The Purpose Political Science and Martial Arts Share (part 2)

In one of the posts I touched upon the commonality between seemingly divergent fields of political science and martial arts.

I re-iterate the idea in the current post.

What is common between political (social) science(s) and martial arts?

In a fascinating academic article (these two adjectivies don’t always go together) “Security and Emancipation” Ken Booth argues that the basis of security and peace in the new times is that governments, concerned individuals, NGOs and global civil society in general act as “local agents of the world common good” (phrase borrowed from another notable scholar Hedley Bull).

In other words – act local, think global.

The highest goal of any martial art is to generate peace both within and outside. This has been claimed by many accomplished martial artists, and by the founding fathers themselves (I am sure diligent practitioners will agree with this proposition).

Just as two quick examples, consider the taekwon-do oath (“I shall build a more peaceful world. I shall be a champion of freedom and justice.”) or read “The Art of Peace” by the aikido’s founder Morihei Ueshiba.

Both traditions – those of social science and martial arts – put peace as a critical issue on the agenda. Both offer their unique ways to promote it, and strive for it.

I find this extremely interesting, inspiring, and worthwhile to walk on both ways simultaneously.8T65rg5kc



Embracing Taekwon-do Tenets: Integrity

The second tenet of taekwon-do is integrity. I will use the same circles analogy as in the previous post to elaborate on this tenet.

The starting point is dojang, or the training hall. For me, integrity in dojang means being honest with your Master, instructors, and training fellows. Besides, it’s being honest with yourself about your progress in taekwon-do.

The next sphere is yourself. Integrity here involves two things in my opinion. First, being honest and self-critical about yourself. Second, being able to stand by your principles and follow your personal commitments. Ultimately, integrity means there is no gap between your thoughts, words, and actions.

Next comes the close circle of family and friends. Integrity here implies keeping promises, as well as being honest towards your close people about who and what they are. For example, if you think your friend does something wrong, you need to tell him/her about it rather then avoid “hurting him/her.” Naked truth is better than a pile of sweet lies.

Finally, there’s the whole world out there. The same principlies from the first three circles apply here. To reiterate, the golden rule, in my judgement, is to make sure your thoughts, words, and deeds are in harmony. This is what integrity means.

Integrity is the simple rule,
of being honest at home and in school.
It’s never cheating when taking a test,
or thinking you’re better that all of the rest.
To lie or steal just wouldn’t be right,
so ty to be honest with all of your might.

©The Academic Taekwondo

Embracing Taekwon-do Tenets:


Embracing Taekwon-do Tenets: Courtesy

The first line of taekwon-do oath says: “I shall observe the tenets of taekwon-do”. All taekwon-do practitioners are well aware of them: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, indomitable spirit.

I have decided to medidate for one day on each of these tenets, as well as focus on it practically throughout the day. This does not mean, of course, that I will abandon the tenets after five days. My only intention is to dedicate extra time to these principlies in order to better grasp and embrace them.

I begin with courtesy.

I think each each tenet can be best understood via the “circles” analogy.

Imagine a set of expanding circles with you in the middle. The first and smallest circle is the training hall. Courtesy here means respect towards your Master, instructors, and training mates. Moreover, embracing courtesy within the training area will allow projecting it in the outer world too.

The second bigger circle is yourself. Courtesy towards yourself means self-respect. We need to respect ourselves no matter how imperfect we are. Self-respect begets confidence and optimism. Again, the lack of self-respect translates easily into lack of respect towards others.

The next even wider circle is your family and close environment. We ought to respect our parents for they dedicate their lives to raise ourselves. We need to be courteous towards our relatives and friends also as they are the closest people we share our experiences with.

Finally, the biggest circle is the whole world. Courtesy here involves such ideas and practices as tolerance, non-discrimination, mutual respect, and non-violence towards all living organisms.

All in all, this tenet – like all the others – is a compass for both personal development and nurturing relationships with the World.

Courtesy is giving a bow,
to black belts and teachers who show you how.
It’s doing your chores before you are asked,
and being helpful in every class.
It’s simple words like thank you and please,
and never – no, never to hurt or tease.

©The Academic Taekwondo

My top ten quotes from “The Book of Five Rings”


Miyamoto Musashi was an undisputed medieval Japan’s swordsman and a wandering philosopher. His masterpiece The Book of Five Rings is a source of inspiration not only for martial arts practitioners, but also for anyone with a thirst for knowledge, a quest for the unknown, and an interest in self-growth. It certainly was for me when I first read it, and remains so today.

I present some of my favourite quotes from this marvellous book. I divide them in two parts: the first directly on budo, the second on applying budo’s principles in life. This separation notwithstanding, each of these pearls of wisdom provides a guidance for our daily activiites.

The words of the Master are as relevant today as they were in 1645 when the book was first published. Indeed, they transcend time and space.


“You can only fight the way you practice.” 

“The ultimate aim of martial arts is not having to use them.”

“You may abandon your own body but you must preserve your honour.”

“When you decide to attack, keep calm and dash in quickly, forestalling the enemy … attack with a feeling of constantly crushing the enemy, from first to last.” 

“Whatever the Way, the master of strategy does not appear fast … Of course, slowness is bad. Really skillful people never get out of time, and are always deliberate, and never appear busy.”



“The true science of martial arts means practicing them in such a way that they will be useful at any time, and to teach them in such a way that they will be useful in all things.”

“You must understand that there is more than one path to the top of the mountain.” 

“To know ten thousand things, know one well.”

“It is difficult to understand the universe if you only study one planet.”

“There is nothing outside of yourself that can ever enable you to get better, stronger, richer, quicker, or smarter. Everything is within. Everything exists. Seek nothing outside of yourself.”


The Purpose Political Science and Martial Arts Share

El-camino-del-guerrero-2According to Calos Castaneda, man must become a warrior before he becomes a man of knowledge.

A scholar warrior has a trained body and spirit, as well as a sharp analytical mind.

Two obvious spheres for developing such properties are martial arts and academia, or science in general.

And what really interesting is this.

When I look at the academic discipline I am currently engaged in (political science), and the martial arts I practice (taekwon-do and aikido), I can see a subtle yet profound unity in purpose.

What is that?

Compare this.

  • Part of the taekwon-do oath says: “I shall build a more peaceful world”.
  • The main goal of aikido is to pacify an opponent, according to Tsuneo Ando sensei.
  • It can be also claimed that the purpose of political science – at least how this discipline was originally conceived – is to make this world a place void of conflicts and full of cooperation among nations.

So on the one hand political science – whether directly or indirectly – strives to reinforce peace, or at least understand how it can be achieved. On the other hand, the highest purpose of martial arts is to create peace both within ourselves and outside.

Does this mean every academic should now put on a kimono and start kicking some ass? Or an aikido-ka should start digging in the theories of international relations?

Not at all.

What this simply reveals is that there are several paths towards the same direction. Yet while it may seen reasonable to choose only one of them, it is ultimately more efficient to embrace both a warrior’s and a scholar’s way.

Efficient both for ourselves and the world.


Profanation Of Martial Arts

I remember watching a short video promoting a taekwon-do club in the US. The chief instructor was talking in an over-confident, even cocky manner. He claimed his school was the best because … it gave best rates. He also boasted his students could earn a black belt in three years.

Well, the cost of attending a dojo can be a factor in choosing a club to practice with. Yet that’s not the most crucial factor for sure.

More than that, instructors who claim they are best since they help to save money don’t cost much themselves.

In that particular case that I watched I would take away all the grades and dans from the “entrepreneurial sensei”. As there is a really big issue here that comes from the not uncommon Western approach to treat everything as a commodity that can be sold.

Even if it ought not to be sold by definition.

How can you say you are best because you charge less?

Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of aikido, said that knowledge can’t be bought. The training fee simply serves as the right to attend a dojo.

What is observed in many cases though is totally the opposite. ‘Masters’ and ‘instructors’ are using marketing and promotion tools to attract students.

This seems to be especially true for the United States.

I am not saying there are no good martial arts instructors there. There are plenty of, I am sure. I m just saying that in the societies where advertising plays a crucial role things are not quite right.

I don’t know if I’ll ever would have an honor to teach someone. What I do know is I’d mention self-development, self-defense, health and spiritual growth, character forging, the wisdom of oriental philosophy embedded in the marital arts – anything except money!

I feel privileged to learn from Masters who are not only masters in their martial arts, but masters in life as well. None of them has ever mentioned money as a factor to consider their school.

In business focusing on cost cutting is totally fine.

In the world of martial arts that is totally unacceptable.