OK, maybe this isn't new but recycled. Last night I watched a DVD about the making of "The Last Samurai." It listed the seven principles which comprised the samurai code of conduct. These were:
1) Duty and Loyalty (chu)
2) Justice and Morality (gi)
3) Complete Sincerity (makoto)
4) Polite Courtesy (rei)
5) Compassion (jin)
6) Heroic Courage (yu)
7) Honor (meiyo)
Not a bad list of attributes. Each one is worth examining and integrating. Each could, and probably has, filled volumes of books. The goal, of course, is to live up to our highest sense of self and purpose.
I do not know if this list is formally in this order, but it does make some sense. Duty and loyalty are about going beyond yourself, being an integral part of society. Justice and morality are also broad terms, but less concrete, so they support the first premise. Complete sincerity likewise is necessary for the first two, and it is the first principle that refers to the individual self. Polite courtesy is both a social lubricant and a personal challenge. It moderates the previous point, recognizing that truth can be used destructively. This leads to compassion, a deeper understanding of this from the heart. It takes heroic courage to act on these principles, and it brings honor to do so. Notice that honor comes last. As this usually refers to one's personal set of values, it says a lot that it is the last on this list, placing the ego beneath a higher sense of social order.
I was going to write about what I'd like to see for the coming year for my students and myself, but when this list popped up, it seemed like a better direction to go. We can talk about improving our technique, rededicating ourselves to personal achievement, etc., but sometimes it's better to have a higher context as reference for what we do. Martial arts is supposed to make us stronger, not just physically or even mentally, but morally as well. With strength comes responsibility to use it wisely. This is especially true of escrima; in this day and age, using a weapon to defend yourself could get one in trouble, even if necessary or justified. Remember the old karate bow, where the open hand (sheath) covers the fist (weapon). The meaning of that is knowledge surrounding our actions.
So, here's to the best 2005 we can make it. Set goals, work hard, enjoy success!