Those testing for 5th and 6th dan in December 2011 were asked to write on the subject of the Do. Several topic options were given to choose from. These are their essay. (Mark Banicevich's withheld for the time being due to it containing un-released ITF information)
What are the challenges of teaching the Do in the 21st century, and how do we address them?
We don’t notice gradual change very well, in something we’re constantly exposed to.
A child today looks essentially identical to how he looked yesterday, and yesterday he looked the same as the day before. And over the course of a year, we don’t realise that he’s changing at all... until we get out the photograph from a year ago and are confronted by the compounded total of three hundred and sixty five days of gradual change.
It can be disconcerting.
The culture of New Zealand society and the culture of our organisation is something we’re immersed in constantly – day after day, year after year – and so it’s unsurprising if we don’t notice the gradual shifts and changes of attitude that occur within them, until we’re confronted by the evidence.
I can still recall a moment that highlighted for me that there had been a significant realignment of attitudes within our culture – one I had not been aware of as it slowly evolved around me. And it took the equivalent of that old photograph to drive the point home.
In the early 90s, the Auckland Regional Team had a coach who endeavoured to draw out our top performances. His key strategy was based around negativity – he would belittle our efforts; scathingly criticise our fitness, willpower, and motivation; abuse our characters; and scare us with stories of how we’d be crushed by the opposition. And we knew he was daring us to prove him wrong... so we did. Every time he told us we were weak, we’d be stronger. Every time he told us we couldn’t do it, we did it. Because we weren’t going to let him be right when he told us we weren’t good enough.
And while it was certainly fashionable at the time to say we hated him, we really didn’t. The training worked, and we knew it was how he would make us good enough to win.
That coach took a long break from Taekwon-Do, and returned some years later. And some of us who had competed on that team under his leadership were now coaching Auckland ourselves, and we invited him to run the team training one evening.
“This will wake them up,” we thought.
And he ran it the same way he had ten years earlier. Right away, it was obvious to us as coaches that it wasn’t going to work. In ten years, the coach hadn’t changed, but the students had. Instead of an immediate deference to whatever the authority figure dished out – because he was the one in charge and you do as you’re told – we could feel the atmosphere in the room was one of disapproval. Ten years earlier, the response to “You aren’t good enough!” was “Yes we are, and we’ll prove it to you”. But this time, the response was “Who do you think you are?”, and “What gives you the right to talk to us like that?” The students did as they were told, but they didn’t thrive on the abuse the way we had the first time around.
Even more interesting to me than the students’ reaction was my own. Because I watched him teach that class, and my thought was “He can’t talk to them like that!” Despite the fact that he’d talked to me like that, and it had worked, I was horrified. In ten years, it wasn’t just the attitudes, and the culture, and the students that had changed – I’d changed too.
There’s a saying (attributed over the years to various authors including Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin): “Insanity is repeating the same behaviour and expecting a different result.” But sometimes, it’s expecting the same behaviour to provide an identical result that’s crazy.
One of the ways that 21st century culture has changed is an increase in the volume of unsolicited information we all deal with every day – television advertising, telemarketing, banner ads, spam. And just as bacteria can develop a resistance to antibiotics, so too do we evolve our own defenses against unwanted content – MySKY, Caller ID, popup and spam blockers filter out a lot of it, but we also become very good at simply ignoring anything that isn’t relevant to us.
The majority of our students take up Taekwon-Do primarily for its physical aspects – exercise and fitness, self defence, and competition. Tournaments in particular have ramped up in significance in New Zealand in the last decade, culminating in the World Championships victory in Wellington 2011. With the focus on Tae and Kwon, we as instructors run the risk that the non-physical, philosophical aspects of the art – the Do – will be perceived (perhaps subconsciously) as unsolicited additional content and caught up in the students’ mental spam filters.
This gives us two challenges to deal with: Perception and Presentation.
Firstly, in order to have the Do embraced by the students, we must ensure that their perception of it is as integral to the Art... not as a cosmetic layer tacked on over the ‘truly vital’ kick-and-punch. Reference to the philosophical aspects of the Art in advertising, promotional material, and mission statements are insufficient – every class must include focus on the Do to some degree in order to reinforce its integral and inalienable status.
Secondly, the presentation of the Philosophy and Moral Culture chapters in the Condensed Encyclopedia is not well-suited to today’s students. The General’s thoughts on these topics yield a dense wall of text – daunting to a generation conditioned by Twitter, SMS, and Facebook updates to expect information in easily-digestible chunks.
While the General’s writings remain available for the dedicated student, we can make the Do more accessible to the masses by distilling out key points and core concepts into a set of concise axioms, no longer than a pattern meaning – the sort of length that allows a student to post one that speaks strongly to them as their Facebook status, for example. With this set of philosophies available, it becomes easy for an instructor to pick one to highlight in each class, or each month, or each term. Instead of tackling the entire Moral Culture chapter in one go, the instructor can focus on a single key concept, and relate it to the themes of the classes and to the students’ daily lives. Once the Do becomes relevant to the students, it’s less likely to be automatically thrown in the spam folder by their mental filters.
Our society and the attitudes of our students are constantly evolving, and our approach to teaching must evolve along with them. Just because we believe the Do to be important won’t suffice to impart that same belief to our students – “Because I said so” isn’t always a good reason for today’s members. Integration of the Do with the rest of the syllabus, rather than separation, will be key.
What are the challenges of teaching the “Do” in the 21st century and how do we address them?
Essay to come
What Are the Challenges of Teaching the “Do” in the 21st Century, and How Do we address them?
The continuing decay of morality and values in modern day society, would seem to have a compounding effect. Every generation seem to point out a ‘decline’ in values through the years. The severity of the consequences of the decline in morality is demonstrated by the ever increasing level of violence of crimes that are being committed.
With the advent of modernization and technology, society is now evolving much more rapidly than before. People are now being exposed to a lot of varied information. Societies have to contend with foreign cultures and new influences.
We hear the terms “sexual revolution”, “women’s rights”, “political correctness”, “commercialism” in a negative way. These were originally meant to be a good thing; however, they were carried off in excesses that have contributed to a lot of misinterpreted attitudes in today’s world.
This essay will focus on A FEW of these challenges that people face today.
The teaching of the Do in the 21st century is fraught with difficulties.
Apparently having values and morals is no longer in fashion. Young people are acting tough and joining gangs to get a sense of belonging. These people are products of dysfunctional families, who were brought up in societies that are already experiencing moral decay. It’s now ‘cool’ or ‘gangsta’ to do something which rebels from social standards.
Young people tend to be more cynical of anything that is old fashioned, and more prone to posturing, resorting to violence to sort out conflict with their peers.
Therefore any attempt to talk about morality or values to younger people is looked down upon, and treated with suspicion and contempt.
Fashion advertisements have promoted vanity and all the negative aspects that come with it. This in turn leads to low self-image and self-esteem. Young people are worried of what their peers will think of them.
Political correctness has led to increased selfishness and disregard of others. Clichés such as it’s my choice’ and ‘I will do what I want’ abounds.
Mass media, movies, and television expose young people and society to violence, and ‘normalises’ some things that would be shocking only a few years ago.
The world-wide web, and computer games have taken over physical activity, which leads to health problems such as obesity. It also encourages laziness and inactivity. Certain video games desensitize people to violence and conflict, alienating people from their own family, culture, and society as a whole. The fast pace and ‘exciting’ nature of these video games gives these young people a false sense of adventurism without having to go out into the real world. They are forever looking for something new to stimulate the senses.
The increased pace of life, means that people have less time for exercise, recreation, or to reflect on some key values and principles.
Transport challenges in a modern city with traffic jams also means that they have less time to exercise, or join clubs.
General Choi Hong Hi had long recognized this moral decay in society, it is the main reason why he has designed Taekwon-Do as a complete martial art. Incorporating martial aspects, as well as an in depth structure of teachings of moral culture, he has provided us with a tool to help instill moral values to our young people, and society in general.
Through the conscious study of moral principles as well as physical exercises, the practice of Taekwon-Do is designed to temper the spirit and the body which leads to the subconscious instilment of the certain desirable values such as perseverance, tenacity, appreciation of physical fitness, a healthy lifestyle, as well as an appreciation of artistic beauty and grace while striving for perfection of technique.
So how do we spread the “DO”, and teach people about “Do”?
The easiest answer is by encouraging people to join Taekwon-Do. Once training commences the student will be exposed to “Do” whether it’s directly as a formal study of moral culture, or indirectly just by performing the physical exercises. This would depend entirely on the instructor, and the students themselves.
All beginning students have different reasons for joining a club. Some of them do it just for exercise, some self defence, some as a social outlet. No matter what the reason, they will be exposed to the DO in some way when they commence training earnest. The key is keeping people interested in TKD and in practicing the Do.
Instructors need to find out what type of people the students are, what their interests are, and what sort of things they find fun to keep them interested.
In the beginning some people may only be interested in physical exercise, or the fighting aspects. Allow them to still join the club, because sooner or later they will be exposed to the Do in some way or another.
Just the action of coming to club is already a form of Do, where they have to make the commitment to get off the sofa, get stuck in traffic jams to get to training. All the time, already practicing patience, perseverance, and dedication (be it subconsciously).
Then, before they start training, they all line up. Even this simple action teaches them discipline, as well as respecting authority. The act of repeating the oath, bowing, and addressing each other as “sir” or “ma’am” teaches them social skills and courtesy.
Practicing free-sparring, develops indomitable spirit. In a class all students gets a chance to spar people of various age and size. Smaller students who are pitted against an older/bigger/taller/ and more skillful opponent need to develop their self confidence and indomitable spirit. Those bigger and more senior need to practice self control, and take care when sparring junior or smaller opponents.
By sitting for their gradings they learn how to handle success/failure. They will also develop perseverance (if at first you don’t succeed, try again). All this is done in a supportive environment.
Slowly those people who had no interest in the learning the DO initially, would ultimately turn their thinking around. After which, the instructor may then pursue a more in depth intellectual discussion with these individuals about “DO”.
The formal teaching of Do must always be done in such a way that the students can relate it into their modern day to day life. It has to be made real and applicable, so that they can readily assimilate it into their daily behaviour.
An example of an experience of one of the students can be used as a discussion item in class, and shared with the whole class.
This can be done at the end of class, as part of the talk after the physical training. The instructor can prepare a story from TKD, take a section of the encyclopedia, a quote by Gen Choi, or simply refer to the Tenet and Oath of Taekwon-Do. Discuss it a little bit and then invite somebody to share a real experience that they have relating to the particular topic.
A suggestion to ITKD to aid in the teaching and learning of the Do is possibly to have a “kids” section on the webpage where students can have an interactive activity, not unlike “club penguin”, where they can sign on and play a game on line, with the objective revolving around the “Do”. This would appeal to all the would-be couch potato students, who likes and relates to computer/video games.
The following are the things I keep in mind when teaching the DO:
Always provide a comfortable and supportive surrounding to promote a feeling of safety, acceptance, and belonging.
Don’t throw them a pile of philosophical literature.
Don’t introduce a new value, without discussing it, and relating it to real life experiences.
Do provide physical challenges, promoting exercise and fitness.
Do recognize and celebrate success and good behaviour.
Do introduce the tenets, and talk about it, analyse, discuss and reflect.
Do encourage students to step out of comfort zone, try something they haven’t done before, whether it’s a new technique, free sparring, or some interclub competition.
Do talk about philosophy the way General Choi does, and quote the numerous pearls of wisdom that he included in the encyclopedia, this would train those people who are in the beginning quite cynical about these things to be more familiar with it, and ultimately break down some barriers.
Do talk about outstanding figures in history, and their contribution. Tell stories and examples of our own experiences, and if we haven’t got our own stories, we can relay others’ stories.
Discuss day-to-day challenges that they may face in their lives outside of the Dojang. Talk about how they handle certain issues, and maybe reflect how they could have handled it better.
By spreading Taekwon-Do we are also spreading “Do” and thus spreading moral values into the community.
In summary, we can be sure that there will be continual changes within society, not all for the better. We as TKD practitioners and teachers, have a responsibility to promote moral culture in society, strive to adapt ourselves to the changing times, continue to look for ways to deliver the DO. Thus ultimately “build a more peaceful world”.
Assimilating moral culture into the psyche of modern day students
By Hayden Breese
Given the power of external influence, we could be forgiven for accepting the path that is laid out before us. We are the living legacy of our ancestors, our culture, upbringing, caregivers, and environment. There is a common saying, that it takes a village to raise a child and this village defines its environment and moral standard.
Generations have allowed the decay of moral culture in society. We all have witnessed the demise of religion, discipline and honour in our lifetime. We exist in a more selfish and material focused world that has seen a degradation of positive moral influence. Some blame could be placed with the role of television, video games, commercialism and even capitalism. Moreover, war, recession, terrorism and the propaganda of a fear culture build a troubled and anxious people, fearful for themselves and of each other.
Whether we promote morals or lack of morals, it is the focused attention and promoted learning of a particular ideology on a grand scale that brings about change. What can be learned from hours spent playing games of killing or hours watching criminals on television but killing and crime. If we accept that we all have choice and free will – the right to choose who and what interests us, right and wrong, then we can acknowledge that we can choose the standards by which we live our life.
While there is a multitude of bad influence in society there are also pursuits like Taekwon-Do that promote good moral character and the development of an ideal society. Taekwon-Do therefore has an important and positive role to play in contributing to a better society. As a martial art, Taekwon-Do requires the true practitioner to develop a strong set of mental attributes to accompany the development of physical capability. At a basic level a student must understand when and how to use the skills they have learnt in the Do Jang. Further character development includes confidence, fortitude, patience, commitment, integrity, courtesy, and personal discipline for example. This mental skill helps an individual to interact positively in and outside the Do Jang and to set a high standard of personal conduct.
That said, the world is a changing place and Taekwon-Do needs to adapt with it. There are new challenges in terms of communication, new standards of discipline and respect. Modern students have an inflated sense of importance and have learnt to expect things now. The modern student exists in a very different social world that includes electronic media such as cell phones and Internet social sites such as facebook and twitter. These connecting media enable people to interact albeit outside of the usual social norms of acceptable behavior. The challenge for Taekwon-Do is how to install the values of a moral culture in the hearts and minds of the modern student.
According to the encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do the study of moral culture “promotes a healthy body and keen mind…good sportsmanship and the perfection of moral behavior.” Importantly, “the more disciplined and cultivated the mind is, the more disciplined and cultivated will be the student’s use of Taekwon-Do.”
One would be mistaken in considering Taekwon-Do a purely physical art. However, it is a highly complex human development system and sophisticated culture. Taekwon-Do can teach students how to use their body’s absolute potential, to push themselves and find meaning and purpose. Importantly Taekwon-Do provides a system for how to relate to others according to eastern philosophies such as respect for position and age. The famous eastern philosopher Confucius said “To promote the sense of morality one must treat others with faithfulness and sincerity based on righteousness, and to eliminate completely vicious thinking”.
It becomes especially important therefore, that the Do Jang exemplifies the qualities of an ideal society. Principles of mutual respect, courtesy, respect for seniority, age, and wisdom can be learnt in the Do Jang and modeled in society. While the world changes, Taekwon-Do must continue to uphold the integrity of its basic rituals and principles. The point being, the principles in terms of a Tenet culture have to be understood and practiced in the Do Jang. Any erosion of the basic traditions that exemplify the tenets inside the Do Jang is a step closer to an erosion of a moral culture. Graffiti leads to petty crime, and petty crime to serious crime. A simple bow to a senior member is often missed and it is in this moment that an opportunity to practice and focus on courtesy is lost. It teaches a student it is acceptable to show respect only some of the time and ultimately leads to further issues.
Humans are creatures of habit. They need to be trained, practiced, left to action, then trained, practiced again, over and over -a cycle of continuous conditioning. So it is the reoccurrence of moral influence but also its intensity that will determine the effect. It becomes apparent that through practice many students can master the basic rituals of moral culture within the Do Jang. While the basic principles of moral culture can be taught and associated to behavioral expectations in a particular environment, the challenge lies in expanding the wider understanding of how to relate to others outside the Do Jang.
Once the basics are mastered, it is in this consideration and thoughtfulness that I believe Taekwon-Do should focus its efforts. It is in the proactive and cooperative action towards common goals, in the best interests of the group, where a greater level of understanding is required. Some students, as also reflected in society, rise above their own interests, to consider and proactively seek to help others.
At the heart of a western interpretation of Moral culture is the principle of giving. Thoughtful students may ask themself…what have I done today for someone else or the greater good of the group? Instructors must teach students to be patient and understanding of others, to be aware of others and their needs, respect for others belongings, knowledge of common goals, and the shared purpose of the group.
These lessons are best taught indirectly and learnt through the pursuit of common purpose rather than as an end in themself. For example, Instructors should create opportunities and activities based upon mutual reliance, bonding and triumph over adversity. Students need to learn that they must co exist with others and that they can trust, respect and rely on others who have like-minded beliefs.
In order to be a worthwhile member of society an individual must have a purpose and self worth. They must understand that they are important to the common good. They have respect and their actions matter. Too many people have been taught that they are unimportant and of low worth. It is of no surprise therefore that these people operate outside of social norms, disrespect others and rebel against authority.
It is an instructors purpose to provide opportunity and encouragement for a student to build a platform of confidence and personal elevation. An instructor crafts a world of potential and offers this gift to all. Ultimately, a righteous path is one fought with challenge and difficulty, and it is the student who decides for them whether this path forms their future.
The following examples illustrate two very different students. I had a troubled youth train at the Do Jang for three months. He had broken into my car and following a group meeting I suggested the consequence of his actions was to start training with me at club. He was an exemplary student, highly talented, respectful and did what he was asked. In my environment, he had conformed and there was hope for his future. Following the compulsory three months he stopped training immediately and returned to his environment. He returned again to what he knows, which was petty crime. This example illustrates the importance of the context in which a student enters the Do Jang, relative to the degree of permanence required of moral teaching. It figures that the greater negative influences in someone’s life, the greater degree of positive influence will be required.
In contrast another story illustrates success. Mary was a good person but quiet and withdrawn. She joined the School to help her lose weight and gain confidence. Over the years she grew in confidence and success after success followed. She attended anything she could and worked harder than most. She progressed to help others and contributed massively to the School. Mary will soon sit for her black belt and likely become a very good instructor.
In conclusion, many students of Taekwon-Do are good people as far as societal standards go. They have a reasonable foundation by which Taekwon-Do can build a moral understanding. However, in order to develop beyond basic ethics, students must progress beyond the basic levels of Taekwon-Do and that takes time and commitment. To teach the modern student moral culture one must accept that student retention becomes the primary consideration.
A qualified instructor must teach both spirit and technique. However, not every instructor or club culture may facilitate a moral culture. Taekwon-Do needs to carefully consider the moral merit of its leaders perhaps more so than their physical capability. It is important that students are given opportunities to observe and model ideal behavior both inside and outside the Do Jang. We should then ask what rituals do or could exist within the Do Jang, which might also assimilate moral principle? For this purpose I have developed a model (overleaf), as a basis of forming lessons, to help facilitate the learning of moral culture.
Taekwon-Do has an important role to play in the development of an individual. It has many years of coaching and modeling potential. That said, a student could be morally excellent but not so good practically and vice versa. We learn from each other, and students model those they respect rightfully and wrongly. It is suggested that instructors and examiners re-emphasis the importance of moral character for advancement in rank. We must look to instructors to set the standard, challenge their students’ character and provide mechanisms to correct undesirable behavior before progressing students in rank.
A practical model for facilitating the learning of Moral Culture
The following model provides a simple structure for facilitating the study of moral
culture in Taekwon-Do. It is a starting point by which lessons can be established.
It is especially western in its interpretation and practical, indirect implementation
is encouraged over theoretical lessons.
Understanding others Treating others Doing for others
10th – 7th Kup
Friend or foe Listening How to make friends
Tenets of Taekwon-Do Student Oath Right & Wrong
Expectations as a student Giving at home …………………………………………………………………………………………..
6th – 3rd Kup
Fostering genuine interest in others
Working in a group
Self Control Respect & Courtesy Politeness
Giving in the Do Jang Giving to neighbors …………………………………………………………………………………………..
2nd – 1st Kup
Understand self/role/purpose Situational based behavior: -Disagreement, Debate, Conflict Seniority/status/position
Etiquette Integrity Kindness
Performing your duty Giving to the community Helping strangers
How do we assimilate moral culture into the psyche of the modern day students
On the surface this appears to be a pretty easy question to answer. And the answer I give is ‘By producing technically excellent and knowledgeable Instructors with an unshakable moral foundation’. Not my words though, I have paraphrased the General.
What isn’t so easy to answer is why we need to. And doing something without knowing why is pointless, and dangerous.
So in order to assimilate moral culture into the psyche of the modern day student, we must first have an excellent instructor that has an unshakable moral foundation. They will be the role model, and they will through their character, their dedication and their actions, effect emulation from their students and others that come into contact with them, thereby achieving the goal.
But what is a moral culture?
We all understand the 5 Taekwon-Do morals/tenets because our coloured belt handbook tells us what they mean; but a moral culture is not explained until the black belt syllabus is read.
The first section of the condensed encyclopaedia, before you even get to any techniques, is devoted to Philosophy and Moral Culture, which essentially is how to behave properly, and not just from a Korean point of view. There is a very good reason for this. Ask yourself why the first section in a book about a martial art is all about how to behave and not how to perform the martial art?
General Choi has spent a lot of time explaining what a moral culture is, the different ways it behaves; and he summed it all up for us in the 5 words of the tenets. There are examples given in the front of the encyclopaedia from Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and even Greek cultures. Examples of what he believes are good moral cultures, and examples of the bad. This is for us to read, and to absorb, to understand, and to follow. To make us better instructors producing better students with a high moral character.
In order to produce a student with these characteristics, we must first be an example of them ourselves. I have over the years seen some bad examples of how to behave. It is our job as instructors, as mentors of our young people, to set the example by which we want them to follow. Because when we allow ourselves to be treated with disrespect, we do not teach respect.
If a student does not bow to the instructor at the beginning of class this is disrespectful; but it is the instructor that is at fault, not the student. Because a properly taught student that has respect for their instructor and who sees them as a role model in their lives, would not do this.
Let me give you some examples of what we currently tolerate: Students addressing instructors inappropriately, being taught to push or break the rules competiting when they are unable to win with discipline and courtesy, students not supporting their club or region in events, acting inappropriately in front of other students, and worst of all not understanding the responsibility that goes with being a martial arts student.
Why should we not tolerate this? Why do we need this kind of moral culture?
In other societies around the world, notably America, police forces are currently adopting the broken window policy, sometimes called the zero tolerance policy. This says that if a neighbourhood has a broken window it means the people there don’t care, and that this invites criminals to move into the area to break more windows, tag buildings, and recruit more criminals. To stop this happening, start first by fixing all the broken windows.
An instructor is like the leader of their neighbourhood. They can try to demand respect for their words, but they will never have it until they demonstrate that what they say is what they do. The Instructor needs to fix all the broken windows. This must happen before any Moral Culture can be taught.
It all comes down to the instructor and it always will. The student’s success, the clubs success, the regions success, and the organisations future all depend on our instructors. Not our board of directors, but our instructors. And if we want excellent instructors producing excellent students, we must first be excellent instructors. This is in fact the ‘Do’ part of Taekwon-Do.
Our founder realised this because he placed it at the beginning of the encyclopaedia, so that before you even learned your first technique, you learned why…you learned the ‘Do’. Our late ITF president Grand Master Tran taught this at the ITF technical seminars. Maybe he thought we needed a reminder about the ‘Do’, that we had perhaps forgotten why we learn Taekwon-Do. This was his legacy to ITF and after his tragic death I hope they continue it.
So what can ITKD do to assist us to become better instructors, better role models; because there are already courses, camps, seminars, tournaments…in fact everything that you could want to attend. But is there a course specifically targeted at our young and upcoming stars, our future leaders, instructors and mentors, on not just how to teach the Do in NZ, but how to ‘be’ the ‘Do’.
We do teach the ‘Do’ to an extent in the BB gradings. This is covered during the course of the 2 days, and especially on the Sunday morning. Mr Lowe also teaches it with his instructor courses. But I think we could be doing more.
One of the things we should do is to put together a camp and gather our young students, our potential future leaders and instructors, and teach them what it means to be an instructor. Our current instructors should also not escape as there is always room for improvement.
As a general rule and by international standards we New Zealanders are a polite bunch. We usually let things slide rather than create a fuss or a scene. This doesn’t help when it comes to installing and using a broken window policy at training. But I believe it is essential that we do so.
So we understand how to assimilate Moral Culture into students, and now we understand why we need to do so.
We will then be well on the way to assimilating moral culture into the psyche of the modern day student.