You must have heard this a lot, “Play to win”, and everyone believes this. It has been said so many times that it has now become a culture.
Amidst the toxic winning culture, good sportsmanship is buried somewhere under peer pressure and the straining expectations from coaches and parents. Fair play is no longer appreciated and the only thing that matters is winning. This takes away the essence of sport and the sense of validation from winning.
But don’t despair, all is not lost. People are often drawn to the martial arts based on their adherence to a high moral code of conduct. The five tenets of Taekwondo is an ideal example of this. They lay the foundation of good sportsmanship so that a player is humble when he wins and graceful when he loses.
Before going into a detailed description of these tenets, it is best to know what tenets mean first for a better understanding. By definition, a tenet is an opinion, principle or doctrine that a person holds or maintains as true.
Without further ado, let’s discuss the five tenets of taekwondo and why you should follow them.
The golden rule that best describes courtesy is to treat others just like you would want to be treated. To put it simply, be kind and respectful to others.
Encouraging the sense of justice, being able to distinguish instructor from student and senior from junior, and promoting the spirit of mutual concessions are all part of being courteous.
This may trigger you to ask the questions:
How does courtesy play in its part in martial arts? How can you be courteous when you’re supposed to beat people up? However, you cannot be further from the truth.
An act as simple as bowing when you enter and leave the dojang is considered courteous. Bowing to black belts to show regard for their earned ranks, standing at attention and listening heedfully when speaking to black belts and instructors, respecting the privacy of your peers, addressing everyone with their rightful titles for instance master, miss, etc. These are all actions that not only show that you respect your fellows, instructors and seniors but in turn, you become worthy of respect too.
Courteousness can also refer to tolerance .You learn the art of agreeing to disagree so that peace is maintained and peers remain cordial amongst themselves.
The application of this tenant does not however end at the dojand or school. It must be re- enforced in your daily life by small acts of kindness like opening doors, giving up your seat in the bus for elderly or simply smiling at strangers.
Integrity is such an abstract term, it has relative meanings for everyone. But you will not disagree that the basis of integrity is honesty and morality. Most people confuse honesty with not lying. They are not wrong, however honesty goes beyond just that. Being true to yourself is the fundament of honesty.
Integrity comes into play in taekwondo when you commit to something. If you are asked to do 30 pushups, doing 29 pushups would be a red on your report card. Always see through what you have committed. Lying to miss a day of practice, breaking promises made with your peers are all examples of breaking your code.
You might think it is only students who break this code. It is students who try to coerce instructors into giving them higher ranks or try to purchase it, it is students who ‘fix’ breaking materials before demonstrations however, integrity goes both ways.
There are many instructors as well who camouflage bad techniques with luxurious training halls and false flattery to his students. Therefore, to all the instructors out there, if you want your students to be honest and moral, show them how it’s done. They’ll learn from you!
When you leave practice, integrity is not something you can leave behind like your training equipment. Uphold your values. An example of this can be informing the cashier if he gave you more change than he owed or simply keeping promises you made to your friends.
Who hasn’t felt like quitting? Thinking it’s too difficult for you? It’s only natural to feel disappointed when things are not going your way. However, persistence is what makes fighters. Surviving a difficult phase means you truly earned it.
In taekwondo, this tenet is equally important than all other if not more. It means doing small things like stretching more in warm up. Trying to reach your fingertips to your toes every day and failing. But still trying the next day. It means going to class when it’s easier to stay home. It means to push yourself to get that black belt you dreamt of.
Perseverance not only develops patience but when you achieve your goal, the sense of achievement is like no other. It gives you the drive to do better, try harder!
Perseverance is an important asset for any and every sport. A swimmer you cannot perfect the butterfly style of swimming, a rider who keeps falling off the horse keeps going because of perseverance. Even when you’re learning something new. For example, a little girl who keeps falling off her bike trying to learn how to cycle.
Remember, to turn your dreams into reality, persistence is key!
Feeling your control slip away just like sand from fingers, blood rushing into your ears as someone keeps instigating you to get a reaction. Everyone is familiar with this scenario.
Self-control is a skill which is very difficult to master. To control your desires and emotions in difficult situations sometimes requires more strength than you can imagine.
This is proof that martial arts including taekwondo is not just about strengthening your body. Mental strength is equally important if not more to win a match and also in daily life. If you get triggered by something your opponent did or said during a fight and lose control, you are most likely going to lose your concentration and make a rash move. This can either hurt you or your opponent badly and you will end up losing.
Seniors should also control themselves and show no contempt or ego towards their juniors. Black belts should not show off their expertise for the sake of showing off.
Having self-control as a skill also aids you immensely in daily life. It keeps you from losing friends and hurting family members in cases when you feel like saying something you would regret later on. Keeping your desires in check for example drug addiction can save you from future issues.
Lao Tzu, the great Chinese philosopher said, “the term of ‘stronger’ refers to the person who wins over oneself rather than someone else.”
Indomitable spirit – A spirit that cannot be overcome, cannot be conquered.
An indomitable spirit is one which does not give up in times of losses and confronts failures with courage.
A taekwondo fighter for instance falls 10 times, he will get back up 10 times. He is trained to fight until he cannot. He will at all times deal with the belligerent, without any fear or hesitation, with indomitable spirit regardless of the odds.
One of the most difficult phases of taekwondo is getting over the physical exhaustion and fighting it every day. Trying to master a kata and failing at it every day. Losing from the same opponent every single time. But the spirit keeps you going even through seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Being optimistic in the face of adversity, not letting your beliefs waver when things go against you and setting and goals is the essence of an indomitable spirit.
This spirit helps you face despair bravely in real life as well. In case of failure, you learn to be strong and do better. For example, if you are faced with unemployment in the on-going pandemic. Try to find jobs online and don’t lose hope. Set a goal for yourself to achieve when things go back to normal. Don’t give up hope!
The Bottom Line
Character is who you are when no one is looking. To be a true martial artist, it is imperative to uphold values that make you who you are.
Courtesy is to be kind even when others are not kind to you. Integrity is not letting your beliefs waver and being true to yourself. Perseverance helps you be consistent and develops patience. Self-control prevents you from taking actions you might regret in the future. Indomitable spirit keeps you going and to look at the brighter side of things in times of darkness. All the 5 tenants hold equal importance and are co related intricately. It is important to note that without the presence of these tenants, taekwondo is not really a martial art, it’s just a brawl, with reckless punches and kicks.
Also read, Taekwondo Gifts for A Practitioner.