AKBAN – Ethical code for martial arts

Insight

An AKBAN martial arts practitioner maintains and develops a harmonious personal insight that binds thoughts; movements; emotions.
This insight is bounded by practice.

Friendship

Above all technical achievement and as a basis of all spiritual development, a martial arts practitioner maintains and develops friendship between himself and his fellow trainees. This application is a fundamental base that expresses humanity, concession of tangible achievements and compassion.

Power (AKBAN’s razor)

The AKBAN martial arts practitioner is cautious and does not use hers or his power beyond what is needed. If there is a need to use power, it shall be done with wisdom, patience and compassion.

A martial arts practitioner is always careful with using his powers but is especially attentive when she or he is in advantage point. Advantage point and the power of the martial arts practitioner stem from hers or his physical strength, martial knowledge, the cohesion of his fellow martial arts practitioners and also from other factors: money, social class etc.

Using power beyond what is necessary, corrupts and distances the martial arts practitioner from what is dear.

Perseverance

An AKBAN martial arts practitioner transcends above difficulties and trains for many years.

Sensitivity

An AKBAN martial arts practitioner is sensitive to others, to the environment and to himself.

Honesty

An AKBAN martial arts practitioner thinks sincerely.

Professionalism

An AKBAN martial arts practitioner strives toward realistic and accomplished technique.

Responsibility

An AKBAN martial arts practitioner is obligated to responsibility that outflows from the power of martial knowledge. The responsibility is combined of:

  • Practical responsibility for his own well being.
  • Physical responsibility for his fellow training partners.
  • Responsibility to others that is the outcome of being a member of society.
  • Responsibility for the preservation of humane and martial knowledge.

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The reason we wrote an ethical code for martial art practitioners

(excerpt from a lecture made in 2002 during instructor’s course)

Before we begin, let me say again: our ethical code is unique, it is not a collection of do’s and don’ts, and it is not a recommendation of anything moral, good or bad. These are not the Ten Commandments. Our ethical code is an accurate picture of the kind of people we are now, or in other words, what is the difference between us and lawyers, accountants or soldiers.

This code, this representation, is the concentrated result of more than 25 years of training. The precision of this code is being improved and altered as we go along and change as a community. This describes us now and does not constitute any future recommendation.

Normative values are a constructing base for a professional organization

In 1995 veterans participated and organized the first Ninjutsu instructor course at the Wingate institute. In this course and in many occasions afterward, we dealt mainly with the technical aspects of teaching and training. The experiences we had since has made it clear that we also need a normative approach that will outline our conduct.

Knowing ninjutsu alone has not stopped me and other instructors from conducting ourselves poorly and childishly in many occasions.

The professionalism that is painted on the flags of many martial arts systems is not the essence that has made our stay together so unique, the difference resides in some values that were upheld here, and not in our professional martial arts achievements. Since these values were ingrained in day to day practice there was no need to name them. Now there is a need. This effort is an endeavor to call these values and to give them a specific meaning. We need this precise tool to maintain not only our professionalism but also our unique atmosphere. I want to emphasize again: these values define us now in our pursuit; this is not an effort to make a regulative and binding “law”. No one will be suspended because he did not uphold the inner honesty value. The “document” is a precise drawing of our faces now. Any divergence from the values stated here shows a different choice. In other words: any practitioner that will diverge from exemplifying the value of friendship in a major way will see, for himself, that he does not belong to our community. There will be no steps taken, no suspensions etc. There will only be the mirror that is the community of the Martial artists and its ethical code. A person can look through this filter and see for him or herself that he does not appear any more in this group photo.

One more thing, these values are not a regular goal. With a lot of deliberation they are phrased in the present tense, meaning: we are already in the process of behaving like this and we do not aspire to any thing above our regular level of practice.

The nature of borders is always disputable, so is the exact phrasing and meaning of words. That makes our code a living document, not absolute. For example, the value of professionalism is understood differently for a beginner and for a veteran practitioner who trains every day. I think that as long as there is not a complete disagreement with the essence of the ethical code, a practitioner is deemed as one that abides by it.

Even if these values are unique creation of our Israeli organization, I find an echo in the ancient Ninpo resolutions that my teacher, Mr. Doron Navon, framed on the wall of the old dojo in Kiryat Shaul:

Seishin Teki kyoyo (points for spiritual refinement for martial arts)

Knowing oneself
Knowing nature
Destiny (can be translated as calling)
Harmony
The Heart
The Eye
Love
(What I have left, and is written above, is only a copy of the page, without the Japanese kanji, so it is possible that the translation of Doron , a fluent Japanese scholar, had some inner meaning that was hidden from me) These points that was taken by Doron from ancient sources in our system. these points are somewhat unique in the world of ancient martial arts. How do the heart, eye and love relate to such a lethal martial art?

With that background it seems to me that our Ethical code stems both from who we are now, and from this relic from the ancient SHINOBI past – the seishin teki kyoyo.

I will now go on the actual “Document” and elaborate on the values written in it one by one.

Further addition: in the middle of 2003 we had to make clear another item in our behavior, namely – the use of power. it is written now as an integral part of the AKBAN code and suffice to quote it here at full:

Power (AKBAN’s razor):

A martial arts practitioner, a free human being, is cautious and does not use hers or his power beyond what is needed. If there is a need to use power, it shall be done with wisdom, patience and compassion.
A martial arts practitioner is always careful with using his powers but is especially attentive when she or he is in advantage point. Advantage point and the power of the martial arts practitioner stems from hers or his physical strength, martial knowledge, the cohesion of his fellow martial arts practitioners and also from other factors: money, social class etc. Using power beyond what is necessary, corrupts and distances the martial arts practitioner from what is dear.
(2003)

Insight:

A martial arts practitioner maintains and develops a harmonious personal insight that binds thoughts; movements; emotions. About this insight, that which cannot be said can be done.

As I said before, the “Document” is written in the present tense. Since the point for this choice is very complicated I will not get into the explanation as to why there is no suggestion for something above our regular level of existence. I will say only this: that this insight that presents itself under the mantle of master, will be totally destroyed by the work of an ambition without special supervision.

This value is divided into two distinct parts; in the first one it says that every achievement in our system has to be harmonious. For example, there is no point in being a martial arts practitioner with a lot of intellectual knowledge and technique but with an infantile emotional stage that rears up every time he or she are being criticized.

There is also no point in a martial arts practitioner that is highly balanced emotionally but gets a cramp every time he has to kick. There has to be some correlation between the different faculties: Thought, Emotion, and Movement.

In the other part of the insight value we jump to another perspective. This jump is a “trick” I did (with the help of many) to open up the value, to say something to the effect that there is an essence here that I do not understand. I wanted to state that there is something that is felt but cannot be phrased. I wanted a place that we can advance to individually, so I wrote the only thing that was clear to me – that I cannot talk about this insight but I do something about it. To sum this value, I wanted to remind what was said before each lesson in Japan: “Shikin haramitzu daikomyo” or “Insight through what we do”.

Friendship

Above all technical achievement and as a basis of all spiritual development, a martial arts practitioner maintains and develops friendship between himself and his fellow trainees. This application is a fundamental base that expresses humanity, concession of tangible achievements and compassion.

When I presented the “Document” to veterans, one of them contributed what he thought was a better phrasing, he wanted to substitute companionship with friendship. We gave it a thought and in the end left it as such. It is true that beginning practitioners do not have such deep relations with others but we all know, from experience, what happens after some years. This partnership has many deep veins that penetrate very very slowly and make relationships in our organization so outstanding. This is not an artificial process nor is it a speedy one; I have not noticed any -hugs and stuff- with the veterans. It is a slow and natural process that happens if we mirror the other values of the ethical code in our conduct. This is also the actual barometer to all the other values. That is the reason we wrote “fundamental base”. If I, as an instructor, give up the income from a seminar for a communal cause, than that is a real application of the harmonious development, of honesty and responsibility. Friendship shows humanity for real. A martial arts practitioner that lets him or herself show, in an ascending order: care, kindness and even love for others, makes himself weak. Clint Eastwood is so strong because he cares about nobody. The minute that a Hollywood Hero has a love, family, kids he becomes weaker. So, one solution, which is unacceptable to me, is an emotional detachment from others, isolation. So instead, first thing: kindness and humanity.

There is also the great trap into which many fall: money. At a certain stage an instructor has to worry about making a living. We have specific rules that govern this but some rules have to withstand the “Heart test”. When there is indecision between making a living and friends that have been with us for many years the friendly emotion must prevail. A living can be made elsewhere but a friend, a human being, is irreplaceable. For homework: compassion. Since this is a lecture in an instructor’s course, look it up, what does it mean? I will say that for me it begins with sensitivity to other, with the ability to put myself in his place and to understand the perspective he or she has, the emotions and reactions which are not always under control, just like me.

Perseverance

A martial arts practitioner transcends above difficulties and trains for many years.

I have nothing further to add on this apart from using this value as an example to what I called “this is our picture”. A practitioner in our organization that does not train regularly is not under any sanctions. When he looks in the mirror through the filter of this code he sees for himself: he does not fit. I might add that even if I, the guy who initiated this ethical effort, would stop training out of choice or karma, I will no longer abide by our code, I will not be in the picture, I might still be involved with friends but I will be out of the boundaries of martial community.

Sensitivity

A martial arts practitioner is sensitive to others, to the environment and to himself.

In this exact order: First to others because it is more difficult, to environment because that is part of the Shugendo heritage (here Guy Renan will give a lecture that will clarify) and of course, to ourselves. Here we only became more and more sensitive and we tried not to add any more emotional and corporal armors.

Honesty

A martial arts practitioner thinks sincerely.

This is a very important value; even Musashi placed it at the top of his list of values (“Do not think dishonestly”). What we mean is that there is almost no real progress without observing what is really happening to ourselves. It does not say that a martial arts practitioner never lies. If a female friend of Musashi is going out of a hairdresser looking like some moths destroyed her hair, I am most certain that honesty would be very stupid and rash. What would Musashi think? That is a completely different story.

The other day I visited the website of one of the top prominent teachers in martial art. He does not state anywhere who was his teacher for many years. And his teacher states some mythical tutor and does not mention the fact that he studied Karate for ten years at another teacher’s dojo. Who were his real teachers? Does he himself know? If he is lying to me, that is better, in my eyes, than believing these lies himself. In the VCR tape of Koga the Judo champion, in the books and VCR tapes of Dan Gable, A great Olympic champion and coach, they both remind and give credit to their high school teachers. For me, that is a representation of honesty. Personal honesty has many more features and is opposite to myth; it demands great courage, humility and maturity. Beginning students should get the honesty they can tolerate, veterans should tolerate more. This is crucial.

Professionalism

A martial arts practitioner strives toward realistic and accomplished technique.

Here is another value that is part of the picture that is us. Here you can see the great variability between practitioners. Every martial arts practitioner has a different obligation for training at different times of their lives. There are times when you can train twice a day and there are times when even once a week is impossible. From the professional perspective, if a martial arts practitioner in the martial community is dedicated to the idea of technical improvement at whatever pace he or she has a good place between us. Using “Honesty” I have to admit that I am long way from performing many techniques in a correct way, so with strive for professionalism comes patience.

Responsibility

A martial arts practitioner is obligated to responsibility that outflows from the power of martial knowledge. The responsibility is combined of:

Practical responsibility for his own well being.
Physical responsibility for his fellow training partners.
Responsibility to others that is the outcome of being a member of society.
Responsibility for the preservation of humane and martial knowledge in the frame of martial community.
.
On first look this is clear and politically correct, but we had a lot of problems with the third part of this value: responsibility to others. We still do not know if that is a feature of Martial community.

The responsibility meant here, in all four paragraphs is active and not passive. Responsibility to ones own body is stated here because, in a sense we owe our bodies good care. Training for many years is beneficial but over training and asceticism are not. I say that here knowing fully the inner tendencies of some of us, me included. Our bodies are under our care and must not be “punished” to amend for emotional needs. This active responsibility is based on science. We read, learn and participate in seminars to assimilate only good training and nutritional habits.

On the training area I am responsible for my training partner. He is responsible for me. There is no ninjutsu without people, we do not do many Katas alone, and I have to be with good training partners. I have to safeguard them, because if I don’t I will not have experienced training partners, I will have injured training partners and I will have to train in other systems. As I said earlier, the third paragraph is problematical, I am happy with it, because I would like it to be true for me, but I do not think that everybody here have to feel the same and I do not have any way to explain it rationally. A small part that is agreeable to all here is that we cannot use the power that we have to cause harm! This, for itself, is very difficult. There is no way that we will let our martial knowledge grow sociopaths.