Saturday afternoon, I proudly watched as my brother achieved his four year goal of graduating to the rank of a Tae Kwon Do black belt. For two hours, he went through countless kicks and punches, broke boards, and completed approximately two hundred pushups, mountain climbers and other physical workouts. While watching this test, I realized that the ultimate goal of Tae Kwon Do is not to solely climb the belt ladder and then be done. Rather Tae Kwon Do is designed to equip each student with valuable lessons to help them achieve excellence in all avenues of life. Whether it is physical fitness, martial art techniques or moral character, the tenets of Tae Kwon Do make it much more then a sport. It's a way of life. Tae Kwon Do is one of the few sports, if not the only one, to make such a serious impact on a person's life both inside and outside of athletics. If Tae Kwon Do is a big part of your life, then it will impact your life in a big way as well.
A key aspect of this sport is endurance, which was displayed in the rigorous exercises performed during the test. While beads of sweat dripped down my brother's face as he counted off another rep of pushups, the master reminded him of one of the tenets of Tae Kwon Do: indomitable spirit. Indomitable spirit, when used in terms of Tae Kwon Do, is defined as, I can always do better then I think I can.' It was while the master was saying this that I realized the test was not designed to solely evaluate the perfection of the techniques. If that was the case, they could have ditched the hundreds of pushups and mountain climbers and moved on to the next activity. But instead it was a test of endurance. An evaluation of how much it truly meant to earn the black belt degree. At the same time that the Tae Kwon Do techniques were being judged, the core character of each person was also being evaluated.
After the testing had been completed, the master read over a document, reiterating the moral expectations of all Tae Kwon Do students. This included respecting all peers and adults, restraining from the use of martial art techniques outside of the studio, and assisting during the younger belt classes. It concluded with a reminder of how each person's actions serve as a public representation of the institution. The students then received their hard earned belts and were told to thank their parents for the money and hours invested in their Tae Kwon Do education.
Proof that all this talk was being taken to heart came shortly after the last pictures were snapped and countless students approached my brother to personally offer him their congratulations. Never before had I seen athletes so supportive of one another. A mutual bond, stronger then any I have ever witnessed, closely linked all of its members together. Perhaps this connection is made possible through the fact that, although an individual sport, Tae Kwon Do is not about oneself. It is about each other. In continual pursuit of excellence, Tae Kwon Do teaches the importance of character, which not only results in harder working athletes, but also a stronger and more united community.
Published in The Enlightened Life: A community blog