June 15, 2024



Role of an ethics committee in the Martial Arts

Role of an ethics committee in the Martial Arts

Traditionally the role of an ethics consultation is to provide a forum for the discussion of member – public related ethical issues. Such consultations may be requested by any of the organization’s members, or by a non-member who was affected either directly or indirectly by a member or a policy of the organization, or by someone who is suspicious of certain behavior exhibited by an organization’s member. 

The primary focus of an ethics committee is to enhance the member’s relationships while supporting any policy decision being contemplated by the parent organization.  Accordingly, the member’s needs, interests, and rights are a top priority for such a committee.  Implementation of an ethics committee gives members and the public assurance as well as the ability to receive correct information and have their wishes recognized for their mutual benefit.  An ethics committee member must respect the privacy of every party that may be involved in a questionable offense, but it must also be understood that the committee was set up by the organization with oversight concerning issues of legality, morality, member behavior, as well as legal state, and legislative interests. The organization sets up the ethics committee with the ability to assist in situations when ethical decisions are required.

Ethics committees have many different functions; for instance, they provide a forum to discuss ethical and moral issues regarding proper member behavior.  Another role is educating members and the public on their rights and what is expected from them to participate in organization-related activities and events.

The ethics committee’s implementation serves numerous beneficial qualities; for instance, they serve as an audience for members and support staff, families, and even adversaries if issues arise. It also provides help cleaning up any information that may have been, misunderstood or misconstrued. Another function of such a committee is to provide information to the public regarding how to interact with the organization if issues arise.  They may be able to help mitigate when a problem first arises. Finally, the ethics committee is also in charge of creating and assisting in policy and procedure guidelines to resolve ethical and moral dilemmas; also assisting with case reviews and consultations with complaints about moral or ethical issues.

The parent organization should have a set of bylaws or a constitution to establish its authenticity and establish the framework in which it exists.  In this organizational structure, there should be a code of conduct as well as a pathway for defined disciplinary actions and an appeals process.

When one examines the issues surrounding martial arts ethics one could include such things as:

Misrepresentation of one’s credentials and skills to gain admittance to the organization or to attract students

Fraud whether financial or through some sort of falsification

Abusive behavior towards students, relatives, or other members of the martial arts community

Illegal activity such as use or distribution of illegal drugs, sexual improprieties, drunken behavior such as assault and battery etc.

Activities or behavior which brings dishonor privately or publicly to the parent organization

In the past sadly there have been cases of sexual abuse in select martial arts schools, brutality towards innocent students or lower ranks, and several other behaviors that have brought shame and disrepute to the martial arts.  Some instructors have sold rank or claimed rank from non-recognized institutions or worse yet have even invented rank.  One such school posted a framed certificate from the Shaolin Temple establishing credentials for the instructor. This was impressive until someone who spoke Chines realized it was a framed receipt for imported Chinese fireworks.  In another case a Korean instructor proudly referred to his Kukkiwon certificate on the wall of his dojang. Proudly until a Grandmaster fluent in Korean read it for what it really was, namely a framed copy of Korean army discharge papers.

When they say that one bad apple ruins the barrel they may have been thinking of martial arts in the west.  Without a legal or governing body some “martial artists” motivated by greed or ego have betrayed the tenents of the martial arts by unscrupulous behavior in the realization that there would be little or no repercussions.  With the advent of the international communities uniting though the Internet and establishing legitimate parent standards it is hoped that soon there will be repercussions and penalties for such actions.

About the author: Master Ronald Stone is a veterinarian in Florida. He is an avid horseman, martial artist, best-selling western author, and a firearms enthusiast. Currently Stone is the Chairman of the World Hapkido Union USA Ethics Committee, ranked a sixth dan in Haemukwan Hapkido, a third dan in Daehan Yudo and a second dan in Kukki TaeKwondo. He is the Master Instructor at the American Dragon Martial Arts Academies in Ocoee, Florida. You can learn more about the school at https://americandragonkoreanmartialarts.com or read his daily thoughts on Martial Arts at www.facebook.com/groups/koreanmartialarts