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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
Professional Poster

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
Professional Poster

Registered: 04/26/02
Posts: 3113
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
Enthusiast

Registered: 01/02/07
Posts: 597
Loc: USA
Sorry Harlan,

I hate to disillusion you (I think you know this already) but martial arts doesnít teach those things. Itís 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, etcÖ) 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
Enthusiast

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
Prolific

Registered: 01/25/03
Posts: 10813
Loc: North Carolina
Quote:

Itís 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
Enthusiast

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
Enthusiast

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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