Scott Farrell comments:
“When talking of warriors and the traditions of the martial arts, we often think of values like strength, courage and fortitude — values that would have been very familiar to, and admired by knights of the Middle Ages. Yet in today’s world, where we are so often given a message that strength and courage are synonymous with “freedom” and “independence,” we sometimes forget that the warrior’s creed dictates that commitment and responsibility are the price one pays for being strong and powerful. Ethical and moral codes of warrior cultures place more value on dependability than on independence.
Dr. Bohdi Sanders is a martial arts expert, author and philosopher who has spent a great deal of time and effort exploring the ideals of the warrior’s code in cultures around the globe. In his book, Warrior Wisdom, he examines what it means to be a warrior — on a physical, psychological and moral level. His writings show that, in the warrior tradition, strength comes with commitment, power comes with service, and honor comes with responsibility. His exploration of chivalry shows that the code of the knights of old is an expression of the timeless wisdom of the warrior.”
Duty, Wisdom and Ethics in Action
From those who have been given much, much is required. Warriors have been given specific training in martial arts and in the knowledge of self-defense. Hopefully they have also been instructed in ways to not only be able to defend themselves, but also to use their martial arts skills to defend others. Warriors have a duty to defend others when it is in their power to do so.
There are a lot of people who do not have the same training or skills that the warrior has developed over his years of training. They are not able to protect themselves, much less those around them. These people live their life depending on the goodwill of others. For various reasons, they have never developed the ability to fend off an attacker. Most have grown up in a fairly sheltered environment and really do not understand the psychology of the predator. The warrior is their only defense, other than depending on a police officer who may or may not be around when they are in need, or depending on the mercy of someone else.
The warrior, on the other hand, has studied the art of self-defense. He knows the mind of the predator and what the criminal looks for in a victim. The skills that he has trained so hard to perfect are designed to keep him and his friends and family safe from those who would prey on the innocent. He has been given much knowledge; therefore he has an ethical a duty to use this knowledge to help the weak and the defenseless when he can. Wherever you are, those around you should be a little safer because you are there.
In the words of Moliere, “It is not only what we do, but what we do not do, for which we are accountable.”
Of course this depends on the warrior’s sense of chivalry. Chivalry is mostly thought of in connection with the qualities of the medieval knights and how they were expected to behave towards women, but the ideals of chivalry also include qualities such as courage, honor, consideration for others, and loyalty to your code of conduct. I consider chivalry part of the warrior lifestyle, not just some outdated, romantic notion.
Just as there was no actual “pirate’s code,” there was also no definite set of ideals that made up the qualities of the ideal knight, but there are traits which are generally accepted as chivalrous. Were there knights who did not live up to the code of chivalry? Absolutely! There will always be those who will not be willing to live a life of excellence, but instead will lower themselves to an inferior standard. This fact doesn’t negate the fact that chivalrous ideals are good qualities to aim for and to make a part of the warrior lifestyle.
The term “code of chivalry” could be interchangeable with the term “code of honor.” It simply means a code that one lives by. Your code of honor, if you are a warrior, will have ideals that you try to live up to, whether you are dealing with the local mechanic or with the elderly lady trying to get across the street.
In meditating on your own code of honor, it may be good to consider some of the old codes of chivalry and the ideals that they fostered.
Is chivalry dead? Not to those with the warrior spirit…
The master warrior is a man of character, a man of wisdom and insight.
— Forrest E. Morgan
About the author: Dr. Bohdi Sanders is a life-long practitioner of martial arts with a black belt in Shotokan Karate, and a certified personal fitness trainer. His book Warrior Wisdom: Ageless Wisdom for the Modern Warrior discusses exactly what it takes to walk the path of the warrior in short, easy-to-read commentaries and quotes. You can read more of his writing on the Wisdom Warrior Blog.