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4 – Integrity – The Tongue In Your Shoe

Integrity is number four on my list of eight key black belt virtues. All eight virtues are developed through the proper practice of martial arts (perhaps another topic of discussion in of itself) and add up to the development of good character and black belt excellence. Integrity, however, is possibly the virtue that needs most practice and consistency. Integrity is not a trait that you can dip in and out of – it is your own inner sense of right and wrong, something conditioned in you a long time ago, and how you act on it. It is more than just saying no to bad things or telling people that they should be doing good things, it is pursuing and fighting for what is right and good. Thankfully we are all developing the confidence and strength to be able to do this through our regular martial arts practice.

Pastor Ken Whitten put it this way:

“Make sure the tongue in your shoes goes the same direction as the tongue in your mouth.”

In other words, it’s not good enough to just talk the talk, you need to walk the walk in order to have good integrity. As a black belt and a leader people may listen to every word of advice you give with keen interest. However, if they don’t see you living out your own advice your words are meaningless, and you lose their trust.

A simple example from class is that a student tells you that they really want their black belt; it’s their main goal. However you notice in class that they are distracted, aren’t practicing as hard as they should be and it’s clear they’re not practicing at home. This person lacks integrity, or at least needs the tools to develop it. Our job as teachers is to identify this, maybe even hold them back from promotion, until we are happy we have them on the right path.

Author and motivational speaker Denis Waitley wrote:

“A life lived with integrity – even if it lacks the trappings of fame and fortune is a shining star in whose light others may follow in the years to come.”

People of integrity should shine out to you as good people. As teachers oftentimes we need to do nothing other than be ourselves, if you have integrity people will look up to you anyway. I will share with you an anecdote that I am not proud of but it illustrates the point.

Through my childhood and practice of Kuk Sool my family and my instructors’ family became friends. One day my instructor was at my house having dinner. My family had moved to Hampshire shortly after I got my black belt. Over the following years my instructor allowed me to stay at his house and train over the school holidays and he would visit me. Just imagine the privilege of that for a second! Even all these years later it’s hard to comprehend the time and love he expended on me. However, I digress. At the time of this particular meal I was in my late teens. I had discovered girls and alcohol and thought I knew it all. I had also stopped practicing Kuk Sool. My instructor was giving me a hard time, telling me I was wasting my life away and about all the things I was doing wrong, and how I should be living. To my eternal shame (although hindsight shows it to have been an important lesson) I told him to F off and that he didn’t run my life.

Those people reading this (hello Mum) who know my instructor may have let out a little gasp at the end of that last sentence. He is a tough character who will always speak his mind, always acts with his best intentions and has a will power to match no other. In other words, he is a man of integrity. However, in the following silence at the family dinner table, that lasted until I stood up and went to my room in a strop, he didn’t say a word. Boom, I was no longer worthy of him even talking to me.

My martial arts career could have easily ended there. At the time I think I was possibly ok with that. Martial arts have however always been like an inner calling to me, I describe it as the itch I can’t scratch. If I don’t do it for a while it affects me, not only physically but emotionally, I missed training. And I knew I had messed up. My instructor stayed his course, walking the walk and getting on with business. My apologies would only go so far and I knew I had to build myself up again in order to continue practicing. He would not bend down to my level to pick me up this time; I had to raise myself up to his. I had to cut out the negative aspects of me I had allowed to develop, I had to acknowledge my mistakes and take responsibility, and I had to train like hell. I re-built my integrity so I could continue to be his student.

Throughout the ages great leaders will have imitated other great leaders they respected. Imitation is an excellent way to learn IF you are following success. Before I joined the police service a dear friend and experienced officer told me to find someone that I really looked up to and copy them, for him, in Kuk Sool, that friend chose me. That troubled me. Like any person I am flawed and make mistakes. I didn’t feel comfortable with him being like me, I wanted him to be a better version of me. Personally I enjoy identifying what I admire in people that I most respect and taking a piece of each of them that I want to emulate. My character is made up of all these pieces of people I have chosen to learn from.

CEO and co-founder of Apple Steve Jobs tells us to believe in ourselves and to act on it:

“Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Developing our own integrity will lay the foundation for future leaders; let’s make sure it’s a strong one.

You can book your first of two free classes with Kuk Sool Won of Thetford by clicking here.

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