Ethics in Karate

Patience; discipline; respect; control; effort; etiquette.  These are some of the qualities student learn in our taiji or karate classes.

Karate fists and ethicsPart of the foundation of martial arts, is developing a high degree of ethics.  This is emphasised in kobujutsu karate training, due to the nature of the physical skills that karate teaches us.

Charles C. Goodin explains how integral ethics is in martial arts, by looking at a significant karate hand gesture:

“A clenched fist represents the destructive potential of Karate.  The open hand symbolises karate ethics and restraint. The open hand covers the fist, just as ethics restrain the karate practitioner’s actions. Many karate kata begin and end with the hands in this position.” – Charles C. Goodin.

An open hand symbolizes ’emptiness’ and being able to let go, while the fist is a universal language of combat.

“It is a combined version of the yin and yang,” suggests Sensei Leo.  “When we have studied the ability and the control to what we choose our hand to be for situations, we ourselves are much more aware and in better control of the self.”

What is Ethics in Karate?

“This is life-long work on the self” explains Sensei Leo Ming.  “It is very easy for the average person to recite and understand but very difficult to live by.  Displaying ethical behaviour challenges us.”

“It is about how we look at things in life, our attitude. It is how we are able to do right and if we miss an opportunity, to then ‘make right’. It is about our daily conduct. It is about what we say (especially to others). It is about consistency.  And it is about integrity.”

These lessons and qualities are ones that even Leo, for the past 43 years, has been working on in himself.  He sees his role in developing ethics in his students, as their Sense, as a very important one, where he needs to set the example.

“I think values such as these never change… the things around us may change, such as modern technologies and phones etc, but these values remain constant, and hence relate to modern day society too.”

Ethics and the Credo

Each system of martial arts may have variations on their credo. The credo is just simply theory if one only reads it. To be able to fully understand the Mings Martial Arts Credo, we must bring the points into practice.

“Therefore we have certain ‘rules‘ of entering and leaving the training place, the dojo,” clarifies Sensei.  “These are the ‘hidden’ understandings and methods for actual practice that students often overlook.”Ethics in karate

An example is when a karate or tai chi student bows at the door, he is not bowing to anyone in particular, but to himself.

“Students may think they ‘have to’ or that it is for me, the Sensei, but I don’t only see it that way. If they can understand, it is a training for their higher self,” wishes Sensei Leo.

Living Ethically

Students who train in karate and tai chi are encouraged to not only develop their physical abilities, but to conduct themselves in their daily life with ethics and integrity.

Knowing the difference between what we are capable of or have a right to do, and what is actually right to do, is a life skill that can lead us far in our own lives, and as a society as a whole.

Join us on this daily journey of living ethically.


For more information and to try a class out, contact your Sensei, Leo Low Ming, on 0833780468.