Throughout the ages, great philosophers have touched upon the concept of respect. The Buddha, Confucius, Jesus Christ, Socrates, Lao Tzu, and many more great thinkers have discussed the topic. It permeates the philosophies, religions, and customs of virtually all of humanity. It is as universal as the human smile.
I would not pretend that I am a great mind to be elevated to the pantheon of the world’s greatest philosophers. I am simply a martial artist and a teacher. Yet, I have spent years practicing and teaching this very concept to myself, my peers, and my students. Respect is quite literally the first rule of martial arts, and without it there can only be suffering.
If there is one thing I do understand as a martial artist, respect is the cornerstone of the martial way. Failure to respect your opponent and their capabilities could lead to catastrophe and defeat. Martial arts, quite literally, is the art of combat – the art of war – something the philosopher Sun Tzu wrote about centuries ago. To paraphrase him, ‘know your enemy better than you know yourself, and your victory is certain’. But he was not merely talking about having knowledge of the enemy’s capabilities. He clearly understood, also, that a healthy respect for those capabilities was a key component of combat, as do all true practitioners of the martial arts. If you know what the enemy is capable of, then you will certainly respect them if and when an engagement occurs. If you do not, then you will be defeated.
However, what is best is what happens before any actual conflict is engaged and that is respect for one another as human beings. If we respect one another, even if we differ in our opinions or philosophies, then we can avoid physical confrontation altogether. Miyomoto Mushashi said it best when he said that the ultimate aim of martial arts is in not having to use them. Hence, in completely understanding all aspects of martial arts, which includes respect as its keystone, we can avoid combat altogether.
Imagine what our world and our individual lives would be like if respect was practiced by everyone at all times. Respect for ourselves, respect for others and their property, respect for other religions and philosophies, respect for political ideologies, skin color, gender, and even respect for the natural world, all living things, and the very planet itself; imagine truly what we would have.
If you seek true peace, tranquility and happiness then a complete knowledge, understanding and practice of respect is imperative. It would become the very heart of everything you see, do, and feel.
Respect, quite simply, is the keystone to the arch of humanity.