My grandmaster does the same to me even now. Yet rather than question his action, I smile and think how fortunate I am to be drilling down even deeper, to the heart of a poomsae for instance, in the hope of revealing the very essence of tae kwon do doctrine. And so the cycle continues as it has from the beginning, from venerated master to worthy disciple, over the course of centuries.
Improvements, refinements and, ultimately, revelations are all fundamental conditions of meaningful, traditional tae kwon do training. These progressive states of learning apply not only to the novice, but even more so to the advanced practitioner. Adjustments to basic technique, poomsae, hyung or tul, self-defense and sparring, should be considered a pathway to perfection rather than a road to confusion and its accompanied stress. In the end, if embraced with an open mind, modifications chisel away at superfluous movement resulting in a profound sense of enlightenment signaled by a heightened stage of proficiency.
It can be said that tae kwon do is taught most effectively through a series of ever-diminishing circles with the outermost shell representing the most elementary understanding of a technique. Subsequently, each successive circle brings the practitioner increasingly closer to the technique’s core. This arduous, yet fulfilling process, requires great patience and humility; humility in the sense that the worthy student must not view a modification merely as a change indiscriminately propagated at the whim of a careless instructor, but rather as a stepping stone on a long path to excellence; a reward earned through diligent, mindful practice. To the curious Western mind, this process of distillation is often difficult to grasp. Customarily, we are not content with unexplained actions but frequently require detailed, verbal clarification with a focus on finality in almost everything we do. Yet, in Asian martial culture, partially in terms of Confucian philosophy, training without question is common; accepting technical refinements with gratitude rather than query is the norm.