A student once asked Bruce Lee “You teach me fighting, but you talk about peace. How do you reconcile the two?” Bruce Lee beautifully replied “It’s better to be a warrior in a garden than to be a gardener in a war.”

As a martial arts instructor I sometimes get asked this question as well. I wish I was as eloquent as Bruce Lee. Many people think that just because a person trains in a combative art that they are aggressive and constantly looking for a chance to use their skills. If a person is trained by a good instructor, this shouldn’t be the case.

Being prepared to defend yourself and others is a good skill to have even if you never have to use it, but a martial artist learns other things besides combat. Take the five tenets that I teach my students: courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit. These five tenets are the foundation of the martial arts. They are the moral code everyone should strive to follow.

Physical combat is only half the equation when it comes to martial arts training. A student should spend as much time focusing on the tenets as they do developing their physical skills. The physical skills are used as a last resort. Life skills such as communication should kick in before a physical confrontation ever occurs. Having both the physical and moral skills allows you to be a true warrior. Remember a gardener in a war isn’t going to last long.

By Greg Segui