WǔDé – The Definition of a Truly Great Martial Arts Practitioner - Part Three (Respect - 礼 – Lǐ)

Thursday, January 10, 2019

The definition of a true martial arts practitioner continues in this segment as we look at the third of the five Important Actions; Respect.

Respect (礼 – Lǐ)
Respect is defined as having due regard for the feelings, wishes and rights of others and of ourselves. In living a respectful life we must balance our own needs with those of the people around us, and in so doing, every individual will have a sense of place and self-worth. Respect starts from within but that doesn’t mean being selfish. If we can genuinely respect and honour ourselves and our own values, then we should and must respect others and their principles, and back and forth it goes.

If you don’t respect yourself how can you possibly focus on improving your skills, commit to practice and to learning what you need to learn. Furthermore, if you don’t respect your teacher and fellow classmates how can you absorb the knowledge and support that is being offered.

In China, respect for teachers, parents and people of authority is a given. It’s part of Confucianist philosophy that is still the cornerstone of Chinese culture. However, in Western culture today, particularly in Australia, where the author resides, respect from others is not a right: it must be earned. So, what are you doing to earn respect in the martial arts? Consider that question carefully. Are you commanding respect because you’ve won medals, attained a particular grading or think you are “better” than everyone else? It’s not good enough to command respect... you must earn it.

The Confucian philosophy of respectful hierarchy was based on the fact that people who deserved respect had earned it through experience and age. It was an acknowledgement of wisdom gained through years of life experience, but how much experience have you had in the martial arts? How much knowledge have you actually acquired and how much of it are you willing to share with others? Have you displayed all the qualities of WǔDé to deserve respect, or are you simply expecting it? If you expect respect you don’t deserve it! If you act in a way that should warrant respect then you have well and truly earned it.

Conversely, don’t forget to show respect to others. Again, when we consider WǔDé, this shouldn’t be confined to people you believe are better than you. If you truly embrace the martial arts philosophy, you should be willing to respect anyone around you until you have just cause to do otherwise. Even then, perhaps you should question why a person is not behaving appropriately before dismissing them out-of-hand. Respect, empathy and humility go hand-in-hand.

“Respect out of fear is never genuine; reverence out of respect is never false.”

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