What Is the Most Important Virtue and Element of Fitness?

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brandon, a member of the 118th Wing, Tennessee Air National Guard, performs an overhead squat during a high-intensity workout (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Mark Thompson)

If you served in the military, you likely learned about values such as "Duty, Honor, Country" or my favorite, "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of All Who Threaten It."

A new book I just read, "A Warrior's Book of Virtues -- A Field Manual for Living Your Best Life," written by a Navy and Marine Corps team of veterans, Nick Benas(USMC), Matthew Bloom (USMC), Richard Bryan (USN), got me thinking about some of the first leadership philosophy courses we had at the Naval Academy. A classic question that has been debated for generations is which virtue is the most important?

Coming from the tactical professions -- military, police, firefighter/EMT -- many will agree that discipline is the virtue that holds ALL the virtues and habits together. When the days get longer and turn into the night, members of the tactical professions will have to rely on their discipline to get the job done. Being a virtuous person -- someone who is reliable, truthful, courageous, compassionate, humble and disciplined -- requires a "habit of the mind" as Cicero says (106-43 BC).

The fun debate when it comes to all the important virtues a warrior must have in order to be an optimal performer and worthy citizen, is "which is the most important to the warrior/citizen?"

Throughout the ages, many wise people have given their opinion.

Socrates claimed that temperance is the most important of the four cardinal virtues, which he named: Prudence, Justice, Temperance (discipline), and Fortitude (courage). The authors show how our present military virtues and core values are developed from ancient writings and modernized for today's warrior. It requires a disciplined person to have temperance, once again creating a theme for the warrior. With discipline (temperance), it is easier to develop the other virtues needed in the warrior. That is why we say your motivation must evolve into discipline at some point to succeed at any long-term endeavor.

Plato identified the Four Cardinal Virtues as wisdom, bravery, temperance, and justice.

Cicero, as the most important to the citizen of his time, also had the same four virtues: wisdom, justice, courage, temperance.

But, if you asked Aristotle, "Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible."

You will see many of these virtues and others used to create the "Warrior's Book of Virtues" that are battle-tested and debated throughout the millennia by some of the brightest minds and successful warriors/leaders. The "Warrior's Book of Virtues" takes the timeless classics and describe their evolution into today's society perfectly in a way that is easy to read and understand for the citizen, warrior and tactical professional population.

I believe discipline and courage outweigh all the other virtues, as without these, as the great minds above have stated, the ability to address the many virtues we as humans should strive to practice and obtain will not occur.

Common Virtues That We Should Strive to Practice
INTEGRITY

COURAGE

HONOR

RESPECT

LOYALTY

HONESTY

PRUDENCE

GRACE

FORGIVENESS

HUMILITY

AUTHENTICY

EXCELLENCE

DISCIPLINE

KINDNESS

GRATITUDE

PATIENCE

COMMITMENT

TENACITY

TACT

GENEROSITY

CONTENTMENT

ASSERTIVENESS

COOPERATION

ADAPTABILITY

Can You Ask The Same Question of Tactical Fitness?

After all, this is a fitness column. The same question is often asked about tactical fitness. You can apply this same philosophical discussion to physiology as well: Which physiological element is the most important?

Think about the elements of fitness that the tactical athlete must be good at in order to do the job well: Strength, Power, Speed, Agility, Endurance, Muscle Stamina, Grip, Flexibility and Mobility. These are the tactical athlete's core values that they simply have to be good at doing -- not necessarily great at any one of them -- but good at all of them. Obviously, the levels of ability for each of these will differ with the job, branch of service or first responder career.

The discussion is very similar to the virtues debate. Personally, a background in strength will yield the foundation of fitness that helps a tactical athlete develop the others fully and build a more durable body. This will make the tactical athlete able to handle the forces of gravity from impact activities (running/rucking) as well as load bearing of heavy equipment. The transition from a strength/power athlete into an all-around tactical athlete who is good at all the above can take some time -- sometimes a year or more, depending upon the journey (special ops level).

However, the endurance/muscle stamina foundation yields quick strength adaptations for the development of the tactical athlete. When former endurance athletes do a cycle of strength and power training, this will build the durability needed, but also quickly develop the work capacity for moving for many hours throughout the day and night.

Which is better? To be honest, it does not really matter as both the strength athlete and the endurance athlete must adapt into a tactical athlete, which will require the strength athlete to gain more endurance and muscle stamina to enhance work capacity. Likewise, the endurance athlete will need to gain more strength/power to enhance the durability needed to transition into the tactical athlete.

Reference:

Book of Virtues

Good Man Project

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