WU DE: The Chinese Martial Code of Ethics (Part One)

Wu De, like any sound code of ethics, is self-empowering. It is a tool used to progress through life and the martial arts. Those who choose to improve their martial ethics will in turn be improved. The Japanese and European parallels are known as: Bushido[1] and the Chivalric Code.[2]

In traditional China, Wu De, or Martial Virtue is imperative for a successful relationship between the student and master. This code of ethics consists of two sets of morals for the successful completion of training: The morality of deed (communication) and the morality of mind (mental fortification).[3]

Between these two sets of morals, the morality of deed is considered more exigent because it considers our relationships with our teachers, our peers, and the general public at large.[4] If we can be receptive to those around us, understanding toward our fellow man will naturally flow.

The morality of deed is the master key to success wherever we go. As human beings, we attract one another based on our actions.

On the other hand, the morality of mind sharpens the spirit through training. The more the student progresses through training, the more self-aware he becomes. The more self-aware he becomes, the more he learns to harmonize his Wisdom Mind (Xin) with his Emotional Mind (Yi). Usually, failure is caused by the aggressive advances of the Emotional Mind. Balancing Xin and Yi are essential for success.[5] [6]
In a sense, the morality of deed is the prerequisite to all learning and the morality of mind is thecorequisite to deeper knowledge.[7]

The Morality of Deed

In the martial arts, the student that was humble to those around him was usually the one that went the farthest in his studies. There’s a big lesson in that. The more we release ourselves from our ego, the more we gain access to knowledge and understanding.
Of course, this is not limited to the martial arts, either. This can be applied to any situation. There is always a more profound way of going about our lives. And it’s easier to remember that with humble eyes.

Respect is the cornerstone to success, especially self-respect. If we can respect ourselves, life will reward us with a mindset free from pain and insecurity and will give us a mindset that leads us to respect others. We are all like mirrors, how we see ourselves, is how we see everyone else. What do you want to project?

Again, in order to trust others, it is imperative we trust ourselves.[8] Are you worthy of your own trust? Of course you are! If we can practice self-trust, trusting others becomes easier. The more comfortable we are with ourselves, the more we understand that no one can destroy who we truly are.

Trust can take a lifetime to earn, but can be snuffed out instantly.[9]

Our actions are a part of us. As conscious people, we want to make sure what we do reflects our truest intentions.

Loyalty and trust are similar, but they are not the same. Loyalty is a persistent allegiance to someone or something, and that relationship provides the groundwork for trust.

This goes without saying that all forms of healthy communication require righteousness. Simply defined, righteousness is consistently standing up for what we believe in! The best way to cultivate a righteous character is to keep one’s center.

There are many ways we can go about this. Some well known methods include: prayer, meditation practices, active imagination exercises, Qigong, Kung Fu, Tai Chi Ch’uan, Yoga, and anything else that can bring you back to your true nature. Even a personal a hobby. Whatever you choose…

Make it a habit. And when a challenge presents itself, hold your center.

The Morality of Mind

Regardless of the training regimen we choose, how can we bring the following qualities to new heights within us?



*Note: A special thank you to: Dr. Yang, Mr. Silver, and Mr. Yang from the YMAA. This article could not have been written in its present form without their kind generosity. For more information about Wu De and the YMAA, please visit:http://ymaa.com/articles/martial-arts/morality.*


[1] “The Seven Virtues Of Bushido, Their Kanji And Spirit Highlighted.” http://www.theartofcalligraphy.com/. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 May 2014. <http://www.theartofcalligraphy.com/seven-virtues-of-bushido>.

[2] Farrell, Scott. “The Seven Knightly Virtues.” Chivalry Today – Reimagining the Code of Chivalry. Chivalry Today, n.d. Web. 28 May 2014. <http://chivalrytoday.com/knightly-virtues/>.

[3] “Kung Fu.” martial-way.com. Martial Way, n.d. Web. 21 May 2014. <http://www.martial-way.com/kungfu.html>.

[4] Yang, Jwing-Ming. “Martial Morality.” YMAA.com. YMAA, 6 Dec. 2007. Web. 22 May 2014. <http://ymaa.com/articles/martial-arts/morality>.

[5]  Ibid.

[6] “Kung Fu.” martial-way.com. Martial Way, n.d. Web. 21 May 2014. <http://www.martial-way.com/kungfu.html>.

[7]  Yang, Jwing-Ming. “Martial Morality.” YMAA.com. YMAA, 6 Dec. 2007. Web. 22 May 2014. <http://ymaa.com/articles/martial-arts/morality>.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.