The Tao of Taekwondo

Notes and reflections from a deeper practice of traditional taekwondo

Saturday, March 22, 2008



This is a video of me giving up martial arts.

(Seriously, though...this is humbling to watch).

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Our academy philosophy: Love



The second of the four parts of our academy philosophy is love. This post is about the personal practice of love with respect to taekwondo.

Practicing with passion

Everything that happens well happens when we combine passion and responsibility. Passion is what drives us to keep doing things, responsibility is what makes us show up to do the heavy lifting. When we combine the two, self-discipline becomes easy and we grow into our practice with joy, looking forward to each opportunity to train.

I have noticed that most taekwondo practitioners in our dojang get hooked somewhere around their promotion to yellow belts. This is just about the time we feel that we have learned something well be it a front kick, a down block or a poomsae. We notice that we are making progress, we gain confidence in our ability to learn and we start thinking about taekwondo outside of the dojang. We start to see through the initial pain and awkwardness of being a white belt and start developing a passion for the art. In my experience, this passion simply continues to grow and grow. For others, their passion may wane as more important things compete for their heart's attention. The path with heart is what matters.

When times get tough, and you find yourself waning in your enthusiasm for your training, it is sometimes hard to cultivate the passion for it. If you have had a long injury and you have been away from the dojang, passion wanes as well. This is where responsibility comes in. These two are the um and the yang of practice. When one wanes, the other takes over. To keep on the path with love, we need to balance our passion with responsibility. To make the responsibility less like drudgery, cultivate passion. If you can't train physically, train mentally, imagining what you can work on when your body is back in shape.

Love for others

In the dojang respect and love work hand in hand. As you train with partners over time, you develop a deep respect and friendship with each other. There is nothing like going through your black belt promotion with people that have trained beside you for years. Your cohort - the people you advance with - are your primary learning group in the dojang and as you move along and work together, a bond gets cemented between you all.

This bond teaches us the value of love in that it encourages us to look out for others and to recognize that our own success is dependant on the success of others. As you advance further and further through the ranks, this outlook applies to students of a junior rank as well. If you can find ways to offer your support and encouragement to them it helps go a long way in strengthening their own passion for the art. Taekwondo practiced with passion and shared openly is infectious. The spirit pervades everything, and training becomes a joy.


Cultivating passion and love in the dojang

Here are a couple of exercises to put the practice of love to work in your taekwondo training.

To cultivate passion in your whole practice think for a moment about what you really love about the art. Reflect after class on the one thing that really lit you up. Ask yourself why this was so enjoyable and reflect on how to bring that same passion to other parts of your practice that are more challenging. You might use the things you love as incentive to train in the things you don't love so much. No poomsae practice until you have worked that spinning hook kick 50 times - or vice versa!. (You'll know you have this mindset mastered when you look forward to sets of 50 pushups!).

With respect to love of others, as you continue to train within a community of practitioners ask yourself how you can give back. How can you cultivate more passion in your practice?
Where can you encourage junior students, children and those that are struggling with their practice. This is not about rank, but about showing up as a friend, a co-learner and helping people get through struggles. This is a deeply useful practice outside of the dojang as well.

Cultivate passion for your art, and share what you have learned. That is how we practice love in the dojang.

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