Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Saturday, February 06, 2021

A Martial Arts Vow of Poverty?

Today we have a guest post from Jonathan Bluestein on the idea that somehow, martial arts teachers should be modest to the point of poverty. Enjoy.

Do Martial Arts Teachers Vow to be Poor?

There are many myths pervading in the public about the martial arts, as a result of people having watched one too many a movie about them. One of the worst is the idea that a martial arts teacher must be modest, to the point of being poor.   

Yesterday I was conversing with a very esteemed intellectual, someone whom I do not know well, but I respect. That person wrote to me the following: "There is also, however, another polarizing issue common in the martial arts world - publicizing one’s teacher on a public forum".   
I was haunted by that statement for a few hours, having written by such an otherwise knowledgeable and respectable person. He had come to believe that martial arts teachers should not advertise their skills and teachings - not even by proxy through their own students. I am here to tell you, that such a point of view is not only technically mistaken, but is also inherently inhumane, for several reasons:   

Firstly, I have been in the martial arts for many, many years. As a teacher and author, I get to speak with dozens of other martial artists every week. I do believe that people who share an idea as expressed above, are not even one in a thousand. It is not a popular opinion in our time.   
Secondly, such a notion completely negates the need for a professional to make a living in a respectable manner. The world of the 1960s and 1970s, when people could gain a clientele solely by word of mouth, is gone. This is an impossibility for the majority of self-employed persons and professions, especially martial arts teachers. In a market wherein everybody competes over advertising, and often put much money into it also, one cannot afford to sit at home and wait for income 'to happen'.       

Thirdly, that this mode of thought belittles and depreciates the profession of the martial arts teacher, relative to others. No one would dream to demand of a lawyer, a doctor or even a carpenter, that they ought not advertise their service, or order their clients to refrain from writing good things about them in public. Why then, expect such things of a martial arts teacher?

Fourth, that this contrasts with the basic humane values of a family. In traditional martial art instruction, wherein there are good relationships, the students gradually become almost like the family of the teacher. What in life gives one more pride and joy, that one’s offspring going about the world and happily share their positive impressions of the person who taught them skills and virtues? Would that not be the delight and pleasure of any parent, that their children demonstrate such devotion, affection and allegiance? This is one of the humane pleasures we experience in life, and to view this as being ‘wrong’ is an insult to the nature of our species.

The teachings of martial arts must follow virtues in a commonsensical manner. When a notion such as modesty overrides one’s ability to put food on the table, it becomes a moot point. We must not only refrain from acting in such ways that are contradictory to success and happiness, but also endeavour to educate the general public, that they ought not expect us to be silly, just because it appeals to their mistaken conception of what a martial arts teacher ought to be.

We should remember also, is that Modesty is an extreme – the opposite of Vanity. What is to be expected by the virtuous person is not the worship of Modesty, but the application of Propriety. That is, being appropriate relative to the circumstances. Is that not one of the main lessons derived from the practice of any martial art?

Jonathan Bluestein is best-selling author, martial arts teacher, and head of Blue Jade Martial Arts International. Check out his website for more information about his books and the martial arts taught by his organization:
You may also subscribe to Shifu Bluestein's youtube channel, which is regularly updated with rare and fascinating martial arts videos and lectures:

All rights of this article are reserved to Jonathan Bluestein © 2020. No part of this article may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission, in writing, from Jonathan Bluestein.

No comments: