LAWS of the Scholar & Warrior
Hello and welcome to American Institutes of Kenpo!
As a new student in Arizona’s best martial arts academies, you’re in for a ride. You’ll learn a lot about martial arts, and more about yourself, and might come out the other end as a Black Belt.
This document is your introduction to one of the most important responsibilities of pursuing and achieving a Black Belt in the martial arts: your ethical development.
“Martial arts without philosophy is merely brutality.” – Grandmaster Bill Packer
As you become skilled in the martial arts, you become capable of great violence. You also develop levels of resourcefulness and personal power that make you able to do more than many of the people around you. These abilities could easily be used to hurt others, instead of just to protect the helpless and improve your own life.
That’s why warrior cultures throughout the world developed ethical codes as part of their training and lifestyle: to prevent these powerful individuals from misusing their power. Our ethical training at AIK is the Code of Bushido.
Bushido is a code of ethics and conduct used by Samurai in feudal Japan. It’s roughly similar to the Chivalry codes practiced by Knights during feudal times in Europe. Followers of Bushido strove to develop seven ethical principles within themselves:
Truth – being honest with others, even when that honesty has unpleasant repercussions. Telling the truth is one of the earliest tests of character and warrior spirit anybody faces. Warriors learn how to pass that test.
Bravery – having courage in the face of fear, whether that fear is from physical, emotional or social sources. Bravery is not a lack of being afraid. It’s being afraid and doing the right thing anyway.
Courtesy – showing good manners, because acting respectfully toward others demonstrates and develops respect for yourself. Acting with courtesy also helps maintain a good reputation for both you and the students you train with.
Compassion – being kind to those less powerful and fortunate than you, which is a warriors main job in any civilized society. Both heroes and villains are individuals of action and violence. Compassion is the difference between the two.
Sincerity – being honest with yourself and analyzing what you think is motivating you until you know the truth behind what you do and why you do it. Without sincerity, a warrior can easily be fooled into bad actions.
Discernment – also known as “wisdom.” This is seeing into the heart of what a situation really is. It helps you make the right choices with your power because you know what’s really going on and what best to do about it.
Loyalty – doing right by the people who did right by you. This can be any and all of loyalty to family, to country, to a martial arts community, or to anyone else who has earned your care and trust.
These seven ethical principles guided the daily thoughts and actions of the Samurai, and we ask our students to follow that example in their own daily practices. To those classic principles, our ethical curriculum adds two more concepts:
Whatever it Takes – a commitment to accomplishing your goals inside and outside of the AIK martial arts training program. By promising to do “whatever it takes,” you eliminate the possibility of letting excuses stand between the person you are and the person you want to be.
Until the Last Day – is a bit poetical, but it does stand for an important warrior concept. Commitment to your training, to your fellow students, to your family and most cherished friends, isn’t something that comes and goes. It’s something you commit to until the last possible day.
You might notice that these last two aren’t ethical principles like the original seven. They’re more like tools you can use to succeed in pursuing the Ethical Code of Bushido. When you have trouble living up to the standards you set for yourself as a warrior and a martial artists, you can reach for these tools and use them as much as you need.
Human history tells the story of thousands of warrior cultures, each with its own ethical code. Why, then, choose Bushido in an American martial arts studio in Arizona? We chose Bushido for three reasons:
Kenpo Karate spent a lot of time developing in Japanese territories and among Japanese warriors. Teaching Bushido along with the physical skills of Kenpo is a way to pay homage to that lineage.
Students of Asian martial arts seem drawn to Eastern philosophies like Zen, the Tao and Bushido. Teaching universal ethics in the frame of an Eastern philosophical framework serves that.
Our teacher, Lee Sprague, was enamored of the Bushido Code and made it a central part of his life. Just as we honor the Japanese lineage of Kenpo with Bushido, we pass on Mr. Sprague’s passion as a way to honor and celebrate his life and contribution to the arts.
This is a lot to take in. The bad news is there’s a lot more to learn. The good news is that you’ll have about three years to learn it. We don’t expect you to master the essence of Bushido this weekend any more than we expect you to come to your first class already knowing our most complex and difficult techniques.
Instead, you will learn the ethical principles of Bushido alongside what you learn about the physical skills of Kenpo. Each four-month testing cycle includes your physical material, and work the Bushido principles.
During the first month, you’ll read an introduction to a single principle. It will define it for you and point you toward examples of the principle in action.
During the second month, you’ll receive a simple exercise to help you make that particular value a part of your daily
The third month covers an enrichment topic separate from the Bushido Value for that cycle. Enrichment topics are other concepts, facts and information important to your journey as a martial artist.
During the fourth month, you will complete an assignment designed to test and expand your understanding and commitment to the Bushido Value for that cycle.
Different Ages, Different Expectations
There is nothing in the world less fair than treating different people the same way. Because of this, our Bushido Values curriculum is split into three different age groups:
Kids (4-6 year olds)
Juniors (7-14 year olds)
Adults (15 and up)
Each age group explains the Bushido Value at a level and in a context calculated to best resonate with students from that group. Similarly, the assignments are centered around the challenges most likely to be meaningful for people in that stage of life. The Kids and Juniors entries also include suggestions for parents who want to support their child’s development in our ethics curriculum.
There’s no rule that says you can’t also read the entries for older or younger students, but we don’t require it and you won’t be held accountable for material in other age groups. If a student “ages up” and moves from one curriculum to another, she starts the older material at that time, and won’t have to redo everything earlier just because it was slightly different.
Are You Ready?
Commitment to martial arts training requires commitment to both the physical and the mental aspects of becoming a Warrior. If you’re ready to accept this challenge, we’re here to help you in any way you need. If not, we’re here to help you when you are ready.
Until the Last Day,
The American Institutes of Kenpo Team