"Self-cultivation of the nature is merit, Self-cultivation of the body is virtue."
-Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, Chapter 3


Shaolin Warrior Ethics (Chin.: Shàolín Wǔdé 少林武德)

Legend has long attributed the creation of Shaolin Wugong (Warrior Skills) to the founding patriarch of the Chan meditation tradition in China- the Indian monk Bodhidharma. While this is well known to be mere legend, he may have in fact had a greater influence on the development of Shaolin Wugong than one at first glance might think. Perhaps the influence he provided came not through technical but ethical guidance.

Bodhidharma's Guide to Practice

In his "Treatise on the Two Entrances and Four Practices" (Chin.: Èrrùsìxínglùn
二入四行论) Bodhidharma teaches a comprehensive approach to Chan practice. First, to enter the path by means of proper instruction — to enter by reason, the guiding principle. Second, by means of correct practice. Correct practice is of four types:

1. The Practice of Repaying Debts - Enduring Hardship
(Chin.: bàoyuàn xíng

2. The Practice of Adapting to Conditions - Following Karma
(Chin.: suíyuán xíng

3. The Practice of Seeking Nothing - Cutting Greed
(Chin.: wúsu
ǒqiú xíng 无所求行)

4. The Practice of Harmonizing with Reality - Practicing Wisdom
(Chin.: chènf
ǎ xíng 称法行)

Great importance and value has been placed upon these teachings of "tolerance" by practitioners and teachers of Shaolin Wugong. The ability of a skilled practitioner bears tremendous responsibility. For this reason, traditional Shaolin masters ensured the highest standards of Warrior Ethics (Chin.: W
ǔ武德) be developed in their students prior to imparting any martial knowledge. A Shaolin practitioner must be capable of enduring hardship without letting ego interfere with any sort of encounter where their skills may be misused.

Regarding the study of Shaolin Wugong and the importance of Wude, Shaolin Monastery Elder
Ven. Shi Suxi (1924-2006) stated matter-of-factly toward students and teachers;

"The practice of warrior ethics comes first."
(Chin.: xí w
ǔdé wéi xiān 习武德为先)

"A good master introduces warrior ethics."
(Chin.: liáng shī jiè w

Ten Wholesome Deeds

All traditional martial arts cultures have within them basic student pledges of virtuous conduct and character building. The practice of Shaolin Wude within the Shaolin monastic tradition has always been rooted in basic Buddhist principles of morality. These are not merely precepts that individuals take
if they choose to ordain or follow a spiritual path. They are the very foundation of honorable living.

Foundationally, there are the Ten Virtues (Chin.: shí shàn 十善) coupled with the Eight Correct actions (Chin.: bā zhèng 八正), also known as the aspects of the Noble Eightfold Path (Chin.: bāzhèngdào 八正道). Together they represent one of the symbolizations of the 108 (10 + 8) bead malas (Chin.: shùzhūr 数珠儿) used in daily practice.

Opposing the Ten Virtues and the Eight Correct actions are the Ten Vices (Chin.: shí è
) and Eight Errors (Chin.: bā dǎo 八倒).

The Ten Virtues are as follow:

Virtue of Body

1. No Killing (Chin.: bù shāshēng 不杀生)

2. No Stealing (Chin.: bù tōudào 不偷盗)

3. No Sexual Misconduct (Chin.: bù xiéyín 不邪淫)

Virtue of Speech

4. No Lying (Chin.: bù wàngyǔ 不妄语)

5. No Gossiping (Chin.: bù liǎng shé 不两舌)

6. No Foul Mouthing (Chin.: bù èkǒu 不恶口)

7. No Flirtatious Speech (Chin.: bù qǐyǔ 不绮语)

Virtue of Mind

8. No Greed (Chin.: bù tān 不贪)

9. No Hatred (Chin.: bù chēn 不嗔)

10. No Delusion (Chin.: bù chī 不痴)

The Ten Vices are the opposite of the above. Note that offenses committed by the mouth account for almost half the ten.

The Eight Errors represent the opposite of the Noble Eightfold Path - e.g. wrong view, wrong intention, wrong speech, etc..

Not only do these principles of virtuous conduct have prohibitory standards, they also carry expectations of initiative on the part of the practitioner. In the case of Virtue of Body one acts to protect others, offer support, and encourage healthy relationships. In Virtue of Speech one speaks to benefit others, only when speaking improves upon silence. With Virtue of Mind a practitioner strives to develop wisdom, peace, and clarity of mind.

Ten Shaolin Warrior Ethics

Shaolin Wude
, Warrior Ethics, are aspects of a righteous character- aspects that any true martial art should produce in a follower. They are of two kinds- technical and spiritual training.

Spiritual training, the development of mind forms the foundation for the true student. They are:

Virtue of Character

1. Respect (Chin.: s
ǒng )
- respect toward oneself, one's master, and all beings. Respect is the foundation of Shaolin Wude.

2. Humility (Chin.: qiānbēi
- literally "modest" and "inferior".

3. Righteousness (Chin.: yì
- of virtuous character in harmony with moral principles.

4. Trust (Chin.: fú
- to have full confidence in one's master and one's own capacity.

5. Loyalty (Chin.: zhōng
- devotion to one's master and self-dedicati

Solid technical or physical training is founded upon the virtues of character. The highest levels of Shaolin Wugong can only be reached through development of this warrior spirit.

Virtue of Spirit

1. Willpower (Chin.: yìzhì
- the intention and
ambition to take action.

2. Endurance (Chin.: nàilì
- the power to bear hardship.

3. Perseverance (Chin.: héngxìng
- steady persistence in a course of action.

4. Patience (Chin.: nàixīn
- self-control, the ability and willingness to calm
ly withstand.

5. Courage (Chin.: y
ǒng )
- bravery, the confidence of a resolute mind able to face fear or danger.


With the fulfillment of Shaolin Warrior Ethics one's journey through the Shaolin Culture as a true follower, a leader, an authentic Shaolin Warrior, begins. Shaolin Wude means knowing the correct path and following it with all your might.

少林禅城 Shaolin Chan City

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