What about Wude (武德)?

Wude is an important part of the culture of the Chinese martial arts.  Morality is very important to the practice of martial arts in general and this idea of Wude is extolled by masters.  It is the criteria on how students are judged by their masters, and whether or not they are deemed worthy to be taught.  In the article article The Muslim Maser of the Old Empire, published in the December 2002 issue of KUNG FU TAI CHI Magazine, the late Grandmaster Ma Xianda said –

“Wude is not just empty, not just a name. You must have wude. Only then you can have wucai (martial ability 武才) Only then you can show your martial arts ability. For all Martial Society, including American Martial Society, the question is: How do we establish a higher standard of wude? How are we going to cultivate and promote this? If wude is strong and everyone follows up on it, the whole society can be strong bringing everything to a higher level.” 

Grandmaster Ma Xianda

Wude is formally divided into two categories; morality of deed, and mind.  Morality of deed is defined as those ethics and morals which are directly applied to real life environments, such as interactions with other people and relationships. The morality of mind is defined by those traits developed inside oneself. It is said, before you learn martial arts, you have to learn how to become a good person (wei xi wu xian xue re 未悉武仙學喏). No matter what you do, you have to learn morality, among martial artists, this is not an empty saying.

Virtue of deed concerns social relations; morality of mind is meant to cultivate the inner harmony between the emotional mind (心; Xin) and the wisdom mind (慧; Hui). The ultimate goal is reaching “no extremity” (無 極; Wuji) – closely related to the Taoist concept of wu wei – where both wisdom and emotions are in harmony with each other.

Martial Ethics consists of two parts: Behavioral Ethics & Character Ethics; morality of deed and mind respectively. Behavioral Ethics detail the proper way to behave toward others, whether or not they’re Martial Artists. Character Ethics detail the personality traits that practically guarantee a student’s success. When these two are combined, many of the seemingly insurmountable obstacles of society disappear. It turns out every Grandmother who ever lived was right: manners go a long way toward improving the quality of social interactions. Below is listed the contents of both sections of Martial Ethics.

Behavioral Ethics ( Xing De 行德)

  1. Modesty (Qianxu 謙虛)
  2. Respect (Zunjing 尊敬)
  3. Righteousness (Zhengyi 正義)
  4. Trustworthiness (Xinyong 信用)
  5. Loyalty (Zhongcheng 忠誠)

Character Ethics (Pin De 品德)

  1. Determination (Yizhi 意志)
  2. Endurance (Rennai 忍耐)
  3. Perseverance (Yili 毅力)
  4. Patience (Hengxin 恆心)
  5. Courage (Yonggan 勇敢)

Morality of Deed

Modesty (qiānxū 谦虚)

Humility is one of the most distinguishing traits of character that people are judged on. This is unfailingly important to the character of a martial artist. Understanding that you are not the best, that there are others better than you, and that you can always be better, is important to how you train and improve, as well as carry yourself with others; putting aside your ego and pride. Do not revel in success or be openly proud of what you have achieved, because these things come and go.  Instead, always modest; always acknowledge that you can always be better.  Lower your head and be willing to take criticism and advice, and learn from others, regardless of what position they may have relative to you; especially if they are more skilled.  Always remember, acknowledge and thank those who have helped and assisted you, especially in times of needs.  And more importantly, do not look down on others, as that is being egotistic and arrogant; treat others as equals or betters if nothing else, regardless of who they are.  But these actions only demonstrate humility, not prove its authenticity. Humility is something that must be internalized. Don’t be prideful, try to be a down-to-earth kind of person, and reserve your personal judgment of others.

Respect (zūnjìng 尊敬)

Whereas humility is internalized from the self, respect is something that is externalized towards others.  This applies to all the relationships one has in life, from friends and family, to peers, teachers, bosses, and seniors in any kind. Technically, respect can both be internalized, in how one may truly feel about someone inwardly, and externalized in actions demonstrating respectfulness.  But of the two kinds of respect, outward respect is crucial, and arguably more important in martial arts because one’s actions can create immedate consequences if one it not careful.  While it’s easy to imagine that respect is earned, not given, this aspect of wude goes hand in hand with humility; regardless of personal feelings.  Simple actions that demonstrate this include bowing of one’s head towards elders and seniors. In the context of the formal learning environment with a martial arts instructor, especially in a Chinese Kung Fu setting, it is important to stand upright, and maintain eye contact with said instructor. The martial artist always remembers to carry themselves respectfully towards others, in order to make a good impression and have good relationships.

Righteousness (zhèngyì 正義)

This term refers to a sense of “right” and “wrong”, or “the right thing to do.”  This can be denoted by the single character of 義; yì, which, by itself, means “justice” or “righteousness”, called “YI”: “Do not hesitate to do the right thing” in the game. People should not hesitate to do what is felt to be right. Conversely, it is important to understand that when not to rush into action or do something as an emotional response.  If there is a situation where there is obvious conflict and trouble, one should avoid it as much as possible, taking the time to think an action through. Understanding includes the preference for minimal or preferably no negative consequences.  But, one must remember to distinguish what is the right thing to do, and aim to achieve it.

Trustworthiness (xìnyòng 信用)

Establishing trust is key to reliability in the real world. Conversely, one should also be careful of who they trust.  Be honest but do not share too much personal information unless they are the people you are comfortable with and know you best.  Trust takes effort to build, and is easily lost and should be guarded seriously.  Trust also builds respect with others, and establishes loyalty in certain kinds of relationships, essential in successful heroic endevors.

Loyalty (zhōngchéng 忠诚)

This is a very traditional quality in martial arts.  In those raised in traditional Chinese culture, masters demand the utmost loyalty of their students.  This usually means following instructions without question, and not going to another school or teacher, especially without the permission of one’s original teacher. Loyalty is a great value among friends and teachers, and should be valued in the same way as trust.

Morality of Mind

Determination(yìzhì 意志)

This refers to willpower or determination.  Willpower is exercised by focus of the mind, especially in dedication to a specific task.  This can be exeplified by long and hard training; martial or otherwise.  It is important to understand that this refers to a completely mental aspect, and should not be confused with the values that follow. Focus and determination is vital to the building longevity; it is said the road of martial arts is not quick or short

Endurance (rěnnài 忍耐 )

Not to be confused with “will,” though both in the mental and physical endurance, can be a byproduct of a strong will.  Where willpower is a mental trait of one’s focus and determination, endurance can simply be defined as the ability to experince hardship; both physical and mental.  Again, like willpower, endurance can be built up and developed, most obviously in hard training.  Endurance can be carried over to any hard situation in life, and this ability is vital to survivial out in the world.

Perseverance (yìlì 毅力)

Another byproduct of “will”, but not to be confused with either will, determination, or endurance. Perseverance is the willingness to carry on in one’s efforts in the face of hardship. Perseverance can manitfest as an application of willpower.  The focus and determination of will in expending continued energies towards a goal is perseverance.  Of all the traits whihc comprise the morality of mind, perseverance is a fundamental cornerstone of Kung Fu (功夫), the concept of skill achieved over time, where perseverance is the effort to achieve that skill over time.  Like Kung Fu, perseverance can be applied to anything that takes time and effort to get results.

Patience (héngxīn 恒心)

Not to be confused with perseverance; the willingness to continue hard efforts. Nor is it endurance; the ability to take hardship. It is the willingness to wait, for an unknown amount of time, for a specific results, or opportunity. While endurance, perseverance, and patience are differentiated, it is important to note that all three values go hand in hand with each other, as manifestations of will.” Understanding that such good things do not come in a short amount of time is vital to patience and can be applied to any situation in life.

Courage (yǒnggǎn 勇敢)

Courage, in the English language, is synonymous with bravery or fearlessness in the face of a daunting task or situation.  However is is understoond that fearlessness is not the same as courage in the face of fear.  Fear is an innate emotion within all intelligent and living organisms, humans included, for good reason.  To not be afraid means that one is not aware of evident risks or dangers to oneself. The martial artist must understand that courage does not seek to to negate fear, but rather invites one to act in spite of fear.  It is in this light one must maintain courage in the face of failure.

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