Chapter Three: The Wonhwa Do View of Man

I. Traditional Views

Aimed at least partially towards towards the perfection of human nature, the martial arts are influenced by some traditional views of what constitutes "perfection". To understand tradition as well as to appreciate the Wonhwa Do view of man, we will first mention some traditional views.

A. The "Superior" Man of Confucianism

Confucius' view of the ideal man was consistent with his overriding interest in formal ethics. He treasured the "Way of Heaven" and aimed for virtue. With such ideas, the Confucian ideal of perfection was called the "superior" man ("chun tzu"). This is a virtuous man, described by Confucius as one who is "courteous in his private conduct, punctilious in serving his superior, kind in his dealing with people, and just in exacting services from them". Furthermore, when trial comes, "A gentleman stands firm in his misery. It is the small man who gives way to license in times of trouble". Such a man is disciplined and cannot be pried from virtue even by misfortune. The way to virtue is through knowledge and one's success in learning indicates his character. On this matter Confucius said:

"Men born with possession of knowledge are the highest type; those who gain it by study rank next; those who gain it by study rank next; . . . those who, although they study hard, do not attain it are lowest."

Thus, through studious application, Confucianism was generally optimistic regarding the improvement of man's "original" nature. Original nature was described by Hsun Tzu, a disciple of Confucius, in the following way:

"Original nature is the unwrought material of the original . . . Without original nature, there would be nothing upon which to add acquired training. But without acquired training, original nature could not become beautiful by itself."

Thus, in Confucianism, the notions of discipline and scholarship towards the attainment of personal virtue are characteristic of its view of the man of harmony.

B. The Selfless Man of Buddhism
Zen Buddhism also had exercised a heavy influence on the martial arts. One important notion is the state of "selflessness". This is a state of mind which is not like the opposite of selfishness; it is more extreme than that. One Zen master explains that a swordmaster achieves perfection when: "All is emptiness: your own self, the flashing sword, and the arms that wield it. Even the thought of emptiness is no longer there." (Takuan) And another says that such a master ". . . lives happily enough in the world, but ready at any time to quit it without being in the least disturbed by the thought of death." (D. Suzuki)
Achieving this kind of radical inner harmony has numerous beneficial effects: equanimity, fearlessness, spontaneity, etc. But it is only gained through severe and prolonged training.
Another important notion is that of the "bodhisattva". This is the name of one who has attained total inner harmony but is willing to return back to the earth in order to show the way to other seekers. This ideal is highly regarded in Buddhism and it therefore promotes an attitude of self-sacrifice among teachers.

C. The Man of "Normality" in Taoism
In Taoism, the ideal man is one who achieves harmony with nature's Tao. Lao Tzu called this state "normality". Of it he said:

"Knowing Normality, a man is all-embracing. Being all-embracing, he is selfless / Being selfless, he is supreme / Being supreme, he is divine / Being divine, he is with Tao / With Tao, he is everlasting."

Normality then has to do with achieving personal harmony with the Tao. This produces behaviour which is non-assertive and adaptable. Yet by following the Tao and not opposing it, Lao Tzu said that the business of life somehow gets done in due time. He explained this conviction by saying that: "The Tao invariably does nothing, and yet there is nothing that is not done."
Because of these views, Taoism promotes man's achievement of a passive or yielding kind of harmony with nature's Tao.

D. The Loyal Man of Shintoism
In this indigenous Japanese religion, elements of the preceding philosophies can be perceived. But there was a particularly radical stress upon harmony with the lord, especially the emperor, who was considered the descendant of heaven. Loyalty to the emperor thus became synonymous with loyalty to God. Largely influenced by this belief, the samurai warrior's code ("bushido") considered the harmony of extreme loyalty an essential characteristic of an ideal man.

E. The Patriotic Man of Chondogyoism
The Chondogyo faith emerged in Korea and was influenced by the nation's history of defence against larger invading Asian nations. It was later also influenced by the colonial expansion of Western nations. Because of these situations, the Chondogyo faith developed a strong identity with the national purpose. It nurtures a spirit of loyalty and patriotism, which is thoroughly compatible with the spirit of the older Hwarangdo martial tradition.

All of these traditional views have endowed the martial arts with strongly inherent concepts about what personal harmony actually means. They also share the viewpoint that man must consciously try to improve his nature and develop this heart, so that he lives for greater things than himself alone. Regarding this, a particularly valuable observation was made by Mencius, the great disciple of Confucius:

"Human-heartedness is man's heart, and righteousness is man's path . . . When men lose their fowl and dogs, they know to seek them. But they lose the heart and do not know to seek for it. The end of learning is nothing but the search for the lost heart."

Chapter 3: The Won Hwa Do View of Man...Continued (2)