By all physical appearances Taekwondo is a beautiful and impressive martial art. The exciting sparring with its’ lightning fast kicking combinations and the empty hand forms called poomse are famous. To develop these physical skills takes years and years to perfect and everyone can see the results of all that training.
What people don’t see is the invisible foundation upon which these skills are built. Even though Taekwondo, or any martial art for that matter, is a great vehicle for fun and health, it is also an art with many levels. More than other ‘sports’ the martial arts have lessons and benefits which go much deeper and are less obvious.
Often times lessons learned come from seemingly opposing notions which ultimately compliment each other. For instance one must first lose his or her breath to learn to catch and control it. To jump up one must first bend down. We learn to relax from working hard. We tense our muscles first to learn to relax them and let them go in order to learn to control them. We strike a hard target with a soft weapon and a soft target with a hard weapon. This of course is the yin and yang of life. The white belt symbolizes the purity and innocence of the novice; however the masters’ black belt turns white again after time symbolizing the completion of a cycle. Things are not always as they seem at first glance.
When we practice the martial arts we don’t do it merely for the sake of learning just the physical skills. We learn life skills that can be applied to all aspects of our lives. Many times it is the not so obvious lessons that teach us the most. To grow and learn and be a better person is our true goal. Our real opponent is indeed ourselves. People used to ask my Hapkido Grandmaster J.R. West how long it takes an average man to earn a black belt. His answer was that an ‘average’ man doesn’t earn a black belt. He used to say that ‘the secret to getting a black belt was to come to the next class’.
To the martial artist class doesn’t start at the dojang door and end as we leave the dojang. Life is your dojang. We utilise the physical training to learn techniques but we also learn those not so obvious lessons that become the foundation beaneath our martial art and our lives. In the spirit of the martial arts we seek to make the world a better place by starting with ourselves. From our strong foundations we reach high and continue to grow.
The towering peak
Of Mt. Fuji
Pierces the sky,
But its’ body remains
Rooted to the earth.
by Deishu Takahashi
As mysterious as their secrets may be, the great masters have left significant testimonies about it that are disarming in their simplicity.
“The true target that the archer should aim at is his/her own heart”, is a maxim of kyudo, the way of archery. Like mountain guides, the masters point out the path, the stages through which one must proceed in aiming at ones own heart. Like the old saying of which Bruce Lee reminds us, ‘watch not the finger that points to the moon; or you will miss all that heavenly glory’.
by Tim Barrett…1st dan at BTC
(Last two paragraphs have sentences taken from the book, Martial Arts and Teaching Tales by Pascal Fauliot)