Belt Promotion Test Essay May 17, 2015
Taekwondo can be literally translated as the way of smashing with the hands and feet. Although the ultimate goal of Taekwondo is to imbue the practitioner with the skills necessary to defend oneself, the sheer brutality of some of the techniques taught to that end cannot be mistaken for anything other than what they are: a means to inflict serious physical harm on another. What role can a passive and tranquil activity such as meditation have in the practice of a martial art? The answer stems from the last part of the name Taekwondo: Do or The Way.
Do or The Way refers to the moral part of Taekwondo. At the end of every class we recite the five tenets: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, and Indomitable Spirit. These are not simply words to be painted on a wall and recited with the hollow ring of rote memory but instead denote an overarching value system to the practice of
Taekwondo. Without these values guiding our actions our
training would have no other goal than to imbue the practitioner with the
ability to do harm. Meditation helps us
cultivate this aspect to our training.
By forcing us to quiet our minds and learn to discipline our thoughts we
are cultivating more than the ability to do physical harm, we are cultivating
the wisdom required to know when to use force.
|Students meditating at Chosun|
Meditation does much more than to aid in our moral development as marital artists. There are many physical benefits associated with the practice of meditation. Anxiety and tension are greatly reduced as a state of deep relaxation pervades the body during meditation. The regular practice of meditation has been shown to have profound and long lasting positive effects on one’s overall health and well-being. In addition to the immediate and long term physical benefits of meditation, it also aids us in our training. Our daily lives are fraught with distractions of every kind. A distracted mind cannot focus wholly on the tasks at hand. One of the main goals of meditating before class is to clear these distractions from the mind, allowing yourself to become wholly absorbed in your training and thus amplify your technique. For me, this is the most vital reason to meditate. My mind is constantly racing in opposing directions. It is only through the sincere practice of meditation before class that I am able to purge my mind of all these competing thoughts, leaving a clarity I otherwise would not have.
Last summer I was fortunate enough to travel to South Korea as part of the Chosun Korea Tour. One morning after some training on the hotel’s rooftop, we proceeded to a Buddhist temple just around the corner from the hotel. I am not a Buddhist and had never entered a temple before. I felt more than a little out of place as the morning practitioners filled the temple. I didn’t want to miss this opportunity though and was very glad I didn’t allow my trepidation to interfere. As I sat there on a blanket with my legs crossed and the smell of incense filling my nostrils, I could feel the intensity of the place and the sincerity of those within it. I forced myself to purge all thought and focused only my breathing. It reminded me of an experience I had at the beach many years ago. While floating on my back, I dipped my ears beneath the water and focused on nothing but the sound of the ocean. It was a very transcendent experience. I felt a part of the water and of all of the life around me, dissolving into the sea affecting a complete dissolution of self. Meditating in the temple that morning I had the same feeling. I might as well have been a wisp of incense smoke for all the thought process that was occurring in my mind.
Certainly anyone could learn the physical components of Taekwondo without meditation. Punches, kicks, stances and blocks have little to do with the physical benefits associated with meditation and can be learned simply through repetitive practice. This would reduce the study of Taekwondo to a purely physical activity and would rob it of the do component so crucial to the maturity of a marital artist. The benefit of mediation in Taekwondo simply stated then is: to bestow the practitioner with clarity of mind enabling improved technique, to improve the physical health of the practitioner and to provide a vehicle of self-discovery whereupon the Do aspect of Taekwondo can be cultivated and explored.