Chief Instructor: Sifu John C. Loupos - Since 1968

Ethics & Morality Get a Second Look

by Sifu John Loupos

In the wake of the Enron corporate scandal, et al. increased attention is being paid in the media to employee/employer qualifications other than intellectual prowess or prior academic achievement. There is little question that the leading figures behind these several corporate scandals are bright folks, else they hardly would have risen to the upper echelons of the business world in the first place. Nobody gets that high up if they don’t have something on the ball. And yet, these recent and much publicized failures, and failings, were of unprecedented magnitude.
Police departments and other criminal justice venues have long been in the habit of subjecting their applicants to psychological profiling and scrutiny as part of the hiring process in an attempt to filter out individuals who are unlikely to serve the public’s best interests. But until recently corporate America never gave this criteria much thought. Now issues like psychological health are being looked at in a different light. However, beyond even emotional balance and wellness is the issue of personal ethics and morality, which, in my estimation, is different from emotional health, per se. Someone might be “emotionally stable”, with no anger, impatience, bigotry, or depression smoldering below the surface. Yet, the mere absence of anti-social issues may have little bearing on someone’s personal sense of integrity.

With rare few exceptions each of us has a capacity, if not the inclination, to live our lives ethically and with integrity. Why then do some choose to be guided by more virtuous qualities while others succumb to self-serving me-firstness? My gut sense is that the answer has very much to do with the integrity of our psychic structure. Here, I don’t mean Œpsychic’ in an occult sense. Rather, I mean our psyches as our innermost selves, as the tree trunks from which all other aspects of our selves branch out.

Character flaws such as greed and disregard for others are nothing new. These foibles have been around for as long as there has been power to wield. It is said that “power corrupts”...yet power corrupts some more than others...and others still seemingly not at all.

Our public schools are woefully inadequate when it comes to schooling youngsters and teens in ethics and integrity and personal morality. These are qualities often thought best left to the realms of parenting and religion. But these institutions have certain limitations as well.

So, how might one’s inner psychic structure be nourished and fortified? Ongoing participation in a credible martial arts program offers one means by which this can be accomplished. The emphasis on physical discipline inherent in Kung Fu or Tai Chi training renders the associated moral aspects as concrete rather than theoretical, for kids and young adults in particular. Adults can handle a theoretical grasp of morality and integrity. But kids and young adults tend to value those things that they can feel or experience in a more direct and immediate way. That’s why Kung Fu, as a physical discipline which offers sometimes all-too-immediate feedback, can impress its lessons on youngsters through direct cause and effect. And what exactly are those lessons? As overly simple as it might seem, the lesson of cause and effect itself serves as a foundation for moral development and psychic structure.

Most people who make bad moral decisions, including those upper echelon executives mentioned earlier, have a skewed sense of cause and effect. That is to say they have failed to take into consideration the likely and/or longtime effects of their behavior as weighed against prevailing societal standards. The possibility of consequences for their wrong actions are so far removed from the moment at hand that immediate gratification takes precedence over social and moral accountability.

The advantage of Kung Fu is its immediacy. The lessons that it offers are not only concrete but they are now, while the student is engaged at its practice. For this reason the lessons of cause and effect become unavoidable, and, because they are often physical, they become ingrained in the body as well as the mind.

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