In my case, I feel any martial art that I am to invest time and effort into must achieve two key things:
It must be both live-preserving and life-enhancing.
One of the personally favoured kotowaza (proverbs) of my former teacher, So Shihan Masayuki Hisataka is katsu jin ken—”the life preserving fist”, which in turn was adapted from the Japanese sword art kotowaza of the same pronunciation, but meaning “the life-preserving sword”.
In turn, this was adapted from an older proverb katsu jin ken, satsu jin tou, meaning “the life preserving sword and the life taking sword” (“ken” and “tou” being alternative words meaning sword.
In my opinion, this duality — the sword’s simultaneous role in protection and destruction — lies at the heart of true martial ways. At its essence any martial art has martial intent and martial intent. Also at their core martial ways have compassion and decency.
Or at least they should.
Listen to Iain’s podcast — he’s on the money.
Partly out of respect to Hisataka sensei and partly because I like the meaning of the proverb, katsu jin ken this has become one of the core kotowaza I adopt in my own dojo.