Last week while waiting for the gas pump to signal mission completion with it’s customary click-thump, I heard the sound of crinkling wrappers, which drew my attention to three teenage boys leaving the station with the candy they had bought. It was a common enough scene for the burbs, but as I had nothing better to do, I amused myself with watching them stroll across the lot bound for the mall; three young guys, one fair-skinned with the acne of adolence, another with his boxers prominently displayed out of the top of his over-sized shorts, and the third with his baseball cap askew. I reminisced on my own youthful years of insecurity, as I and my friends tried to appear to be the men we just hadn’t yet become. Then it happened; fair-skinned boy nonchalantly hung his arm by his side, took a subtle look to the left and right, and with no-one in sight, dropped his wrapper in the middle of the street.

This seemingly insignificant act said volumes about that boy’s character. Obviously, he doesn’t really care about how his debris might effect the rest of the citizens he shares this community with. I’m sure the argument would be something about how “it’s just a little wrapper.” Surely we all can see the fallacy of this line of reasoning; the results of such individual acts lead to the truck-loads of garbage we see lining the fences and hedge-rows all along our roadways.

What is truly striking to me, however, is the fact that he looked around to see if anybody was watching before he dropped his wrapper. This demonstrated that while he may not have cared about how his actions impacted the rest of us, he was aware of the unacceptability of his act, but was still willing to do it, so long as no one witnessed it! This young boy is lacking a key component of an honorable citizen: Integrity.

Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.” It also means “the state of being whole and undivided.” Therefore, it’s not just about being honest and telling the truth, but about being consistent, in both actions and words, with that truth. In his book Shattering the Glass Slipper, Charles Marshall wrote,

“Integrity is doing the right thing when you don’t have to – when no one else is looking or will ever know – when there will be no congratulations or recognition for having done so.”

Warriors have recognized for eons the importance of a moral code to balance the violent nature of such a class. The Bushido code of the Samurai, and the Code of Chivalry from medieval Europe both espoused a moral code which emphasized Integrity. Today, each branch of our modern military has a code of conduct, and each includes the concept of Integrity. Our martial art schools should be no different. It is our obligation as martial artists to live up to such a code as well, otherwise we run the risk of becoming nothing more than thugs with skills.

As parents and coaches, our integrity is vital to our success in teaching our children and students. If our message isn’t consistent with how we lead our lives, they will soon come to see the hypocrisy, and then confidence in our teaching will be eroded. We must maintain the integrity of our art, our school, and our families. We need to lead by example. We need to “walk the talk.”

We need to have integrity.

This weekend is the World Master Jiu-Jitsu IBJJF Championship in Las Vegas. Good luck to Cassio Werneck, Derek DiManno, Jaime Jara, Steven Anderson, Brandon Heath, Juan Punsalan, and Nicholas Ramirez –  GO TEAM WERNECK!

ALSO PLEASE NOTE: The 6:00 a.m class will be cancelled this Friday (8/25) and Monday (8/28)!