Virtue in Chinese Martial Arts
(Wu De or Mo Duk)
Anyone who is willing to learn Chinese Martial Arts should be concerned about understanding the Virtue of the Martial Arts (Wu De) and to act accordingly. Whoever does not comply with these virtues will never be a true master of the martial arts. She or he will at most be an athlete copying certain movements without understanding the true sense of Wu Shu exercises. Learning Chinese Martial Arts goes beyond imitating the movements: it requires a certain attitude in life.
The term "Wu De" is a combination of the words Wu Shu and Dao De. Wu Shu refers to all Chinese Martial Arts, Dao De may be translated with virtue. Wu De therefore signifies the virtue of martial arts. The concept of Wu De includes elements from Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. These are the Chinese characters for Wu De 武 德
Wu Shu ideally should become an important part of one's life. Those who do not strive to reach this level of learning will always remain more or less superficial in training martial arts. Learning martial arts is like any other attempt to master some skill: it requires patience, endurance, conditioning, a strong will and a good teacher. Wu Shu is not about overcoming an adversary, it is about overcoming oneself. Wu Shu is not only a sporting activity, but a training of one's character and mind. Every student of Wu Shu should use regular Wu Shu exercises and compliance to the principles of Wu De to elaborate the own character and to cultivate the body.
In China, this is called "Xiu Xing Yang Shen" or "Wu De Xiu Yang" (literally: "To Correct the Character and to cultivate the Body" or "Correct and Cultivate with the Virtue of Martial Arts"). In the Shaolin-Monastery, for example, six out of ten rules for the monks are concerned with "Wu De".
The saying "Xue Quan Yi Wu De Wei Xian" is widely known in China, it means that “A student may be talented and hard-working, but without showing the readiness and ability for virtue and responsibility, no true master will be willing to truly teach the martial arts”. Following the ancient Chinese tradition, a student had to prove being dignified of learning the martial arts. Another saying, "San Nian Zhao, San Nian Kao", means "A student searches for years to find a good teacher; a teacher will examine the student for years before really teaching her or him."
According to the ancient Wushu tradition, the main criteria in choosing a student are the following:
- Being devoted to martial arts, being willing to learn wholeheartedly.
- Being ready and willing to "eat bitter" (Chi Ku), that is to endure hardship.
- True humbleness.
- Wit and courage.
- Patience and Endurance.
- Sincerity, because only those with a true heart can reach true understanding.
- Helpfulness and Readiness for a friendly exchange with others.
- Standing up for the teacher and fellow students, and being ready to subdue one's own ego to the group.
- Respect and Loyalty: first towards the teacher, then towards other students, the ancestors and all other martial arts.
- Following certain Rules and Principles and to know the common forms of conduct.
The most important aspects of Wu De are:
- Ren: benevolence and mutual compassion
- Yi: righteousness, justice, judging with the heart, having friendly feelings
- Li: respect, rules of conduct, politeness
- Zhi: knowledge, reason, education and learning
- Xin: trust, sincerity and openness, to truly believe in something, and also to keep one's promises, be stable and engaged in things
- Yong: courage and braveness
Bao Quan Li: The Greeting
The picture of the palm and the fist on the Yin-Yang symbol is called "Bao Quan Li" in Chinese (literally: The Ritual of the Clenched Fist). "Bao Quan Li" is an ancient polite greeting ritual common among martial artists that expresses respect towards the person met. The right fist stands for strength. It is placed onto the "heart" of the left palm. The eyes look straight being an expression of a true heart. Both hands are held in 20-30 cm distance to the body. Each of the palm's fingers carries a different meaning: the small finger stands for esthetics, the ring finger for health, the middle finger for knowledge, the index finger for righteousness and the bowed thumb for humbleness.
Those who continuously strive to train body and mind and to elaborate one's "Gong Fu/ Kung Fu ", (Ability and Skill / Time and Effort) and personality under the guidance of a good teacher, those who learn with a humble mind, full of patience, endurance and with great efforts. All of those willing at a certain level of learning will automatically be able to deal with all kinds of unpleasant, difficult, dangerous and even life threatening situations.