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Virtue in American Kang Duk Won

There are many tenets that describe the martial arts today. Pillars such as integrity, honor, courage, servanthood, etc. form the building blocks of martial art schools throughout the world. These canons are more than words; they form the doctrine of a martial art program upon which all training is built.

Many are surprised when they learn Kang Duk Won simply means, 'school of virtue'. This realization is complexed when compared to the definition of Tae Kwon Do as an art of smashing and destroying with the hands and feet. How does a martial art, which technically has violent characteristics, relate to or find its foundation in virtue?

First, we believe that "virtue" is within most all people and our role as instructors is to help someone find it, understand it, and use it. Webster's dictionary defines virtue as, "moral excellence; goodness; righteousness; conformity of one's life and conduct to moral and ethical principles." Grandmaster Arndt was steadfast in his belief that without discipline, there is no martial art. This is seen in the strict disciplines required of all American Kang Duk Won students. Strict discipline is the forerunner to self-discipline and is a life-long process.

The disciplines of the martial arts are designed to develop the character of the individual. Conformance to school rules leads to understanding. Understanding and following established guidelines transforms the student. Transformation leads to discipline. Embracing discipline leads to self-discipline. Self-discipline, once rooted within the individual, then grows on its own and becomes a guiding factor for the rest of the student's life.

Everything that comes to a student in American Kang Duk Won is earned. This is done to build the confidence of the student. Each student is treated as an individual. With this said, all students progress at different rates and by different methods. Students are chosen for advancement through testing based upon individual progress in consideration of established promotion requirements. Instructors will not select students for testing if they are not prepared. Testing or promoting an unprepared student would lead to a degradation of confidence in the student and ultimately dishonor the student and the school. Confidence is extremely important in the development of character as a person who lacks confidence has the potential to misuse the skills they have developed.

Once this character-development process is understood, it becomes clear that martial art instructors must build the character of an individual before any defensive skill can be mastered. Students, through this evolution, grow and mature to the understanding that they need only their mind to face and solve life's challenges. A student without confidence, discipline, or established virtue will most likely resort to anger, frustration, or worse, physical violence, to solve their challenges which becomes a detriment to the martial arts and a liability to themselves and the school. Students who are confident in their abilities and have developed a firm foundation of virtue represent themselves and the art of American Kang Duk Won to the highest degree. This is the legacy of Grandmaster Arndt and all those who have earned the honor of wearing an American Kang Duk Won black belt.