Gichin Funakoshi, the famed father of modern karate, repeatedly pointed out that the first purpose in pursuing a martial art is the nurturing of a sublime spirit and a spirit of humility. Character and the “why-I-do-this” motivation is key to all martial application. As it applies to martial arts, the older practitioners placed a stronger emphasis on the spiritual side of the art than on the techniques. The techniques, through practice, would develop on their own over time, but spiritual maturity takes intentional and focused work. Dr. Don Snider, a US Army ethicist, wrote of motivation in A SOLDIER’S MORALITY, RELIGION, AND OUR PROFESSIONAL ETHIC (2014) this way:
“Legal and moral, tend to produce different forms of motivation in Army professionals. The legal norms produce the motivation of obligation… (I must do my duty)…In contrast, the motivation produced under the moral norms is that of aspiration (I want to do what is right).”
Both types of motivations have a role, but in ambiguous contexts, a moral motivation, a spirit of self-control, is what is needed. For what a person does when no one is watching is the true reflection of his character.
In the training of body and spirit, in martial application, one should treat his opponent courteously and with the dignity and respect. It is not enough to fight with all one’s power; the real objective is to fight for the sake of justice. The quality necessary to accomplish this is self-control. Funakoshi continues: “To become a victor, one must first overcome his own self.”