I have known life in its ugliest forms and have also experienced the good life. I have traveled widely and I have learned from many different cultures. I have known the pain and hunger that tears the humanity from a person but I have also known the saturated feeling of fullness, plenty and harmony.
Pne constant that has never failed me is Tae Kwon Do. It has given me strength and courage in the face of adversity. It has given me the ambition to control my destiny. I cannot separate Tae Kwon Do from the essence of my life because it is a part if me. All my life's experiences have sprung from my involvement with Tae Kwon Do. The only path which I have journeyed is that which Tae Kwon Do has provided me. However, I have reached a point in my life when there is much that I am disturbed with in the martial arts. The time has arrived for a renewal of ideas, a rejuvenation of spirit, and a porpous acceptance of change within all aspects of the various systems of martial arts.
Today is our only reality. Although we are the cumulative products of all those who have lived before us, establishing personal historeis, our lives are now - what we are doing, thinking, feeling - this moment is reality. I cannot live captured by the ideals of the past nor live in fear of what my future holds. I am not afraid to admit change into my life, especially within the framework of teaching Tae Kwon Do. If there is a supereior way of teaching or developing techniques, I want to adapt these procedures into my established methods. The future of all the systems of martial arts depends upon continual growth. While holding onto our noble traditions, we can still explode new concepts and training methods.
My martial forebearers may cringe at my ideas, but I am sincerely motivated toward analyzing and exploring the most effective scientific methods for developing technique. THe great masters of the past were, indeed, excellent teachers; however, with new technology and innovative research for new training methods, there may be better ways for developig certain techniques. Therefore, I do not feel impelled to continue with one methid of action formulated years ago.
Full contact fighting has definitely conmtributed a keenly felt pressure to traditional martial arts. When matched with an experienced contact fighter, the traditional stylist is often on the losing end of the match. I am not comparing or evaluationg full contact fighting with traditional martial arts, but a well trained martial artist will have gained many psychological benefits that other disciplines do not impart to their practitioners. Why, then, have Americans so successfully dominated the full contact and major point system tournaments? The answer is simple: Americans have not limited themselves to train exclusively within one system. Americans carefully observe many different systems, then chose the best each has to offer. I am not advocating studebts to jump from one style to another; but I do think it is important for instructors to analyze the success of this type of fighter. Raymond McCullum and Benny Urquidez are prime examples of American fighters who approach new training methods woth open minds which allow a freedom and application of choice within their individual style.
Recently, I have incorporated basic boxing techniques into my advabced classes. In Korea, I trained as a boxer and I realize that my boxing skill has definitely helped me become a successful fighter. Boxing is scientifically designed to generate the most power possible from each movement. Additionally, bpxomg teaches valuable avoidance techniques which are vital to any fighter. The fighting of my students has vastly improved and the results from recemt tournaments are excellent. It is not wise to hide beneath the precarious umbrella of our so-called mythical past. We need to accept change.
I do not want to give the impression that I am supporting an amalgamation of all martial arts systems. I hope, rather, for an adaptation and acceptance among the various systems. Whereas Tae Kwon Do has a great kicking style, the Japanese martial artists have some of the fastest hand techniques, and the Chinese systems are designed for the more aesthetic aspects of the martial arts. Each system has its own diverse, unique set of principles and rules which could never merge; it would not be desirable. What we can do is open our minds and learn more from one another.
It is arrogance and egotism that have created bad feelings among martial atrists. I hope these days are gone when instructors strutted about, puffed up with their own feeling of importance and their need to impress others with thier status. All of this becomes an obstruction to educating the public as to the real meaning of martial art. It is a physical and mental art form that promotes a deeper understanding of oneself and a greater capacity for achieving self fulfillment. During this increasingly violent age, the martial arts have a great deal to offer community, especially its young people. As the pressures of life and the stifling atmosphere of over-populated cities mount against us, we become restless tigers of our competitive society who throttle the weak and frighten the young. The martial arts provide a much needed release; it strengthens us mentally and physically, unifies our minds and bodies, and enables us to face any challenge that life presents to us. The martial arts have taken our feisty, insecure young away from the streets and channeled and remolded their anger and negative energy into a positive force. The martial arts can be the silent bridge for the drug addict; the method for gaining physical strength and mental prowess; or, the means for renewing an individual's self-respect. By working together as martial artists, we can give more of ourselves and be a vital part of building a life of quality for those around us.
To what extent are each of us bound by self-set limitations? People spend more time giving excuses and saying, "I can't," than they ever do thinking, "Yes, I can!" I hear excuses all the time. "I can't do this, Mr. Cho, because ..."1 am no superman, but I always tell myself that I can, that I will, and then work backwards from that point. Preconceived self-set limitations are very prevalent in many students' attitudes towards fighting.
"Mr. Cho, do I have-to fight? I just can't, it's not my nature."
"Yes, you do have to fight."
"Because I want to know what fears you have inside yourself that make you feel so sure you can't face an opponent‹here, in the safety of our studio, protected by equipment. When I know why you have that fear, where it comes from,
I will talk to you again. Together we can erase that weakness. That is one part of becoming a martial artist. "
Fighting is not about beating someone up, it's not even about winning. It is a very delicate, but important part of a student's training. Psychologically, it teaches the weak to be strong and the overaggressive to control themselves. Fighting exhibits the real impact of violence and where it comes from within each of us. Fighting teaches us how to control our responses in a pressurized situation, and we learn what triggers our emotions, o uranger. Fighting opens up some of our most hidden and vulnerable emotions, both good and bad. You cannot experience its valuable i nsights by just imagining what it's like to fight, one must participate in order to reap the benefits.
Often students question me as to why I teach forms, and why forms benefit a student. On a very simple level, executing forms has been likened to learning the letters of the alphabet; put the letters together and you have a word, put the words together and you have a sentence. Another example is likening forms to the walls that support a roof, without which the roof would collapse. It takes a tremendous amount of self-discipline, well practiced techniques and concentration to do a form well. We start with the simplest forms, containing only a few simple movements and gradually build a repertoire of more complicated forms with increasingly varied, complex techniques. The practice of forms helps to develop precision, controlled timing, breath control, balance, focus and much more. From the instructor's point of view, forms also provide a perfect vehicle which enables the instructor to evaluate a student's progress on many different levels. Forms also provide a means to physically illustrate the aesthetic aspect of a particular style and a student's personal interpretation of that style. To my way of thinking, styles that do not have forms are lacking in depth and are missing an important part of the martial arts.
My journey with Tae Kwon Do has not ended and it never will. Through Tae Kwon Do, I have acquired the mental strength to dare to challenge the limits set by the circumstances of my life. I have learned to think clearly at any hour of the day or night, to distinguish fact from desire, to expect the unexpected and meet it without hesitation.
After so many years, I am still j ourneying, discovering, developing and strengthening the bond
between my mind and body. The martial arts has become an unceasing ambition which has given unify to my will and direction and substance to my life. It is my fondest hope that in the near future, all martial artists may learn from one another and accept each others' differences with admiration and respect. I eagerly await the prospect of changes within the arts, the exploration of exciting new training methods, and the further prosperity of the martial arts all over the world.