Wu De is the Chinese martial arts code of appropriate social interaction. Ethics and etiquette is ingrained not only in the culture of China but also pervades throughout the philosophy that holds the society together. There are ten points in Wu De that a student must always try to be mindful of:
- Wisdom: Zhihui (Shi-whey) 智慧
Wisdom is the culmination of all of our virtues. It is the end result of all of our training and adherence to the values of our school and codes of conduct. It is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. One should never become complacent and assume that they are wise. It is a never ending effort toward this all-encompassing goal. Strive for wisdom in each choice and in every aspect of your life. Learn from your failures as you would learn from a failed technique. Do not despair for your lack of success. Instead, every student should catalog the knowledge of what went wrong to prevent it in the future as well as to teach those who come after you how to avoid the same errors.
- Respect – Zunzhong (Zoon-Jong) 尊重
The term respect means to acknowledge the feelings and interests of another in a relationship and treating the other at a standard that rules out selfish behavior. Respect is obtained not by behavior but by one’s attitude. More than what you do it is HOW you do it. Respect is appreciated as demonstrating a sense of worth or value of a person, their personal quality, or personal ability. In regard to Wu De, respect begins with the individual and then reflects outward. Meaning; once we respect ourselves and in turn have equal respect for others we will earn true respect from those around us. Respect must be earned as well as displayed which is why we bow and why we use titles.
- Humility – Quanxun: (Chen-Shiun) 谦逊
The term humility is the quality or characteristic of a person that is unpretentious and modest. Humility comes with controlling one’s pride and ego. Pride and ego are the killers of good martial arts and good character. Pride and ego will cause a person to become satisfied with their status and in turn stop thinking deeply or continuing to learn. We must strive at all times to display humility in all things we do. Train for yourself and not the title or color around your waist. One should keep your cup of tea empty thus allowing yourself to always continue to grow.
“The taller the bamboo grows, the lower it bows” – Chinese Proverb
- Loyalty – Zhongcheng: (Joong-Chung) 忠诚
Loyalty is a quality of faithfulness, obedience, and devotion. When you commit your loyalty to your training, obedience to your instructors, and a devotion to your personal health and wellbeing you will finally see the true fruits of your labor. Never underestimate the need to follow. Every Master was once the student and at times you will have to listen to those less skilled than you. Be obedient to your goal of wisdom and be loyal to your training goals. Learn from every person you come in contact with and avoid being blinded by personal pride. Be loyal to those in the studio by training with everyone’s best interest at heart. Let the concept of loyalty grow to every relationship in your life.
- Trust – Xinren: (Shin-wren) 信任
Who do you trust? Do people trust you? Trust is the belief that a person is of good character and will seek to fulfill promises, policies, ethical codes, and the law. In martial arts, we make a promise to ourselves, the school, the students, and the teacher. When starting a school or job there are expectations that are placed on each student/employee such as safety, compensation, and knowing what is in each other’s best interest.
In martial arts it is a breach of trust to ask for more knowledge from the instructor. Understand that sometimes routine/repetitive instruction is for your own good as it allows you to become proficient at the art. Trust the path you are on is the right one. At times instruction may seem arduous but it is this repetition that is necessary for your progression. Questions are good, however, too many questions cloud your mind and don’t let you focus on the important task of physically training your technique(s).
- Honor – Rongyu (wrong-you) 荣誉
Martial Arts have many strong connections to a person’s honor. We honor our art, ourselves, and our ancestors by showing loyalty and having the will to train while simultaneously maintaining wisdom about our training. To give loyalty is to honor the art through a belief in the practices and wisdom of the people that have lived and died in perfecting the art so that it could be passed on to future generations. We should honor the people who came before us not because they were all superior but rather as a sign of respect to the knowledge passed on. Learning a technique that you may not use or like is common. However, not practicing it because you dislike it shows a lack of respect to the art and removes the honor from your training. That knowledge is there for a reason. You may not understand it now but that does not make it any less valuable in the future. Either to yourself or to another student. Keep honor in all things and throw nothing away.
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” – Sir Isaac Newton
- Courage – Yongqi (Yong-chee) 勇气
Courage for the martial artist goes beyond controlling just a person’s fears of fighting or physical harm. The ultimate goal of martial arts is to learn more about one’s self and increase your confidence both mentally and physically. Development of a person’s courage in order to succeed is not to create arrogance but to make them self-assured so that you may be brave in the face of failure. A true Master has courage in the face of danger, courage from fear of possible failure, courage to stand up for what is just, and courage to walk away from an altercation for the better of all involved.
- Kindness – Hauyi (How-yee) 好意
The application of kindness to all beings is a fundamental requirement of a serious practitioner of martial arts. Without it the techniques trained will be misused. Your training will also be false and empty as we must strike with kindness at our brethren so all may learn without injury. Kindness is the motivator of all the other virtues. Every choice we make in life should be with a goal of kindness. When we attempt to be kind in all aspects of life we will receive that same kindness in return.
- Virtue – Daode (Dow-duh) 道德
The concept of virtue in Chinese thought in this sense is the notion of a martial artist having good character. The foundation of this concept is a mix of four necessary character traits: temperance, prudence, courage, & the desired outcome of justice.
- Temperance is moderation. In each and every activity we do there should be a balance of moderation. From the foods we eat to the training we complete in the hall. Martial arts should enrich your life and not consume it. It should assist in your goals not overrun them. The ultimate goal of martial arts is to take the knowledge and self-discovery from the training hall and apply its principles to your day to day life.
- Prudence is the act of having sound judgment over all one’s affairs in life. In life it is prudent to look at situations and make your decisions without haste and base them on facts, knowledge, & experience. It is ideal to be mindful and weigh the outcome of any action.
- Courage is the ability to act when confronted by fear. That can be physical or mental fear of a person, place, or thing as well as a general fear of failure. Through martial arts we can learn to face those fears. With this confidence we can begin to move though our personal life with courage by accepting its challenges and not being tied down by fear.
- Justice is a notion of debate since the before recorded history. Justice combines all of Virtue’s components of into one application. It is a high standard of character that we measure ourselves against when making decisions and is the keystone to a virtuous person. Making a decision that is just takes the fortitude to look at fact, research information, and ability look into yourself to take the course of action that you know in your heart is correct for any given situation without violating the other tenants of virtue.
- Perseverance – Yili (Yee-lee) 毅力
Without perseverance there would be no success. It is defined as “steady persistence in a course of action in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or delay in achieving success”. For the martial artist it is the necessary weapon to battle our fears. The same fears that he/she may have at home or in their job:
- Fear of injury.
- Fear of failure.
- Fear of pain.
- Fear of rejection.
- Fear of embarrassment.
We persevere because we learn through martial arts that each failure is a lesson toward ultimate success. Pain is a teacher and injury is only temporary so long as we trust in our training. The practice of perseverance in your martial arts training has a goal of spreading that positive driven attitude to all things in life. It is often thought of as the most important martial value in Kung Fu because without it a student would give up before they could ever see the true value in their training.
One should always be mindful of Wu De both in training as well as an everyday practice in proper manners. When we strive to be better both as a person and as a martial artist we will see true goals of kung fu. Not just as a means to defend ourselves, but as a path to follow in life. These martial virtues can help lead a person down a path of confidence, self assurance, and peace. I challenge each and every student of any type of martial arts who reads this to attempt to apply these basic principles. I hope everyone can see the positive growth these virtues can have on their life(s).