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Taekwon-Do philosophy is founded in work ethic, health, social interaction and constant striving.
Kim's Taekwon-Do's constant message: Progress, Peace and Love, as well as the Tenets of Taekwon-Do (Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-control, and Indomitable Spirit) could easily serve as a moral compass, by which any human could live his or her life.
While the discussion of religious views has no place inside the dojang, it does bear mentioning that the the ethical ideals of Taekwon-Do are generally consistent with any of the world's major religions. There is no mysticism or contradiction to any religious views I am aware of. Nevertheless, religious and political discussion has no place inside the dojang. These divisive topics would serve no purpose and only be a serious distraction. This is how it should be, and probably accounts for some of Taekwon-Do's worldwide popularity.
During my lifelong study of martial art, I have trained hard alongside people of all races and religions. Everyone looks and thinks the same when wearing a dobok. The hard training student of Taekwon-Do, gasping for air during a hard set of forms or after a series of jumping kicks, is only concerned with surviving the training session.
One thing that I have observed in almost every martial art school and system is a bias against other schools or martial art systems or instructors. The debate can range from which style is superior, (Karate -vs- Taekwon-Do, Taekwon-Do vs Taekwondo, Boxing vs Judo, etc.), to whether full-contact martial art is superior to non-contact. The bias can even be within the same system if there is more than one school or instructor.
An experienced martial artist with a broad range of knowledge eventually understands that the only thing that truly matters is the student's dedication, intensity of the training, and physical will and abilities of the individual martial artist, not the specific style.
I have more recently come to the realization that every individual martial artist does a different martial art, even within the same school.
As a Taekwon-Doist, my Taekwon-Do is mine and mine alone. I bring my life and training experiences to every training session and those are personal and constantly evolving.
Several years ago, while working as a city police officer, I was involved in an violent encounter with a hardened career criminal, who was intent on removing my firearm from my holster (presumably to use it on me). My years of disciplined Taekwon-Do training enabled me to prevent this and subdue him - after a lengthy physical confrontation – without serious injury to me, and without resorting to using deadly force against the individual.
I realized at that point that my martial art was so entrenched in my life that it was as much a part of who I was as my name. No matter where I went in life, no matter what I did, it would be with me. No one could ever take it away from me. I owed my life to my Taekwon-Do. It enabled me to remain calm, and confident in the face of danger due to hard training.
That is my Taekwon-Do; my martial art. I bring my life experiences to each training session. And like any piece of art, the experience is subjective and very personal.
I feel that every martial artist, regardless of style, practices their own art. They all stepped foot in the studio, gym or training hall for different reasons at a different point in their lives. Everyone sacrifices something to train in a martial art, and it factors into each student's value system on a different level.
For an instructor, it is important to understand that each student is different and trains for a different reason. This is not to say that physical performance standards should be relaxed by any means, or that students shouldn't be held accountable and work hard. But, a good instructor's job is to motivate an inspire students to build themselves into great martial artists. To this end, it must be understood that everyone trains for different reasons, and Taekwon-Do means something different to each student.
While the individual motivation and rewards may be experienced on different levels by each student, Taekwon-Do does have benefits that can be viewed objectively for every student, albeit the hierarchy of these benefits may differ:
Striving for perfection.
Increased physical fitness.
Code of conduct.
Striving for Perfection:
In my fitness business, I like to say to trainees that in fitness they are either pushing ahead for something, or they are falling behind. The body and mind really does not like stagnation and there really is no simple maintenance.
Humans are built to work hard and be challenged. That is how we have evolved from fighting wolves by the fireside, into a modern society.
In Taekwon-Do, there is no “perfect” technique. A punch or kick can always be more powerful, timed better, etc. A student who thinks they have perfect technique is no longer a student and has quit learning.
In life, no human is perfect in every way. A student of Taekwon-Do should always be striving to perfect technique, while being made to understand that this will never actually be attained by any human. This carries over into daily life in the serious student.
Increased Physical Fitness:
Taekwon-Do is an outstanding fitness activity.
In our increasingly sedentary world, some form of exercise is absolutely mandatory for all humans. Very few people have the opportunity to do physical work in this day and age, which, in part, has led to a worldwide epidemic of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Taekwon-Do enhances muscular strength, cardiovascular conditioning, increases bone density, improves blood sugar metabolism, and enhances joint flexibility and range-of-motion.
The lazy Taekwon-Do student will not and should not succeed in attaining rank advancement. Anything worthwhile in life requires hard work, and Taekwon-Do should serve as a guide for this, particularly in junior students.
Confidence gained through hard work will never leave the dedicated student. In a self-defense situation, this confidence is vital. Without requiring hard work in every student, the Taekwon-Do instructor is creating a toxic environment. Taekwon-Do should be synonymous with hard exercise.
Code of Conduct:
The Tenets of Taekwon-Do provide a system of guidance for the serious student, that can be applied in any situation. Any instructor that lives their life according to these standards will be a great ambassador of Taekwon-Do.