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"A demon's hand, A saint's heart" - Shoshin Nagamine’s description of an ethical warrior

Ethics is simple—it is knowing right from wrong. An ethical taekwondo practitioner fights against what is wrong and tries always to do what is right. Doing what is ethical is not always popular; it will not always draw praise, it will sometimes draw criticism, it will sometimes cost you monetarily, and it may even cost you your life. However, if you live an ethical life, you will be able to maintain your integrity and live with yourself knowing you always tried to do the right thing.

The Lone Ranger was a television show in the 1950s that was popular with both children and adults. The Lone Ranger taught that you must always do what is right, even when it is not the popular thing to do. He also taught that that good can overcome evil without being evil. That was what baby boomers watching on television and learned about ethics. What are children of the current generation watching and what are they learning about ethics?

Life does not often conform to our ideals or philosophies. Everyone wants world peace, but that is not, nor will it ever be, it's a reality that some cannot accept.The reality is that evil exists, and it will never go away, so there will never be world peace.


An antagonist is a person who thrives on aggression, while a pacifist avoids it. However, there is no such thing as a true pacifist, one with no aggression. Violence is within each of us, whether we wish to believe it or not.

This violence may manifest itself as outward violence, such as a physical assault, or as inner violence, such as silent anger. The difference between an antagonist and a pacifist is the point at which this violence is manifested. For the antagonist, all it may take is a wrong word or an unintentional stare. For the pacifist, it requires a life-or-death situation from which there is no escape, or for someone to attempt to stop them from promoting pacifism.

Since the potential for violence exists in all of us, we must learn to deal with violence ethically. Some think it best to just ignore violence and pray that it goes away. Others declare it to be the "work of the devil" and vainly attempt to suppress it. These are dangerous ways to deal with violence. When violent emotions are suppressed, they build like the force within a volcano and then erupt into even worse violence. Just as the philosophy of yin and yang, to know peace truly, one must accept that violence exists and will exist always. Since peace is freedom from violence, peace cannot exist without violence for it to be free from.

Violence is not always bad, and peace is not always a force for good. It is not bad to use violence against a conquering force and it is not good to live in peace by yielding to a conquering force.

Seven social sins

Seven Social Sins, sometimes called the Seven Blunders of the World, is a list that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi published in his weekly newspaper Young India on October 22, 1925. The seven sins are:
  1. Wealth without work.
  2. Pleasure without conscience.
  3. Knowledge without character.
  4. Commerce without morality.
  5. Science without humanity.
  6. Worship without sacrifice.
  7. Politics without principle.

These social sins sum up what ethics is all about. Without ethics, we have no humanity.

Self-defense ethics

If you do not defend yourself against an assailant, you cause harm: to yourself, your assailant, and to the public. If you don’t resist, you allow your assailant to harm you and you harm the assailant by not teaching him or her the error of his or her ways, which harms the public because the assailant will probably commit the same error again. The assailant's evil actions will continue because you were willing to sacrifice your integrity and risk your life to resist wrong and to teach the assailant a much-needed lesson. If you resist, whether you succeed or not, you will teach the assailant that evil will not prevail. However, if you use too much violence while defending yourself, you are adding to the evil in the world through your own actions.

On the television show Star Trek-The Next Generation, there was an alien mechanical race of beings called, the Borg, who forcibly assimilated other life forms into their collective. When encountering another life form, the Borg used the motto was "resistance is futile." Resistance is not futile, but it may be painful. In a self-defense situation, you will get hurt. Remember, when two wild animals fight, one gets hurt and the other dies. It is far better to be injured than to be killed.

Pain hurts, but it will usually go away. Death is permanent. Pain itself is not a threat to your life. If you want to survive a self-defense situation, you must learn to deal with pain. You must learn to view pain or injury as merely an inconvenience. In a life-or-death fight, ignore your pain and survive, you can lick your wounds later.

The only logical, legal, and moral use of violence is in defending yourself or another from a physical assault initiated by another person. No person is ever justified in initiating violence, even with the threat of violence, against another person or their property. The law requires you to flee from violence whenever possible. When this is not possible, then resist to your utmost.

Because of the status of the legal and civil court systems in the United States, you may defend yourself from an attack and still end up in jail or be sued, or both. This judicial danger is so prevalent, that it often outweighs the trauma of allowing yourself to be a victim. Regrettably, this factors into your decision to resist or submit.

Sometimes you must resist, even when you know you may die, just because it is the ethical thing to do, such as when your child is threatened by a killer. If you do not resist and live, and the child dies, you may hate yourself forever, and many times others may feel the same toward you. Military personnel in combat face death daily; most chose duty and honor before their own safety.

Sometimes you may be killed even if you do not resist. Using the example of your child being threatened with death, if you do not resist, the child dies, and you may still die. Then your family is left to deal with two deaths, and your dishonor.

If you do not act with honor in stressful situations, life afterward may be worse than death for you and for your family. This may sound a bit morbid, but you must come to terms with your own mortality. Death is as much a part of living as birth. Sometimes, death is not the worst thing in life. A life of shame and dishonor may be worse than death.

Taekwondo and violence

The closed fist of taekwondo represents the power and destructive force of taekwondo. The open, flat hand of taekwondo represents the restraints placed on the power of taekwondo, such as ethics, oath, and tenets.

All taekwondo patterns start from a ready position and end in a ready position. Some patterns start from a closed stance using an enclosed-fist hand position. The enclosed fist symbolizes the restrained force of taekwondo.

Taekwondo may be a destructive force when unleashed, and we train to increase our power and the ability to release this destructive force. This is symbolized by the closed fist. However, we also train to restrain this force and only use it for a just and honorable reason. This is symbolized by the open hand that encloses the fist.

Ethics is the valve that controls the power of taekwondo. It controls when it is released, how much is released, how long it is released, and when it is shut down. The use of violence may be good, or it may be bad. As a taekwondo student, you must use violence ethically and honorably.

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