In a heart that is one with nature though the body contends, there is no violence. And in the heart that is not one with nature, though the body be at rest, there is always violence. Be, therefore, like the prow of a boat, it cleaves the water yet it leaves in its wake water unbroken.
-Master Po, Kung Fu (1972)
The image of the Warrior Scholar is a pervasive one. There is the Bushido code of the Samurai, there are the Shaolin Monks of china and the Chivalric code of Knights. There seems an idea that having a “code” makes you a better warrior. Does it, though? Or is it all some mystic bull crap?
Many martial traditions from around the world hold surprisingly similar ideals when it comes to the Warrior Class. Justice, for example, is an ideal almost universally valued in those trained to fight, as is Discipline. I think the “why” is fairly clear; people trained to kill should also be given good reason not to. Thus the question becomes, “is the Code important to training?” Giving people a reason not to kill is slightly obsolete. As this article tells it, the harder part is teaching people that it is okay to defend yourself. These days people who turn to violence seldom require any kind of martial training.
I would argue that despite not being central to martial arts training, having a philosophy behind you is essential. It wont make you a better fighter, but it may give you a framework for training. Thus you can train your mind as you train your body. If nothing else, it can make you think beyond the physical actions.
For me, my guiding philosophy is Stoicism. I try to practice the stoic virtues, even as I learn to fight. Prudence tells me when to attack and when to defend, Temperance governs which techniques to use and how hard to go, Fortitude drives me not to give up and Justice ensures I act in the proper way. Or so goes the theory anyway. It’s my feeling that philosophy and martial training are an essential pairing.