The martial arts are both art and science. The word “art” is defined as the activity of creating beautiful things and the word “science” is defined as a methodological activity, discipline, or study”. While these two definitions are correct, I prefer the contributions of an anonymous poet: “Art is a passion pursued with discipline science is a discipline pursued with passion“. At their most basic level, the martial arts are nothing more than ways to prevent someone from harming or killing you. At their highest aspiration, the martial arts are paths to self-knowledge and the expression of beauty.
The martial artist must be both scientist and artist. He must learn the traditions, theories, principles, laws and techniques upon which martial artistry is based. He must then practice them with passion and discipline so as to properly learn and understand what he is doing. Only then can he master himself and the martial arts.
THE TRINITY OF THE MARTIAL ARTS
There are three aspects of being, which the martial arts aim to develop: Body, Mind and Spirit. These three aspects must be developed in balance for a person to become properly balanced as a martial artist and therefore as a person.
The first aspect, Body, is developed through the physical exercises involved in martial arts training. Rigorous physical conditioning exercises lead to increased strength, endurance, flexibility and equilibrium. In addition, repetition of martial arts basic and advanced techniques leads to improved physical ability and fluidity of movement.
The second aspect, Mind, is developed through mental training. Meditation teaches the student to focus his mind and to coordinate his thinking with his movement. It also aids him in his abilities to relax and to concentrate. Mental training also calls for active learning in the way of listening, reading and thinking. Students are not to restrict themselves to learning just about the martial arts, but must learn about history, philosophy, law, science, medicine and any other subject that might have a bearing on the martial arts.
Following the philosophy and ideals of the martial arts develops the third aspect, Spirit. Practice of the martial arts is a pursuit of personal improvement. It is not enough to have a strong mind and body the true martial artist should also strive to be strong in spirit. He should have a goal in life and a firm foundation of beliefs to guide him. The true martial artist is humble but confident, willing to give way to others but unwilling to accept injustice.
By developing all three aspects of the martial arts trinity a martial artist can become a total person and eventually a master. Without equal development of all three aspects, a martial artist will never achieve balance in his life and will never be a true artist.
The Code of the HwaRang Warrior and the Nine Virtues
The Code of the HwaRang Warrior and the Nine Virtues of the HwaRang are to be observed by all students of the martial arts. They were compiled by Won Kwang Bopsa and taught to the HwaRang knights to give them a proper code of conduct to live by. Together they form the foundation of all Korean Martial Arts philosophy.
THE CODE OF THE HWARANG
1. Be loyal to your country.
2. Be obedient to your parents.
3. Have faith and honor among friends.
4. Perseverance in battle.
5. Justice — never cause unneeded harm.
THE NINE VIRTUES OF THE HWARANG
Hi (Humanity) Sum (Goodness)
Oui (Justice) Duk (Virtue)
Yeh (Courtesy) Chung (Loyalty)
Ji (Wisdom) Yong (Courage)
THE TENETS OF TAEKWONDO AND STUDENT OATH
The tenets of Taekwondo and the Taekwondo Student Oath were created by the founding fathers of taekwondo in the early 1960’s. Based on the philosophy of the HwaRang, they are to be understood and memorized by all students of Taekwondo.
TENETS OF TAEKWONDO
TAEKWONDO STUDENT OATH
1. I shall obey the Tenets of Taekwondo.
2. I shall obey my Instructor and senior students.
3. I shall never misuse Taekwondo
4. I will be a champion of freedom and injustice.
5. I will help build a more peaceful world.
MARTIAL ARTS RITUALS AND TRADITIONS
Over the years, the martial arts have developed traditions of their own as well as picking up those of the cultures they developed in. There are many martial arts from several countries and each art has many styles. We practice the Chang-Hun and Olympic style of Taekwondo and Sungja-Do Hapkido. Our rituals and traditions come from Korea but many of them are practiced in most martial arts.
People outside of the martial arts often misunderstand bowing. In the Orient, bowing is a sign of respectful greeting — not a sign of submission or worship. To bow to another person is to indicate that you trust him enough to willingly take your eyes off of him. In the West, we shake hands. This grew out of the battlefield practice of clasping the enemy’s sword-drawing hand during negotiations to insure that he could not draw his sword. Today it is used as a greeting.
Bowing to instructors and fellow students is a sign of respectful greeting. Bowing to the United States flag shows respect for the nation we live in. Bowing to the flags of other countries shows respect for the country where our martial arts originated. There is no worship involved, only respect.
The first martial arts uniforms were nothing more than the common street clothes of the people of China, Korea, Okinawa and Japan. In the late 1800’s, Dr. Jigaro Kano invented the sport of Judo and invented a reinforced Jacket for Judoka to wear so the students’ throwing techniques would not tear their clothes off. This uniform became modified over the years until we have our current uniforms.
Many people, including martial artists, are confused about belts and their colors. For many centuries, the belt did not signify rank. Again, it was Dr. Kano, the founder of Judo, who introduced the use of different belt colors to denote ranks. He did this to make it easy to identify different ranks for competition. Different systems use different colors. Most Chinese martial arts don’t use belts but use sashes instead. In Japanese martial arts, the belt was used to keep the jacket closed and was white. With years of practice, the belt would become soiled and stained and would eventually turn black. The colors used in the Korean martial arts are based on the colored robes worn by the different classes of royalty in the ancient Kingdom of Silla.
After two to three months, you should be ready for your first rank promotion. What does it mean to go up in rank? Does it mean that you have perfected a certain amount of knowledge? No. Rank promotion means that you have an adequate grasp of certain knowledge needed to learn on the next level. So, a promotional examination is held to insure that you are able to learn on your next level — not to see if you have perfected your previous knowledge.
After three to five years of continuous study, the average student will normally earn his Black Belt. This will mean that he is a novice — a beginner. Unknown to many outside of the martial arts, there are ten degrees of black belt. In the Korean martial arts, 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree black belts are generally instructors teaching under the guidance of a master-instructor. 4th, 5th and 6th degree black belts are considered experts and have earned the title of “Master”. 7th, 8th and 9th degree black belts have earned the title of “head-master” or “Grandmaster” and are considered capable of forming their own martial arts styles (known in Korea as “Kwans”, meaning “schools of thought”). Although some may claim the rank, in the Korean martial arts the 10th degree black belt is an honor reserved for exceptional martial artists after their death.
The yells used in the martial arts serve many important functions. Known in Korean as “Kihap”, the yells used by martial artists are designed to unite the internal spiritual energy of the martial artists, “Ki”, with his external physical energy. The word “Kihap” is formed from two Korean characters, “Ki”, meaning “energy”, and “Hap”, meaning “to combine or coordinate”. So, “Kihap” means “to combine or coordinate energy or power”. “Kihaps” are used during Patterns, sparring, self-defense, breaking and other activities to unite the spiritual and physical energies of the martial artist. “Kihaps” also serve other important functions. During sparring and self-defense, “Kihaps” are used to insure that the abdominal muscles are tensed and able to withstand a blow. “Kihaps” can also be used as self-defense techniques — a sudden loud “Kihap” will often cause an attacker to momentarily pause in his attack.
Patterns (forms), known in Korea as “Hyungs” or “Poomse”, are prearranged series of movements designed to help students practice their techniques alone and to help standardize techniques among schools. Practicing patterns helps teach the student to focus his attention and to perfect his movements. While practicing patterns, the student should always visualize an opponent. Otherwise, he is just dancing.
Always a favorite part of any martial arts demonstration, board and brick breaking serves an important purpose. It takes proper mental and physical coordination to be able to break properly. If one succeeds in breaking one inch of wood, then one should train harder and plan to be able to break two inches the next time. Breaking demonstrates an ability to generate and focus adequate physical power as well as proper mental focus.
There are many types of sparring ranging from pre-arranged “one-steps” to full-contact fighting. In all cases the opponent is the same — your own lack of knowledge. In the martial arts, we do not spar with the intention of trying to win, or “beat” our opponent, we spar to improve our own techniques and to learn of and destroy our own limitations.
Martial arts tournaments can be great fun but should never become more important than proper traditional martial arts practice. Tournaments show one aspect of the martial arts — sport. Self-improvement and self-defense are as more important than winning trophies.
The martial arts often get a bad rap because of the violence involved. Martial arts techniques can cause horrific damage when misused. For this reason, instructors should be very selective about who they accept as students. The martial arts are intended to teach self-defense, self-control, and self-confidence. It is hoped that as a student learns of his potential for destruction, he will also learn of his need for control and discipline. REMEMBER: THERE IS NO HONOR IN DEFEATING A MUCH-WEAKER OPPONENT; YOUR REAL OPPONENT IS YOUR OWN LACK OF SELF-CONTROL.
Dr. Petrotta is the International Director of the International Sungjado Association. He is a certified Personal Fitness Trainer, a certified 8th Degree Black Belt in three different martial arts and the holder of three Ph.D.’s in Martial arts Science, Philosphy and Theology.