The Tenets of Taekwondo

Whenever you see a poster advertising taekwondo classes you very often see the tenets posted along side. The implied meaning is that the tenets are trained or encouraged through the classes. However in the actual classes they are often just given lip service in the guise of:
Courtesy, bow when you enter the class and to your seniors
Integrity, don’t cheat in competitions
Perseverance, it takes a long time to get to black belt
Self-control, don’t lose your temper
Indomitable spirit, sort of a combination of all the above

This is ok for kid’s classes but for adults we should have this basic understanding of the tenets before setting foot in to the dojang anyway.

So what relevance do the tenets have to adults when studying taekwondo? For most places nothing or it is a list to remember to get you past your first grading. But within the tenets we have some good sound self-defence advice. So here I am going to break down the tenets and how they can be applied to self defence

Maybe it is the influence of the movies, or maybe I am getting older but it seems more and more, people being rude to each other shouting and swearing is how they choose to interact. However, acting in a courteous manner to everyone in everyday life can actually keep you safe. Whereas walking around showing off and being rude to people just because you happen to wear a black belt a few nights out the week can give people all the reason they need to confront you. Acting with self-respect will also earn you the respect of others. As someone famous once said:
‘Rudeness is a weak man’s imitation of strength’

“Only fight when you really have to”
This kind sentiment is common within the martial art circles but often it is used to hide behind a lack of skills. We need to be honest with ourselves both inside and outside the dojang, we need to be putting in good honest hard training in the dojang, no cheating our way out of it or taking shortcuts to make ourselves look good. Only in this way can the integrity of not using our skill unless we really have to have any meaning at all. Training with integrity can help you act with real integrity

When things get physical no matter what the odds you have to believe there is a way out and you can’t give up. This is differenct from the perseverance of turning up to the gym every week to finally get your black belt. This kind of perseverance can’t really be objectified, it is hard in the moment gritting your teeth and going for it perseverance you need. You need to train for this in for it to be there when you need it

Self-control for self-defence is two fold
First Self-control for self-defence is mainly self-control of the ego. More fights are started through ego that anything else. If someone calls you names, walks into you, spills your pint etc., you should, as a martial artist, have the self-control not to react to such things

Secondly we should look at self-control in fight, you need to be able to control your fear, and be aware of the adreneline dump this mean you will be in a position to use your training, not jam up and become useless when you need it the most

Indomitable spirit
Lastly, throughout our everyday life we should not allow ourselves to be dictated to by bullies, we should have the confidence and the spirit to stand up to people that would do us wrong. Whether this should be in the work place, street or even at home, your training should give you the strength to say ‘No’

Of course it isn’t enough to just identify the meaning of the tenets, but each one should be trained. With the inclusion of scenario based training, pressure testing and and even discussions the tenets can be brought to have real meaning and application in our world today. Just like everything else it is all in the training.


2 thoughts on “The Tenets of Taekwondo

  1. Ørjan Nilsen

    Great post on the tenets of Taekwondo. I really enjoyed reading it. You could add the legal aspect of “Self Control”. You should defend yourself effectively but showing self control and not use more force than neccisary will help you in the legal aftermath (i.e do NOT restomp the groin:p ). Both the Norwegian, Danish and UK defense laws as I understand them do give permission for the defender to strike first if he/she feels the situation warrants it (that he or she is in enough danger that striking first is the only escape) but the key thing in all three countries as I understand it is reasonable use of force. Self Control is the key to not use to much force in my opinion.

  2. tacticaltaekwondo Post author

    Hello there

    thank you for your reply.

    Yes, a very good point regarding the law and self control. teaching student when to stop is a very important part of martial training


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