Teaching the Concept of Integrity to Your Students

Teaching the Concept of Integrity to Your Students

First, teach by example:
Never has it been so true that one cannot order students to “do as I say not as I do,” as when one discusses integrity. To teach this concept it is imperative that the instructor demonstrate integrity by behaving in an ethical manner, not just occasionally but always. Integrity is not a concept of partial performance; it is an absolute. It is sort of like pregnancy in that one is never “just a little bit pregnant.” You either are or you aren’t.


The dictionary defines integrity as the inner sense of “wholeness” deriving from qualities such as honesty and consistency of character. As such, one may judge that others “have integrity” to the extent that they act according to the values, beliefs and principles they claim to hold.
Once again even in the definition the concept of consistency appears to play a major role. One is either honest all the time or he is not truly an entirely honest person.


One of the tenants of the martial arts is humility which makes it difficult to express one’s integrity in verbal terms. Quite frankly simply saying you are an honest or ethical person does not necessarily make it so. What this in essence means is that to teach integrity the instructor must demonstrate the concept by example. First and foremost, in this demonstration is by applying the same rules and standards to everyone, consistently.


One essential aspect of a consistent framework is its avoidance of any unwarranted (arbitrary) exceptions for a particular person or group. In other words, as difficult as it may be emotionally, financially or personally an instructor who believes in the concept of integrity will occasionally be forced to face difficult trials.


Such hardships or obstacles may for example be the threat from a parent to promote their child even if he or she isn’t ready or risk losing the income their parents provide to the school. (If he doesn’t get promoted, we will have to quit.)


Another might be the difficulty of correcting a student that the instructor personally likes or providing equal opportunities to another the instructor personally dislikes.
Children are quick to pick up on inconsistencies. In fact, the words “That’s not fair,” are among the first ones spoken to parents. When an instructor unfairly promotes another student that is less deserving, shows favoritism, or publicly praises or denigrates a student who is undeserving of such attention the whole school will suffer and the instructor will very quickly lose the respect that is essential for proper martial arts training.


Integrity is regarded by many people as the honesty, truthfulness, or accuracy of one’s actions. Integrity can stand in opposition to hypocrisy, in that judging with standards of integrity involves regarding internal consistency as a virtue.


The key here is “internal” integrity. A person who is honest and ethical only while wearing a martial arts uniform but reverts to unethical conduct during the rest of the day is a hypocrite.
Integrity can be divided into two categories, personal and professional. The classic example of this would be the crooked mafia chieftain who owns a business that for reasons of concealment he insists be run in an honest manner.


Martial artists who teach out of a school must strive always to try to maintain the reputation of their school. Such things as consistent billing, consistent promotion standards and the strict avoidance of false claims and honors must be a high priority. It does not take a lot of effort to disrupt such a small interpersonal system so disruptive or dishonest students or bullies must be eliminated from the school regardless of the financial burden it may cause. Advertisements should not exaggerate or make false claims regarding what is taught or how much experience the instructors have. Finally, the school should set up, maintain and honor curriculum standards without which the instruction becomes chaotic and ineffective.


As for personal integrity perhaps, this is best explained by example. Years ago, I was honored to attend a martial arts examination held in Florida by The Federation of Korean Hapkido’s executive board. Master level practitioners of the Korean art of Hapkido were present from all over the world. During this event one artist was wearing the uniform of a different organization. He wore six stripes on his belt and when I asked whether he was testing for 7th dan he shook his head and replied he was testing for 1st dan. I was surprised at this but even more so by his explanation. He had compared standards and felt he would rather be a “legitimate first dan” than a poorly trained 6th dan.”


During the same exam another now famous martial artist tested for Master Rank and was told by the examination board that his skill set barely qualified him for 2nd dan. This second practitioner left embarrassed and angry and went to another organization based in the west and not recognized in Korea where he essentially bought a Grandmaster rank. He later went on too much notoriety for forming and promoting his own style whose techniques, when compared to Korean standards are sorely lacking. We will not even begin to discuss those who sell such rank as their behavior is so obviously reprehensible.
The first man may not be famous or rich, but he is much respected. I am sure he has no problem looking himself in the mirror every day.


This second man might have fame and notoriety, but to those in the know he will never be considered an honest practitioner. He sacrificed personal integrity for wealth and fame but integrity that is something that is exceedingly difficult to regain once it is lost. Never has it been so true that “A good reputation takes a lifetime to build, a bad one but one day.”

About the author: R.W. Stone is a veterinarian in Florida. He is an avid horseman, martial artist, best-selling western author, and a firearms enthusiast. Currently Stone is ranked a sixth dan in Haemukwan Hapkido, a fourth dan in Daehan Yudo and a second dan in Kukki TaeKwondo. He is the Master Instructor at the American Dragon Martial Arts Academies in Ocoee, Florida. Read his daily thoughts on Martial Arts at www.facebook.com/groups/koreanmartialarts For more information visit www.kmaia.org

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