Full disclosure: A few weeks ago, as we moved into another new year, I’d planned to expand on the concept of Kaizen and began writing a very different blog. However, as I penned the first draft, my thoughts shifted from Personal Development to Other Development, and the relationship between Budo and Benevolence.

The term budo is translated as “martial + way” 武 道, while the Oxford dictionary describes benevolence as the quality of being kind and helpful to others, or an act of kindness or an inclination to act with the intention of improving the social welfare of others. On the surface, the two words appear diametrically opposed, but among devout budoka, they are inextricably linked.

As a tween, teen and twenty-something, winning medals, trophies and titles made by heart race. Tournaments and participation in international seminars opened the doors to a martial community that lay beyond Toronto and Canada. I travelled and shared my research through curriculum development, videos, dvds, articles and books. In addition to deepening my martial arts foundation, these journeys were a stark reminder that we enjoy a privileged life in North America.

In my thirties, I focused on building a successful organization whose mission was/is to educate and inspire children, women and men to maximize their potential through budo practice. The NKS System was born with the help of dedicated senior martial arts educators who shared this vision and wanted to make their passion a profession, and by most measures, we were successful.

As I neared my fourth decade blessed with innumerable rewards from martial arts training, my attention and intention began to shift from me and we, to them – those in need. Gratitude and giri demanded NKS walked the talk. From its inception, NKS’ philosophy (noted on our website) articulated our belief that martial arts practice should benefit ourselves AND improve the world: At Northern Karate, we believe a martial arts education is a vehicle for self-discovery and positive change. We also believe it can improve the world – one person at a time.

Our martial forebearers spoke eloquently on this subject: Funakoshi discussed karate improving humanity regardless of race or creed; Ueshiba said, “Do not look upon this world with fear and loathing, embrace it with love and kindness”; and more recently, Jhoon Rhee coined the slogan “might for right.”

NKS’ efforts began modestly, with food, clothing and toy drives and scholarships, and later, funding local, national and international causes. When we see pink belts worn around the world in support of Breast Cancer awareness and research, we are honoured to have ignited the fuse. Our work is just beginning.

The concept of Budo and Benevolence isn’t confined to the dojo or even the martial community. Donating in the digital age is easy: pick, click and give (time, money, energy, and/or support). Are you an “influencer”? Perhaps you can set a great example for others to follow. Imagine a selfie campaign featuring high-profile individuals as they perform good works?

Considering the powerful platform the martial arts provide, I frequently find myself wondering, “What will I do for others, and what will I leave behind?”, as I think about one of my favourite kanji characters: mamoru 守, translated as to protect, defend, and watch over others.

In addition to prompts about previous postings, birthdays and anniversaries, perhaps in future, social media could also remind us what we’ve given over the past year.

Until then, I’m sharing a challenge with all martial artists, one that doesn’t require you to dump a bucket of water on your head (even in the name of a great cause), eat liquid laundry detergent, or leap over cars.

It does require you to ask what have I given beyond the martial community? You can share the answer on my Facebook page, PM me, or simply celebrate it happily in your heart.

My intention isn’t to diminish the contribution all budoka make to combative arts nor discourage us from doing good closer to home. Instead, I’m asking all of us to focus on non-martial artists in need, as we broaden the reach of what we teach, and live a message of Budo and Benevolence.