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Courtesy in the Martial Arts

Mr. Craig Willits, Chief Instructor at Spotsylvania Martial Arts in Fredericksburg VA, discusses
courtesy and its importance to traditional martial arts training.

If you ask the typical modern martial arts student what courtesy means, they will usually say
something like "bowing to the instructors" or "being polite." When asked why being courteous is
important in martial arts, they either cannot answer, or reply that their martial arts studio makes
them do certain "courteous" things as part of their training. Both adult students and kids respond
similarly. Sadly, many martial arts students only show courtesy when at their martial arts studio
(and sometimes not even then), but it doesn't affect their everyday behavior.

In East Asian cultures, courtesy, along with its close relative respect, is vital to the proper
functioning of society. In Japan, for example, courtesy is so important that it is incorporated into
the structure of the Japanese language. There are numerous ways to say something as simple as
"good morning," depending on who is addressing whom and how they are related socially. In
contrast, rudeness is common − and sometimes praised − in our culture. For this reason, martial
arts students often gravitate toward the structured, courteous world of the martial arts.

Courtesy goes beyond mere politeness, however. In a martial arts school that carefully
teaches courtesy, students not only train safely and achieve their goals, they become better
people. Here are some benefits courteous behavior brings to martial arts training:

• Respect: In martial arts, respect is vital. A martial arts school can't function without it.
Courtesy is the public face of respect. When you show courtesy to your instructors by
bowing and using the words "sir/ma'am," you are really showing respect for their authority
and ability. When you train as hard as you can, but train safely to avoid hurting your
training partner, you are being courteous to your partner, but also respecting their well-
• Cooperation: Courteous martial arts students work to get along with both their instructors
and their training partners. If you show courtesy by listening to the instructor's directions,
you will learn what you need to know to improve in martial arts. Also, if you and your
training partner work together and help each other learn a particular martial arts skill, you'll
master that skill faster.
• Social Order: A well-run martial arts studio is a structured environment where courteous
behavior is expected. Unlike academic school, where students are grouped closely by age
and interact with comparatively few authority figures, a martial arts school exposes you to
fellow students with a wider range of age and experience. If you train in this environment
over time, you learn to function in a group similar to what you'd encounter in real life (such
as at a job or in the military).

So the next time you bow to an instructor, or say a martial arts pledge, remember courtesy is not
just behaving a certain way in a martial arts studio. Courteous behavior is designed to
"improve your noble character," according to one wise martial arts master. Challenge
yourself to be as courteous as possible, both in and out of martial arts class. You'll become a better
martial arts student, and a better person, if you do.

Spotsylvania Martial Arts offers a free three-class trial program in the following areas:

• Traditional Martial Arts for Children (Ages 6-12): Better Grades, Self-Discipline, Respect, Enhanced Focus
• Traditional Martial Arts for Teens & Adults (Ages 13 and Up): Self-Discipline, Physical Fitness, Goal-Setting,
Self Defense
• Krav Maga For Adults (Ages 18 and Up): Reality-Based Self Defense, Realistic Personal Protection
Spotsylvania Martial Arts Headquarters
4100 Lafayette Blvd, Fredericksburg VA 22408
Commerce Center Plaza (across from Spotswood Baptist Church)
Phone: 540-891-9008
Website addresses:,

© 2010 Spotsylvania Martial Arts