Leadership and Martial Arts: Drawing the Sword from the Stone

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

The martial arts are a time-tested way to develop and enhance your leadership qualities and skills, whether we are thinking about building a capability to deploy Samurai strategy and tactics; demonstrating the tenacity of a Viking warrior; showing the courage of a Gladiator; or following the Code of Chivalry adopted by medieval knights.

"Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born"

Le Mort d'Arthur, Thomas Malory (1485)

In the Arthurian legends, many egotistical knights try to pull the sword from the stone with strength and ambition alone, and all fail. However Arthur, as a young squire looking for his brother's sword, sees the sword resting in the stone and casually pulls it out. Acting out of pure goodwill rather than self-aggrandisement, Arthur succeeds where all others have failed, suggesting that generosity of spirit, humility, and gentility, are prerequisites for accessing the sword of power. According to Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette in their book The Warrior Within: Accessing the Knight in the Male Psyche, drawing the sword from the stone (or receiving the sword from the lady in the lake) is a metaphor for accessing our warrior energy (yang), which can only be received through acceptance of one's own tenderness, vulnerability and sensitivity (yin).

Through martial arts training we learn to balance strength with suppleness, power with sensitivity, decisiveness with adaptability, along the way developing a capacity to engage in constructive conflict, collaboration and innovation; and the capability to act with empathy and influence, nobility and resilience; emerging as a leader in whatever area we put our mind to. This is the real benefit of studying martial arts.

In the Filipino Martial Arts, four particular virtues were identified by Punong Guro Edgar Sulite, and formed part of his LAMECO school's ritualised salute. You could think of them as four chivalric trusts, that are both a set of standards articulating acceptable behaviour, and a set of commitments that become a method of self transformation. They help guide the martial artist on the path to developing a strong leadership presence. The four trusts or commitments are expressed as​