Honesty is at the core of any martial arts study. In Shaolin Kung Fu, the Leopard style represents honesty. The journey toward black belt involves discovering and eliminating our misconceptions of self, our misunderstandings about life, and learning the simple truths that drive the world around us.
Be Honest About Who We Are
The great philosopher Lao Tsu once said, “The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth.” He also said, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” The pursuit of martial arts is a great equalizer. Each level of achievement only leads to the next, and we never stop learning. If we’re honest about who we are and what we can do, the martial arts help us grow. If we’re tied to our ego instead of being honest about who we are, we can’t improve. Perhaps that’s one reason that only 1 in 10 students who begin the martial arts become a black belt.
Honesty in Children
For young students, we teach the virtue of honesty from the very first lesson. It begins with personal responsibility, accepting and admitting our faults, telling the truth regardless of the consequences, and being completely honest in all things. That’s a painful lesson for children, who often make poor decisions, and who would rather avoid consequences whenever possible. It is, perhaps, one of the most challenging parts of growing up. After all, we’ve seen many adults who haven’t quite mastered that lesson.
Honesty in Adults
The lessons of honesty may be more complicated for adults, but the fundamental truths are the same. It’s still about personal responsibility, sincerity, humility, and truth.
The martial arts require us to empty the mind, put the “self” aside, and become more “present.” Grandmaster puts it this way, “To be truly present means setting the self aside. It’s literally not possible to be totally aware of a situation if you’re operating from the standpoint of an overinflated ego that thinks and acts as if we’re entities separate from the world around us.” In a sense, our ego can blind us to the truth in ourselves and our surroundings.
Honest Creates Growth
The martial arts push us to be better, and they call us to be honest about our strengths and shortcomings. Everyone is born a unique individual, and it’s good for us to appreciate those gifts. But it is dangerous if we translate that into a belief that we’re “special” or somehow “above” someone else. In the kung fu, you can’t fake your way to a black belt. That will never, ever work. Something along the way – a form, a technique, an opponent – will force us to be completely honest with ourselves. In those moments, if we’re completely honest, we grow.
Benefits of Honesty
Honesty also brings peace and happiness. When we’re completely honest, our minds are free. We don’t have to fake anything, worry about making an impression, or remember any cover stories. We can be transparent and sincere in all things.
Sincerity brings another benefit. An honest person earns trust. They become a person others can count on to do the right thing. An honest person’s action matches their intents. There is no guile. This person becomes a trusted team member, a valued friend, and a leader in school and community.
Honest children are more confident, happier, more open to learning, and more at peace. Honest adults are more trustworthy, have better relationships, and often enjoy lower stress. The martial arts not only teaches honesty but confronts you with it. As Lao Tsu once said, “Be honest with those who are honest, and also be honest with those who are not honest. Thus honesty is attained.”