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The Wu De Code: Martial Art Code of Conduct

Wu De is simply defined as “martial ethics”, or “martial morality” or “martial virtue”, and as its name suggest, is the idea of ethics and morality in the practice of martial arts. The code teaches how to become an upstanding and moral person. It's how we interactive with others, how we represent ourselves and what we stand for. It's bascially how we can all strengthen our moral character through martial arts.

As a human being we have so many qualities that can constantly be improved. It is impossible for a human being to excel at them all naturally, so we have to discover them and work on them to become better people. Here are some qualities the code makes us analyse and improve:

Acceptance, appreciation, assertiveness, awareness, balance, kind heartedness, cleanliness, compassion, confidence, consideration, courteousness, creativity, dependability, determination, diligence, encouragement, endurance, flexibility, forgiveness, friendliness, helpfulness, honesty, honor, hospitality, humor, imagination, integrity, justice, kindness, mercy, moderation, morality, optimism, patience, perseverance, piety, resilience, respectfulness, reverence, responsibility, restraint, service, sincerity, sympathy, tactfulness, thankfulness, thoughtfulness, righteousness, justice, respect, politeness, knowledge, reason, education & learning, trust, sincerity, trustworthy, courage, bravery, patience, willingness to learn wholeheartedly, endurance, helpfulness, loyalty, and many others, depending on circumstances.

It is also the criteria on how students are judged by their master, and whether or not they are deemed worthy to be taught. Wu De is not just something you read, not just a name. You must have Wu De and practise it.


Humility comes with controlling ones pride and ego. Pride and ego are the killers of good martial arts and good character. When we allow our own pride and ego to infiltrate our rational judgment we start to make decisions based on self-pride and not solid facts. When your ego and pride take over you will become satisfied with yourself and stop thinking deeply. Try daily to display humility in everything you do. Train for yourself and not the title or colour around your waist. Keep your cup empty allowing yourself to yourself to always learn.

Understanding that you are not the best, that there are others better than you, and that you can always be better, is important to how you train and improve, as well as carry yourself with others. Do not revel in success or be openly proud of what you have achieved, because these things come and go. Instead, always try to be modest; always acknowledge that you are not that great, and that you can always be better. Lower your head and be willing to take criticism and advice, and learn from others, regardless of what position they may have relative to you, and especially if they are better than you; you may be surprised what certain people may have to offer you. Always remember, acknowledge and thank those who have helped and assisted you, especially in times of needs. And more importantly, do not look down on others, as that is being egotistic and arrogant; treat others as equals or betters if nothing else, regardless of who they are and reserve your personal judgment of others.

"The taller the bamboo grows, the lower it bows." - Chinese Proverb


The term respect means to acknowledge the feelings and interests of another. In martial arts respect is the foundation of everything we do. Without it we are practising how to fight. Through training we learn how to respect ourselves first and then we learn how to show and feel respect to others. By showing respect to others and treating them the way we wish to be treated, we become better people. This is why we bow to our seniors and why we always use titles.

Respect is not necessarily about liking someone, you can respect someone without liking them. If fact showing respect regardless of how you feel about them takes a great deal of character and is a true reflection of who you are.

Dress respectfully, act respectfully and write respectfully and you will have good relationships with people.

Never ever forget to treat your Master and seniors with respect at all times.


Who do you trust? Do people trust you? Trust is the belief that a person is of good character and honest. Have trust in your own actions and trust your own decisions. As long as you make decisions based on the right reasons you will never have regrets. Trust the path you take is the right one. If you make a promise to someone, or promise to do something for someone then make sure you do it.

You should also be careful who you trust. Not everyone has your best interests at heart. Do not share personal information with anyone you don't know well. Being too open with people can cause more harm than good. Trust takes time to build and is very easy to lose. Trust is fundamental in any healthy relationships with others.

Be a good friend and let people trust you. If someone tells you something in confidence then respect that unless there is a good reason not too. Don't gossip about people behind their backs. Be honest and trustworthy.


As a martial artist we should have an excellent sense of “right” and “wrong”. Doing the right thing regardless of your own personal gain is correct. Being fair in your treatment of people and not hesitating to do the right thing. If we have thoughts of “I feel like I should do something” in a situation where we can do something, we should not hesitate to come forward and act. Conversely, it is important to understand that we should not simply rush into action with our emotions; we shouldn’t act or do something just because we want to. If there is a situation where there is obvious conflict and trouble, we should have the hindsight to be smart and avoid it as much as possible. We should also take the time to think our actions through, and understand if our actions are reasonable and right in the long run, with minimal, preferably no negative consequences. But, remember to always distinguish what is the right thing to do, and always aim to achieve it.


In today's society loyalty can be extremely hard to find but in martial arts it is a relationship to cherish. Students should follow instructions without question and show loyalty by not training with another Instructor without permission. Loyalty is a two way street and an excellent instructor will do anything to support their students emotionally, physically and even financially if they need help.


Perseverance is the ability to carry on in the face of hardship or difficulty. It can also be an application of willpower. The ability to not give up on a goal until it is accomplished, no matter how many times you fail. Perseverance can be applied to anything that takes time and effort to get results. If your spirit can't be broken you can't be broken.

How Martial Artists Should Apply the Wu De Code

  • Honour your Master.

  • Treat your fellow students as brother/sister. Support them.

  • Students should always show respect to one another.

  • Always maintain humility, be considerate and kind to those less fortunate.

  • Approach learning with an empty cup.

  • Lead by example.

  • Trust your instructors judgement and advice as long as they remain your instructor.

  • Remember teachers are human and can all make mistakes. Never put anyone on a pedestal.

  • View criticism as opportunity to grow.

  • Never openly criticise your teacher.

  • Take pride in your club, your fellows and yourself.

  • Perseverance is a sign of strength, never give up.

  • Do not be greedy for knowledge. Practise what you know.

  • Always give a gift to your instructor on special occasions such as gradings, Christmas, no matter how small.

  • If you travel to see your instructor, take them a gift each time.

  • Always address and introduce your Instructor with their correct title as a sign of respect.

  • Never forget to show respect always to your instructor. Bow every time you meet them and every time you leave.

  • Never hand your instructor cash. Always put your money into an envelope and always pay on time.

  • Try not to be late to class or leave early without explanation.

  • The saying “teacher has no hands, no pockets,” means that when you are with your instructor they should not carry or move anything. When in public they should not pay for meals or incidentals.

  • Senior students are responsible for their juniors understanding of these ethics.

  • Senior students accept challenges on behalf of their teacher, only if they are defeated should the instructor take up the challenge.

  • If it is within your power to save those less fortunate than you, either people or animals, from abuse, then do so.

  • Always ask permission before studying with another teacher.

  • Always bow when entering someone else's dojang.

  • Never wear any symbol of rank to another club.

  • Always open doors for your instructor, carry their belongings and offer your help at all times.

  • When eating with seniors always allow them to start first, ensure that their drink is always full and give them the seat of honour.

  • If ever in doubt, ask your instructor, let them guide you.

  • Clean up after your teacher as a sign of respect.

  • Let your instructor see your inner character. If you follow this code you will earn their respect.

  • Never let your instructor chase you for information. Make a decision early and let them know well in advance.

  • If you ever can't pay, have a quiet word with your instructor. Money should never be the reason not to train.

  • Support your club events, seminars and competitions. Showing up and being on the floor is the best way to support your instructor.

  • When a higher grade enters the dojang always stand and bow. It is the duty of the highest grade to command the rest of the class.

  • If the instructor has to leave the class early for any reason, the highest grade must stop the class to bow as the instructor leaves as a sign of respect.

  • In the dojang refrain from making excessive noise and chatter. Try and create a serious learning environment.

  • Be a good listener and don't interrupt conversations.

  • Never point fingers at anyone when you are talking to them.

  • Train every day for health.

  • Never use your skills to hurt others.

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