23 November 2010

What is Taekwon-Do's Mindset?

Two weeks ago I had a short discussion with my Taekkyeon grandmaster during which time he explained to me the most important principles in Taekkyeon. One of which is that in Taekkyeon one's mindset should be one of enjoyment or playfulness. I remember very well the first time I did Taekkyeon, about two years back, was with a troupe of elderly women. The class was very cheerful and during practise we sang old Korean folk songs. (Technically, they sang the songs, I just hummed along.) There was definitely a sense of enjoyment. My Taekkyeon grandmaster often says that you should practise with a smile on your face. This then is the mental attitude one should hold onto during Taekkyeon practise.

I realised then that different martial arts encourage different mental attitudes. In Tai Chi Chuan, for instance, one's mind ought to be serene, your attitude should be one of calmness. In Aikido you strive for reconciliation and should have an attitude of peace. Karate, on the other hand, espouses seriousness and probably an attitude of solemnity.

What, do you think, is the mental attitude characteristic of Taekwon-Do – ITF Taekwon-Do in particular? This is not something I thought about consciously previously and am afraid that if I were to give my answer it is likely to be blighted with my own disposition and personal preference.

I’ve asked around for others’ opinions, but have received very little feedback. My Taekwon-Do instructor here in Seoul, Mr Kim Hoon, suggests it to be indomitable spirit. I remember once, I was still a colour belt, during a tournament I got kicked full in the throat, with me being quite startled and somewhat struggling to breath. My instructor at the time, Mr Johan Bolton asked rhetorically if I'm dying and told me to continue fighting. Half choking I obeyed (I guess I was more scared of disappointing him, than of dying!) and continued as instructed. I can't remember if I won or lost, but I do remember it to have been one of my toughest tournament fights; definitely a fight that required an indomitable spirit. I guess Mr Bolton and Mr Kim are in agreement.

But is that really the mindset of Taekwon-Do, the attitude we try to focus on while practising Taekwon-Do? Maybe it's not a single attitude – maybe it's all five the tenets: courtesy, integrity, perseverance patience, self-control, and indomitable spirit.

What do you think is the characteristic mental attitude we aim for in ITF Taekwon-Do?

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