Taekwondo is not just a physical practice or sport. Taekwondo is a martial art - a whole system of physical exercises, spiritual development and philosophic principles. So it is closely related to the philosophy of the East, and mainly to the dualistic ideal of harmony (Yin and Yang). Nevertheless many people do not or can not understand the martial arts ideal and consider their philosophy as a type of religious principles. That is not right, of course. The martial arts, including Taekwondo, have not been formed as a religion for itself. The right understanding of a martial art could be the way of the practitioner to see his own self and/or the rest world, but no more.
The basis in Taekwondo practising is the technique. The training system is an endless repetition and perfectioning of the studied techniques. We mean not only the working out of separate hits, blocks, but sparring and forms as well. That striving to skill perfection, body fitness respectfully and the satisfaction which follows is the first component of Taekwondo. That is the so called technical ideal. It is the first step of each beginner.
As it was mentioned, Taekwondo is not just physical exercises but an art as well. The concept of Taekwondo art is the union of mind and spirit aiming at self-perfection. When a man is heartly involved in his self-development, thinks over and analyses his acts, then it comes the real human mature - not only physical, but spiritual and moral one.
That desire for self-perfection is natural. But man lives in the surrounding environment, not out of it. That is the reason for the philosophical ideal of Taekwondo as a wish for uniting man and nature through practising Taekwondo. It is a way of living based on the harmony between man and manhood. So if someone works on hit techniques only he will never realize the concept of Taekwondo.
Taekwondo spirit is in the desire to realize the values of its practising. Because the technique is the basic part of the trainings, the spiritual development is in connection with the technical one. Taekwondo realization is a personal affair. Often the practitioner creates an image of the ideal Taekwondo man who becomes his own ideal. Of course, that is an individual image, formed on the basis of the long training way and is not a real person, because the process of self-perfection is endless and therefore, nobody could be perfect.
As it was mentioned, many Eastern philosophic doctrines are the basis of Taekwondo. In their concepts the harmony in human life is very important. Not many people know that the principle is followed even in the construction of the training uniform (tobok). It is considered that tobok originates from the national Korean costume. The three geometrical shapes are combined in it: square (in the sleeves and trousers), circle (the belt around the waist) and triangle (the V-neck and tights). According to the Yin and Yang theory the three main components of the universe and the geometrical shapes of tobok have their meaning - the trousers symbolize the Earth, the belt stands for man and the upper garment - heaven. So the endless form of the belt - a circle - symbolizes the circuit of human life among heaven and earth. The white colour is the purity of consiousness and peace.
The belt is a nonseparable part of Taekwondo equipment. It shows the rank of degree of the practitioner. In Taekwondo WTF there are 5 colours of belts - white, yellow, blue, red and black one. The white symbolizes the beginning, the arising. At the other end is the black one - the conclusion (here is the dualistic ideal of Yin and Yang again). The yellow is the Sun, the new energy which rises, the blue - the sky, striving to knowledge, the red - danger but passion, too. There are 9 ranks of degree for students (gup) from white belt to the red one, and 9 masters (dan) - all of them black belts. The ultimate number in the decimal system is 9. So the initial degree is the 9th gup and the highest one is the 9th dan.
In Taekwondo there is a
specific etiquette. It teaches in discipline and respect to the
others. The etiquette is based on some main philosophic
- the bow shows respect. It is performed on entering and leaving the training hall (dojang), when asking for permission to turn to someone of superior rank and at the beginning of each exercise performance;
- silence should be kept in the training hall;
- the practitioner trains barefooted and without watches, jewellery and others;
- no clothes are worn under tobok (with some exceptions for lady's underwear);
- the master's (sabumnim) instructions or those of the person who is the trainer at the moment should be followed strictly.
There are more regulations, of course, but we consider that these are the basic rules which are valid in each Taekwondo centre.
principles are non-violence, humanity, respect to the others, using
Taekwondo for self-defence only. There are Taekwondo oaths in many
schools. There is one variant for example:
- I will follow Taekwondo principles
- I will respect the instructors and the seniors
- I will never trespass Taekwondo rules
- I will protect liberty an justice
- I will create a world of peace
We think that the conclusion is clear - the spiritual aspect of Taekwondo is not less important than the physical one. Only through their union one would be able to perceive the essence of Taekwondo.