I have been practicing martial arts for over 20 years now, 24 years to be exact. Though my main interest has been Taekwondo, I have also trained in Hapkido, Haidong-gumdo, Maui tai, Judo, Jiu-jitsu, Tai chi, and other such stolen words and names. The truth of the matter is, all forms of martial arts share with the other, while still maintaining their unique characteristics. Each one ranges in intensity and focus. Each should be considered and respected for it’s practicality and formation in the martial arts realms. There are of course the deceivers, those who give each style a poor reputation, but we look to the true practitioners, those who lay the foundations of the style. Reject those who break off from the source and claim their own path. You must be rooted in the headquarters and purest form of the style. Consider my previous arguments for this. Referring to Taekwondo, it receives much ridicule as not being a good self defense, as not being practical. This can be for a couple reasons.
The first can be attributed to many false claims to Taekwondo by programs that do not actually practice real Taekwondo. They practice what is referred to as, “Traditional”. Another way of thinking of this is simply, “American Karate”. This style resembles Karate more than it resembles Taekwondo. Japanese terms are used and more Japanese practices are used, and yet, they call it American Taekwondo. This is very watered down martial arts. As there are a few franchises, this is problematic, but then there are plenty of programs who call themselves Taekwondo, but look nothing like true Taekwondo. This puts a bad view in the public’s sight.
The second is the transformation of Taekwondo in competition in the international and Olympic stage. The international and Olympic stage is high competitive, obviously for the competitors, but also for each country. They push to host the next event in their nation, their city, than the interest for one’s sport. This year, Karate will be in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Japan is hosting the Olympics and has the vote to introduce Karate as a competing event. Even though Karate will be debuting this year, it will not be in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. The interest in the sport and air time cost money, the competition is high. The World Taekwondo officials continue to find ways to cut down on slow periods in sparring, in order to, as they have said, “Razzle, dazzle”. This has on the surface and in transition made our sport and martial art look a bit weak.
It is the honor, however, the respect, that is seldom found in any other form that I appreciate in Taekwondo. Taekwondo is clean, pure, and true to its nature. The sport is meant to be safe, fair, and fun, which means I can keep doing it for a long time. There is an established discipline that sets it apart. The instructors do not need to be harsh, or aggressive. The students and instructors interact in humility and kindness. Surely there are prideful individuals. I am merely speaking of the teaching. I know personally that if I were to flex my abilities and ego, I wouldn’t have many students.
And yet, it baffles me, I have been in several other programs where the instructor is aggressive, capable or not, with a bad attitude and they may have more students. They demean their students in these other programs, there is a lack of discipline, or it can be over militaristic. The students and instructors show no humility or honor and the over all tone is aggressive.
I can’t help but ask, what is being taught? What are the instructors and students gaining? If you get beat up constantly, will you get stronger? Will your body heal, will your mind heal?
At some point in our training, we must realize that there is no mystery to the art. We must understand that there are consequences to our actions. We must know that everything must work together, move together. This is the basics of martial arts. For those that mistreat their student, they do not understand this. You must be authoritative with your students. But you must first be in proper health, both mentally and physically. The same goes for how each art treats the other. My concern is not for the phonies. But for the true forms, we need to start respecting each other and helping each other understand. As I mentioned at the beginning, each should be considered and respected for it’s practicality and formation in the martial arts realms.
To follow up on the Integrity In The Martial Arts post, I want to discuss deeper the trend of instructors who are diluted either by a simplistic mind, or a combination of the misleadings of an instructor before. These instructors will self promote, identify with the best, but look nothing like the best and will avoid competitions with the best because they cannot compare to the best. As the adage goes, “How can you spot a fake? Hold it next to the real thing.” They stay clear from the real thing. Yet they will tell you over and over again that they are legitimate, that somehow they are better. They will claim certification, yet have no proof. If supplying proof, it is fake. Then to perpetuate these lies to their students who trust them and only know as much as they are taught. Did you know you can look up your instructor’s record? You can see if your instructor is really the rank they claim? You can also look up the rank they claim you are paying such a hefty price for…
For over twenty years now, I have come to the understanding and have taught my students to know more than you are taught. Yes, I want them to trust me and follow my instructions. However, I want them to take responsibility for what they apply to their lives, to their knowledge and to their path. I do not want them to be dependent on me for everything, I want them to be leaders and, trusting that they can make decisions and come to me for advice and support. As their instructor, it is not my job to control them, to micromanage them and run their training where they wait for every word and move. No, I lead in step, as a guide, sometimes walking beside them, sometimes hand over hand, sometimes in demonstration, mirroring. But you have to let them try on their own, give them direction and let them try again. Always in humility. Likewise, if you cannot be humble about your rank, then what are you to your students?
Perhaps though, you are not lying, you are testing, and you are going to high level competitions, performing well and your students rank high in their divisions. But, for some reason or another, when you search your black belt, it doesn’t come up? How strange is this? The certificate you were given and that you give your students somehow are forgeries? How upsetting this could be, and all you can offer your students is, well, at least we know our worth. Do you start over and find a program to help you out, or do you continue the facade? Do you face the music, or continue the lie? Pride or humility? This is what it comes down to. The strong will and personalities of the martial arts often side with continuing the lie rather than facing the truth and rather difficult road of working hard and catching their rank up. There has to be a quick and easy way, right? While so many are searching for this easy way to catch up, beginners are getting their first, second and third degree black belts, even fourth degree black belts legitimately. And those who were lied to, are left with no accreditation at all. Martial arts is hard work, sometimes this work repeats itself. Life isn’t fair, sometimes you lose and we, as instructors need to demonstrate to our students how to conduct ourselves when life isn’t fair and when we lose. For those lied to, get up, work hard and earn it again! For those lying, stop, teach your students integrity, teach your students that it’s worth giving it your all, that a job worth doing, is worth do well! Don’t be lazy! Don’t be selfish! Give your students everything, even if they choose not to go for it, at least you gave them the chance! Open the doors of success for your students!