Tenets of Taekwon-Do

Taekwon-Do Jungshin

It would be fair to say that anyone who has participated in the art of Taekwon-Do would admit how it can have a great effect and a strong influence on a persons life. This would be the case whether they are actively participating in the art, have suspended their training temporarily, or have completely retired from Taekwon-Do altogether. The effect and influence is always there.

This can be seen in how the individual uses, applies, and interprets the Tenets of Taekwon-Do, not only in their training but in their everyday life. These tenets come under the following five headings:

  • COURTESY (Ye Ui)
  • INTEGRITY (Yom Chi)
  • PERSEVERANCE (In Nae)
  • SELF CONTROL (Guk Gi)
  • INDOMITABLE SPIRIT (Baekjool Boolgool)

It can be seen if these ideals are of any influence on how he or she conducts themselves either in the Dojang as an instructor, student, as a person in their private life, or how they are respected and looked upon by colleagues at their place of work. Before we understand the concept of these titles, we must establish as to what a tenet actuallly is. In other words, what is its literal meaning? It is defined in the dictionary thus: Tenet (noun) - any opinion, principle, dogma or doctrine held to be true.

The last part of the definition indicates that it could almost be held as a belief, passed on to a student from an Instructor or Master. This is confirmed if one reads the founder of Taekwon-Do, General Choi's explanation of the tenets. Let us then examine these important principles or tenets, about which General Choi says, "The success or failure of Taekwon-Do training depends largely on how one observes and implements the tenets of Taekwon-Do which should serve as a guide for all serious students of the art".

COURTESY (Ye Ui)
First impressions? Many an opinion of a person is made on an initial meeting, whether it be in social circles or a work environment. General Choi states that courtesy is an important unwritten regulation in everybody's life in order to maintain an harmonious society. A person should always try to exercise this tenet, not only in their Taekwon-Do training, but also in both their social and professional life. It is of the most importance when being an instructor. On entering the Dojang for the first time, the new student will undoubtedly be influenced not only by how courteous the instructor is to them, but also by how courteous the senior students are to the instructor. This will in turn create an atmosphere conducive for the students to train in. To be constantly courteous and polite in a professional environment can often prove difficult, especially when dealing with a person who does not have the same attitude. However, when one perseveres in courtesy, one will eventually win and gain people's respect in the end. Courtesy can also mean tolerance, for example tolerance of of other peoples opinions, ideals, and beliefs. This notion is compatible with the Taekwon-Do ideal, found in the student oath, of building a more peaceful world.

INTEGRITY (Yom Chi)
"Honesty is the best policy". This is an adage that we hear of a lot in life. From a very early age we are all taught to be honest. As we get older, however, many of us find it difficult to uphold. This can be due to the various constraints we find ourselves in during our later life. To seek to achieve integrity and honesty in all areas of your life is a challenge in itself for the simple reason that it is extremely difficult to be honest with yourself. However, the literal definition of integrity can be made to cover a wider scope of interpretation. This can also include: wholeness, entirety, unbroken state, moral soundness and uprightness. With these definitions in mind it can be seen why General Choi's explanation includes the ability to: "define right and wrong and have the conscience, if wrong, to feel guilt". Most people will agree that if as a person, you try to be honest in Taekwon-Do, as indicated in General Choi's explanation of the tenet, this will inevitably reflect in your professional and private life and you will earn respect in all of these different areas.

PERSEVERANCE (In Nae)
It's literal definition means "to continue readily with or persist in any business or enterprise undertaken". General Choi says: "To achieve something, whether it is a higher degree or the perfection of a technique, one must set his goal, then constantly persevere..... One of the most important secrets in becoming a leader in Taekwon-Do is to overcome every difficulty by perseverance". The student of Taekwon-Do must apply this tenet in their training at all times if they are to reach any goal in Taekwon-Do. Whether they are putting in two to three hours training per day to prepare for an important comptetition, practising for an approaching Kup or Dan grading, trying to perfect the fundamental movements in a pattern or trying to develop the 'theory of power' in the fundamental techniques of Taekwon-Do - all of these tasks require perseverance. Confucius said - "One who is impatient in trivial matters can seldom achieve success in matters of great importance".

SELF CONTROL (Guk Gi)
All practitioners of Taekwon-Do must be taught that Taekwon-Do is an art of self defence. It must always therefore be used as a last resort, and then only as a restraint to contain the opponent. With this in mind it is easy to see the importance of this tenet. A loss of self control can be disastrous for both parties. Taekwon-Do has the reputation of being the most powerful martial art ever devised. This can be measured and proved scientifically and the amount of power that a student develops, even after a short period of training can be devastating and potentially lethal. For this reason, it is simply neither practical or possible to have "full contact" sparring. Therefore this tenet, along with the others is extremely important both inside and outside the dojang. Lao-Tzu summed up the importance of self control when he said: "the term of 'stronger' refers to the person who wins over oneself rather than someone else".

INDOMITABLE SPIRIT (Baekjool Boolgool)
This tenet has very deep philosophical meanings. The literal definition of "indomitable" is "that which can not be subdued", whereas spirit can mean many things, from an essential or active quality of a thing to the essence or vigour of the intellect or mind. General Choi refers to the heroic actions of the 300 Spartans at the Battle of Thermopylae who fought against overwhelming odds and superior forces as an example of indomitable spirit. It is shown when a courageous person and his principles are pitted against overwhelming odds. For example, when a person or in some cases, where a whole people believe that a wrong has ben done, or an injustice carried out, their indomitable spirit will always show through. For the Taekwon-Do practitioner, indomitable spirit is essential for their physical, spiritual, and moral development.