How martial arts teaches respect
Does martial arts teach respect? And how does it do it?
Good question, and we have a ready answer.
The entire institution of the martial arts is built upon a foundation of respect, and it is indeed the way the martial arts routinely operates. It starts with the very nature of the relationship there. There is an instructor, a master, who by their rank and experience demand respect. One must bow as an honorific, which means it is a tacit acknowledgement that they are in charge, they are the master who possesses knowledge and experience. And as the master returns the bow it is an acknowledgement by them that they are teaching, they are passing on their knowledge to a student worthy of that knowledge and experience. And that’s before a class even begins. And that is the manner in which a class closes.
So in essence the entirety of the class itself is surrounded by, encompassed by, and conjoined by the conscious engagement of respect between members of the school. And that’s by design because it teaches people, especially young people what respect is. Frequently they simply believe it’s just a type of pomp and show with little reason behind it. It’s bowing or something before someone who’s somehow stronger or in more authority than them, and they are given the opportunity to see that it is so much more than that, that it makes sense, and possesses reason and plays a valuable part in the way they interact with others and even with themselves.
Respect is the expression of admiration for a person’s abilities or accomplishments.
And it encourages people to treat each other well, and decently, to help others, to act civility toward them and to receive the same in return. And when that in itself is accomplished it opens the doors for learning, for knowledge, and for self improvement. It helps and encourages us to become something greater than what we are in the present.
Now because of the way a person that is respectful acts, it also encourages a person to conduct themselves with more civility on a regular basis. This is especially important as a lesson for young people, young children specifically because they are still learning why these things are important. Young children are by nature rambunctious and that’s perfectly natural, they should be, they’re supposed to be. But they also don’t understand sometimes why they should learn to reign that in, and control themselves. As when they go to Karate class, and have a few minutes before it starts they horse around with friends and so on. They have to learn that too much of it is disrespectful to the instructor, and to the class. And they should be mindful of how and when they are rambunctious. Respect is a perfect vehicle for teaching this, as is the martial arts school. It provides a wonderful environment for them to not only learn about these things, but practice them as a matter of regularity or routine as well. This in turn causes or encourages them to conduct themselves more respectfully outside of the school also, and to generally treat everyone they meet with a measure of respect. And therein lies the beauty of the martial arts, and of the schools in which they are practiced. They aren’t strictly and specifically places where people learn to fight. People learn self defense, certainly, absolutely, but in the course of that they are caused to learn so many other valuable life lessons that will profit students throughout their lives, and help them become more prosperous, and positive influences on society and within their communities.
And respect is all the more important these days in a culture that seems intent on teaching the very opposite, or at best the very absence of respect. So it’s a thing that can be taught and reinforced for not only children but people of any age.
Respect is simply a thing that allows for the learning of many other valuable lessons, and indeed cannot be learned without having first learned respect.
And we should all want to give our children the very best opportunities to learn as much as possible, as early as possible. And more often than not children will surprise us with how quickly they can learn and apply what they’ve learned to their daily lives.
Another way in which the martial arts teaches respect is not only respect for others, but for oneself. That’s because as a person begins their journey they achieve more, they achieve goals, and overcome challenges. They begin to see that they’re capable of far more than they previously imagined for themselves. And in doing so they learn that they are entitled to more self respect. And that is truly a valuable lesson that people of any age and background can and should learn. When people learn to respect themselves, they learn to respect others in the same way. And it allows them to open themselves up to all the possibilities of achieving and learning more in life.
Consider a person who wants to learn self defense because they have been bullied. A person falls into the habit of taking the abuse more often because they don’t have the respect for themselves that they should. They’ve been taught and told they aren’t deserving of it. And so they don’t seek it, or act within it in their daily life. But when they learn they are entitled to self respect, they learn they can and should be capable of defending themselves adequately. And this can truly be a life changing experience.
The martial arts can and does absolutely teach respect, and it teaches what respect is, and why it is valuable both internally, and externally. And through its environment, it causes a person to open themselves to the possibilities that lay before them of becoming something far greater than they imagine they can be.