Every situation that requires moral courage may not be a situation that calls for physical courage, but every situation that requires physical courage does require moral courage. Decisive, quick, appropriate, and effective responses to physical danger are more likely when a student is able to make decisive moral decisions.
Tactically speaking, courage is an essential training objective – more important than physical techniques in the long term plan. Drawing from a USMC leadership definition, courage can be separated into two areas:
- Physical Courage: To continue to function effectively when there is physical danger present.
- Moral Courage: Having the inner strength to stand up for what is right and to accept blame when something is your fault.
Physical courage development in martial arts happens through a variety of activities that can help students reduce the ‘freeze factor’ through repetition and controlled doses of physical danger in simulated attacks. For tactical purposes, physical courage conditioning is most effective if the techniques and tactics can be directly applied to what students may really face.
Moral courage isn’t something that can be ‘train’ in a martial arts program, but is generally illustrated if instructors role model responsibility, reward honesty – even in the face of negative consequences, and encourage positive behaviors. For civilian students, basic citizenship guidelines, local laws (especially those concerning use of force), and ‘the golden rule‘ type of values are good starting points for students to understand their rights, responsibilities, and what the ‘rules’ are if they fneed to take a stand for something.
Courage, physical and moral, tends to be contextual – people are most confident/courageous in situations where they have a lot of knowledge and skill. When a student has a toolbox of appropriate physical techniques and tactics they will more likely have a higher level of physical courage. More importantly, when a student understand the moral code of his society, the legal guidelines that support that code, and has explored his rights and responsibilities within the that context, his sense of judgement about whether to act, why to act, and how to act when faced with a moral dilemma will be more appropriate and effective.