy - via Chan/Zen Buddhism and Daoism in particular. However this is not, has never been and cannot be the same as saying that the practice of these arts will somehow make the practitioner adhere to or reflect that ethos or philosophy. I can't recall hearing anyone actually arguing this, although clearly some instructors feel that training for a long time with an instructor who adheres to a given ethos/philosophy can have an impact on a student.

There is also the feeling that prolonged, strenuous, challenging and disciplined training in the martial arts can give you insights into your character, human nature and the nature of conflict. That's not the same as saying that you WILL have such insights or that even if you do, you WILL change your behaviour in accordance with those insights.

Rather, insights in training, gained under the tutelage of an influential instructor who strongly adheres to a particular ethos or philosophy, MIGHT lead you to reflect that ethos and arguably become a "better person" (ie. in a "moral" sense as viewed in your society etc. - all these terms are subjective and changeable, but you get my drift).

However the idea that you WILL become such a "better person" simply through physical martial arts practise is so obviously without foundation that it scarcely warrants attention at all. In almost 3 decades of involvement in the traditional martial arts I have never met anyone who has advocated such a position. Usually their own organisations are so riddled with internal political strife that ongoing human frailty is obvious for all to see.

Accordingly I am strongly of the opinion that the issue is nothing but a straw man. There is no real "myth" to bust (except perhaps with some cultists etc. - whose ridiculous views probably don't warrant "debunking" anyway).

Put another way, the vast majority of people practising traditional martial arts might well be aware of the particular ethos or philosophy of their school/art, but they are not under any illusion that they will somehow magically "absorb" and manifest that ethos just through physically performing certain moves. Most of us are also smart enough to see our "grandmasters" as ordinary human beings with the usual human frailties. If we don't see it straight way, we see it soon enough. Most of us aren't waiting for some helpful "myth-debunker" to come along "to set things straight" in this regard.
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#409707 - 10/17/08 06:07 AM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: everyone]
JKogas Offline
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Registered: 01/25/03
Posts: 10818
Loc: North Carolina
Quote:

It’s just marketing B.S. some school owners put on their brochure. Martial arts teaches how to fight.





Bingo! Ethics, moral, etc., don't come from disciplined practices, they come from a state of mind. You can't discipline or force yourself to be "good". The good in a person emerges from a shift in consciousness.

IMO, martial arts CAN depending on how its practiced, allow a person to deal with ego issues. However, martial arts can also strengthen the ego just the same. But in terms of a person's inner being, that's up to him or her. Martial arts practice itself has little do with it. I think many of us have seen people involved in martial arts for MANY years who are as despicable as they come. Obviously the arts had no effect on their ethics, morals and character development in most respects.

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#409708 - 10/17/08 07:00 AM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: JKogas]
dandjurdjevic Offline
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Registered: 05/10/08
Posts: 844
Loc: Australia
Yes - Bingo!

But as I said above, it's a "straw man" issue.

Quote:

the idea that you WILL become such a "better person" simply through physical martial arts practise is so obviously without foundation that it scarcely warrants attention at all. In almost 3 decades of involvement in the traditional martial arts I have never met anyone who has advocated such a position. Usually their own organisations are so riddled with internal political strife that ongoing human frailty is obvious for all to see.




TMA are associated with a Daoist or Buddhist ethos. That doesn't mean its practitioners will exemplify this ethos.


Edited by dandjurdjevic (10/17/08 07:26 AM)
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#409709 - 10/17/08 07:39 AM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: dandjurdjevic]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
Thank you all for the replies. But before the question gets too derailed, the question is...does anyone find any qualitative or semantical difference between the use of the terms 'ethics, morals, values and character building'?

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#409710 - 10/17/08 08:00 AM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: harlan]
dandjurdjevic Offline
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Registered: 05/10/08
Posts: 844
Loc: Australia
Ethics and values are specific to certain philosophies and religions or cultures.

Certainly there are particular ethical principles or values ("there is no first strike in karate") associated with tma. These are more than likely derived from Zen Buddhism and Daoism.

"Moral" behaviour depends on how these ethics are effected in today's society. We would probably agree that someone who uses karate "for self defence only" is acting "morally" within the prevailing Western standards of behaviour.

"Character building" is a process by which you adopt certain ethics which in turn translate into moral behaviour.

In my experience, few, if any, traditional martial artists buy into the myth that "martial arts builds character". That they buy into this myth is, in itself, a myth.

    Traditional martial artists know that martial arts is associated with certain ethical standards.

    They think that if one abides by those ethics one will exhibit what is generally regarded as "moral" behaviour.

    They feel that if they can learn to exhibit that "moral" behaviour they will have "built character".


All this is very different from the "myth" referred to above.

When people put "character building" on brochures they are ostensibly using short-hand for the above. They are assuring the public that the particular dojo teaches adherence to those values/ethics (teaching fighting can, after all, be a shady business).

Assuming the dojo actually teaches adherence to traditional ethics, whether a student adopts those values/ethics and hence "builds" character depends entirely on the student. And I don't know anyone who thinks otherwise.


Edited by dandjurdjevic (10/17/08 08:12 AM)
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#409711 - 10/17/08 08:03 AM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: dandjurdjevic]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
Seems sensible. Like we used to say in the Sixties...'It's what you bring to the party.'

This question, and your reply, really point to the the heart of something that has bothered me for some time. And that is...knowing the above...why would any 'traditional' teacher instruct bad people? But...I don't want to derail my own thread!

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#409712 - 10/17/08 05:35 PM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: everyone]
Ronin1966 Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 04/26/02
Posts: 3116
Loc: East Coast, United States
Hello Michael:

<<but martial arts doesn’t teach those things.

Some obviously do not, but those are only (exclusively?) interested in the "fight". I propose there are definately teachers of many different arts/practices who do teach those exact things you might call what, foolish idealism perhaps?

<<Martial arts teaches how to fight.

Ok then what are you actually studying after 5, 10, 20 years then prey tell

Jeff

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#409713 - 10/17/08 06:14 PM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: harlan]
Ronin1966 Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 04/26/02
Posts: 3116
Loc: East Coast, United States
Hello Harlan:

<<why would any 'traditional' teacher instruct bad people?



I would not pretend to be whatever the stereotype of a "traditional teacher" might be. However, if I know someone is doing something "bad" with the information I give to them, what they learned from me... they are "called on it". If the behavior(s) does not change or is too outrageous, dangerous, etc. they would be asked to leave...
period.

Are you capable of evil Harlan? Is... Ed/JohnL/Matt? Is our founder? Am I? Take your pick of whomever... the question I believe is not whether we can make idiotic mistakes but whether we can CHANGE resulting from them...

If I keep going to that little bar and always end up bashing heads.... write any scenerio you want. The bottom line, the art needs students or the knowledge dies. Will the knowledge be passed through people who use their powers for the ~forces of good~, or will the information be given to those who follow the "dark paths" .

If I detect you are a danger to others, or perhaps yourself you would be asked to go bye-bye. Cannot imagine it would be any different for ~traditional~ teachers.

Jeff

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#409714 - 10/17/08 09:33 PM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: Ronin1966]
harlan Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 07/31/04
Posts: 6664
Loc: Amherst, MA
Sorry...but that is simplistic. Yes..people make mistakes. That infers that they were operating with the understanding that it was the 'right' thing to do...not that it was the wrong thing to do...a clear understanding of what is right and wrong...and elect to do wrong. And we aren't talking about stealing a candy bar here...we are talking about damaging people on purpose...and enjoying it all the while knowing it is perceived of as generally 'wrong' in the social sphere.

But back to the original question...is there a difference, semantically between the terms: values, ethics, morals, and character building? The reason I ask is that when the general topic comes up, of MA being beneficial in that area, people tend to blur the lines between a teacher teaching by example good ethos...and morals and values as steps to indoctrination into a (insert any unspecified) religion.

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#409715 - 10/18/08 12:41 AM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: harlan]
dandjurdjevic Offline
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Registered: 05/10/08
Posts: 844
Loc: Australia
I think that "values" and "ethics" are largely interchangeable - they are specific to a mileu - eg. culture, profession, religion etc.

"Morality" in the colloquial sense has connotations of universality - but it is also culturally contextual. Nonetheless it is possible to identify broadly whether behavior meets the definition of that term in a particular culture.

"Character building" is the process of modifying one's behavior in accordance with prevailing standards of morality.

Does this help.
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#409716 - 10/18/08 07:02 AM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: dandjurdjevic]
dandjurdjevic Offline
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Registered: 05/10/08
Posts: 844
Loc: Australia
The 'birthday greeting' was a slip of the mouse btw!
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#409717 - 10/18/08 03:45 PM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: harlan]
Ed_Morris Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
Quote:

Okay...we hear it a lot...that martial arts can be good for the character. Lots of 'ideas' in people's heads when they sign the kids up in the local dojo. But looking around, the reality is...there are a lot of jerks in the martial arts...so whatever possible 'character building' aspects can be absorbed in training...might have more to do with what the MAist brings to it to begin with.

My question is this: what is the difference between 'ethics', 'morals', 'values' and 'character building'? I see many threads, here and elsewhere, that touch on this subject, only to be derailed by these terms. Are they interchangable...synonymous with each other?

What are your thoughts/experiences on this subject?




An MA instructor gives no more or less influence on a child's character than a baseball coach. The depth of the influence depends on how long and how often they are affected by the instructor's teaching. Someone having the same baseball caoch for 5 years, may tend to be affected by them more than a MA instructor they have had for only 2 years. for example.


That wasn't your question, but I think it's important to realize that, although MA has been marketed as a 'character builder' to attract parents to sign up their Johnny-A.D.D. in the hopes MA will deliver the promised character traits...The vast majority of MA instructors are not child psychatrists or professional mentors - they are just people, with varying influence on others.


as far as 'ethics', 'morals', 'values' and 'character building' - Those traits are for the parents to take responsibility and shape in their children by influencing thier own kids everyday...as oppossed to dumping a troubled kid off for 2 hours twice a week with someone considered a good guy, and hoping they come out Ghandi.

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#409718 - 10/18/08 07:24 PM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: Ed_Morris]
dandjurdjevic Offline
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Registered: 05/10/08
Posts: 844
Loc: Australia
In my experience as a martial arts teacher and parent -

(a) yes, people do drop their ADD/ADHD kids off at a school with someone they consider a "good guy";

(b) most of them however do not have any illusions that their child will turn into Ghandi.

Why is this so? Karate/tkd/kungfu are all just "activities", ranked by today's parents as not dissimilar to others such as baseball. The fact that they have a particular "non-violent" ethos offsets the fact that they are "learning to fight" but little more.

In my experience, many parents today over-schedule their kids. Martial arts is just another thing to schedule. Imagining that parents think of their kids' teacher as some kind of "guru" is overstating things "just a little". Many of them just want child minding for 45 minutes. MA teachers are just saps who get this task.
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#409719 - 10/18/08 11:15 PM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: dandjurdjevic]
Ed_Morris Offline
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Registered: 11/04/05
Posts: 6772
I think parents looking towards over-commercial MA gyms for kids' character building, is a bit like looking to Burger King for their nutrition. It feeds the kids ego for the short-term, but will never make them full.

character and values aren't built by design, they largely are absorbed, assimilated by process of osmosis by example and everyday mini-corrections. spending only 4 hours a week in a group with 1 instructor, vs living with parents 1-on-1 everyday - which one's character/values will be the larger influence in the long run?
The instructor may be one who the child student admires and tries to be like perhaps for the the time they train (averge kid student drops out in 2 years or less), but in the long run it's the parents (and later combined with friends) which are the largest influence on character traits.


One comment that was made about teachers not taking bad kids...if a MA teacher claims MA classes are character building, then why wouldn't they ONLY take bad kids?

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#409720 - 10/19/08 12:15 AM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: Ed_Morris]
dandjurdjevic Offline
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Registered: 05/10/08
Posts: 844
Loc: Australia
I agree with you about the Burger King analogy.

However, as I said, I seriously doubt most parents take kids to MA for "character building" of the kind to which you refer - any more than they take their kids to baseball for that purpose.

They might imagine that their kids need to participate in physical activity and socialise with other kids. Sometimes they might feel (in a misguided way) that their kids will learn some "self-defence" (although I suspect this is just an afterthought). They might feel that all these things will contribute to a socially and mentally healthier, more confident child. In this "couch potato and computer game" era ANY physical activity is likely to have SOME "character building" benefit of this kind.

Few parents I know (both as a teacher and parent) have ever viewed martial arts as anything other than a "ha-so!", pyjama-clad activity. They certainly don't seem to think of it in any "mystical", Ghandi-esque light. Maybe things are different in the US...
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#409721 - 10/19/08 08:28 PM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: dandjurdjevic]
Kyudo Offline
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Registered: 10/19/08
Posts: 2
Martial arts have much more to offer than purely fighting.

My years of experience with American karate has led me to believe, for the most part, it has turned into a money making endeavor where those involved are more involved with the $$ than with living the life they speak of (if they speak of it)...my apologies to those of you that have truly kept the art itself in your heart and have not compromised your values.

Any art of the "-do" nature as opposed to the "-itsu" (i.e. judo vs jujitsu) should be teaching "the way", as in ethics, morals, values and character building.

While, kyudo is not understood by many in the Western world, it has remained pure to its nature based in Japanese tradition. While it is very much a budo, modern kyudo deals more so with the "rightness of self". With this "shooting can be realized".

The martial arts as a whole have so much to offer that is being overlooked by so many!

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#409722 - 10/19/08 09:15 PM Re: Ethics, morals, values and character building [Re: Kyudo]
dandjurdjevic Offline
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Registered: 05/10/08
Posts: 844
Loc: Australia
The suffix is "jutsu" not "itsu" btw.

Hence "karate-do" or "karate-jutsu".

Many people make a big deal about the suffix. In the end, all traditional far Eastern martial arts have an ethos along the "do" lines, irrespective of what they call themselves. The Japanese weapons schools as well as Jigaro Kano's judo influenced karate to take on a "do" suffix principally to give respectability.
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