Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Value of Values

One of the main "taglines" for our martial arts school is "Modern Martial Arts with Traditional Values".

What we mean by this is that we teach a modern martial art without a lot of the traditional martial arts trappings like uniforms and belts and yelling and learning a bunch of foreign words and etiquette, but we still teach and try to live a lot of what most of us think are "traditional" martial arts values.

I wrote about this not long ago and you guys were very helpful in that regard, thanks.

Image found here.

I've been thinking about values, and how we, as martial artists and martial arts teachers, tend to emphasize these to our students, but... we don't live it.

Going by how people have responded when I ask about it, it seems like most of us believe that values such as honor, integrity, courtesy, etc. are critical when it comes to being a martial artist and living the martial arts way.  Indeed, some of us will claim not teaching moral and ethical values along with martial arts skills make it a lesser martial art (or not really a martial art at all).

If that's so, how come we don't live those values, especially online?

This is partly due to the phenomenon of people being ruder online than they would normally be in real life.  There's lots of discussion about this out there, but here's a nice article that talks about it more detail:   Why Are People So Damn Rude Online?

Frankly, I've found myself enjoying online martial arts communities less and less, as I see far less substantive discussion based on mutual respect and a desire to learn and share about the topic we're all passionate about, and more commentary that is derogatory, prideful, sexist and racist, and disrespectful of honest difference of opinion, to the point that people get into online (and even offline) brawls over it.

It's the same hackneyed "My art is awesome and yours sucks!" and "If you disagree with me I'll beat you up!" and "If you don't do what I do, you're a weak, womanish scumbag!" (because womanish, for some people, is the worst possible thing you can be).

Combine that with the incredible amount of people out there who do not train seriously but claim to know as much as people who do, or have fraudulent lineages or training... it's just not very fun or interesting. I find I spend time in these communities now to find new Martial Arts bloggers I can read, follow, and interact with privately, as that's more useful in the long run.

This is a huge problem on Facebook but I've even had to block people on Google Plus (which is rare - G+ is a MUCH better forum for substantive and respectful discussion than most other social media channels by far).  Really, any martial arts community online that isn't heavily moderated is going to be this way, and even the moderated forums have problems.

I'm not claiming I'm innocent in this - I, too, have had my share of this behavior, and if you're honest with yourself, so have you.  We martial artists are not immune - in some way, we're worse, because theoretically (at least for those of us who claim to follow the path of Budo or other well-known value systems in the martial arts) we know better.

So, if this is true, what is the real value of teaching ethical values in the martial arts?

If we don't - and maybe we can't - live those values in our daily lives, what's the point of it?  Is it the attempt to teach what is ideal and hope we all try to live up to it?

I'd really like to know what you think about this - and how we can work on being better at living what we teach.