Nearly all students can recite the tenets of Taekwon-Do, but do they really know what they mean? Can they communicate that definition, as well as how it might apply in life outside of the dojang? Let’s break them down so that even the youngest practitioners have a sound understanding.
COURTESY (Ye Ui)
In General Choi’s book (“Taekwon-Do,” by General Choi Hong Hi, Fourth Edition 1995, Published by International Taekwon-Do Federation, pp 13-14), he describes courtesy as “an unwritten regulation prescribed by ancient teacher of philosophy as a means to enlighten human being while maintaining a harmonious society.” He follows this description with a list of ways to behave, on and off the practice floor:
- To promote the spirit of mutual concessions
- To be ashamed of one’s vices, contempting those of others
- To be polite to one another
- To encourage the sense of justice and harmony
- To distinguish instructor from student, senior from junior, and elder from younger
- To behave oneself according to etiquette
- To respect others’ possessions
- To handle matters with fairness and sincerity
- To refrain from giving or accepting a gift when in doubt
General Choi gives us much to think about, but I think we can safely summarize that the first tenet speaks to manners, respect, and truthfulness.
INTEGRITY (Yom Chi)
General Choi prescribes that “one must be able to define right and wrong and have the conscience, if wrong, to feel guilt.” He goes on to list instances, relating mainly to training and competition, where catering to the ego, or behaving fraudulently are frowned upon. For the young students, “knowing right from wrong, and choosing to do right,” may be a manageable definition.
PERSEVERANCE (In Nae)
The main ingredient in perseverance is patience. “To achieve something, whether it is a higher degree, or the perfection of a technique, one must set his goal, then constantly persevere.” Often interchanged with its cousin, Indomitable Spirit, the difference here is time. Simply put, Perseverance means never giving up, no matter how long it takes.
SELF-CONTROL (Guk Gi)
“This tenet is extremely important inside and outside the do jang, whether conducting oneself in free sparring or in one’s personal affairs. A loss of self-control in free sparring can prove disastrous to both student and opponent. An inability to live and work within one’s capability or sphere is also a lack of control.” In other words, this tenet is about managing our own bodies, actions, and words responsibly.
INDOMITABLE SPIRIT (Baekjul Boolgool)
According to General Choi, Indomitable Spirit is shown “when a courageous person and his principles are pitted against overwhelming odds.” For the young practitioner, these circumstances may look like an unfair judge, a mean-spirited instructor, the bullying of him or herself or another, or multiple opponents. For one’s spirit to be indomitable, means refusing to give up, no matter how unfair the situation.
Hopefully, this brief look at the tenets of Taekwon-Do will help make their respective definitions a little easier to communicate to the younger students. Perhaps it will stimulate some thought or discussion about what each of them mean to ourselves and our fellow practitioners, on a personal level.