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  anonymous1 Anonymous 1

What the Tae Kwon Do Student Oath Means to Me
By A Kicks Student Who Chooses to Remain Anonymous

I shall observe the tenets of Tae Kwon Do.
I shall respect my instructors, seniors, and fellow students.
I shall never misuse Tae Kwon Do.
I will be a champion of freedom and justice.
I will build a more peaceful world.


    All the five tenets of Tae Kwon Do are important.  Each one expresses come critical element of practicing this martial art.  Every student should appreciate the meaning and necessity of each one.  However, I think that inevitably each student will find special meaning in one or more of the tenets.  The ideas of mutual respect, justice, and peace will all strike each student differently.  For me, the third tenet has always meant the most.
    The third tenet of Tae Kwon Do states, I shall never misuse Tae Kwon Do.  As a white belt, I immediately accepted a literal interpretation of this tenet.  Tae Kwon Do is a set of combative skills.  Its appropriate use involves defense.  Its inappropriate use involves aggression.  In the beginning, “do not misuse Tae Kwon Do” meant “don’t walk up to someone on the street and kick them in the ribs.”
    When I began to study Tae Kwon Do, I had to decide what role it would play in my life.  I joined the school for so many reasons.  First, I was frightened of assault and wanted to learn something about self-defense; this desire was strengthened after I tried to take the RAD course and my true terror of being attacked was revealed.  Second, I missed participating in organized physical activity and wanted to find another team, or something like it, that I could join.  Third, I see myself as an aggressive, strong person, and the martial arts always appealed to me as a very “[Me]” thing to do.  These were all very sensible and respectable reasons for embarking on the journey that is martial arts training.
    However, there was another, less dignified reason in the back of my head.  Like so many adolescents and young adults, many of my decisions are unfortunately based on what others will think of me.  It is a tendency that I have long regretted and fought, sometimes with success and sometimes not.  Decisions surrounding my clothes, my car, my mannerisms and even my major have always been influenced by what others will say.  I couldn’t help thinking, Imagine everyone’s reaction when they hear I’m doing martial arts!  Boys will think I’m so unique!  Girls will respect me!  And then… Imagine when I’m a black belt!  I’ll be the coolest girl around.
I tried to block these ideas out of my mind as I began to practice Tae Kwon Do.  It was during the summer and few friends were on campus, and so for my first several weeks of training I was not confronted with others’ reactions.  However, when friends began to return and ask about my summer, I hit that wall.  I knew if I told people about my new undertaking in martial arts, it would not be out of pride or genuineness.  It would be more like bragging or looking for attention.
    Eventually, like at the beginning of any new school year, I began to meet new people in my classes and through sorority rush.  They would ask me, Do you play any sports?  Well sort of, I would say nonchalantly, I practice martial arts.  Wow!  That’s so cool!  I’ve always wanted to do that but just never had the guts to try. When they asked what belt I had, I had to fight the urge to lie about being higher rank than I really was.
    I loved the attention and respect I got.  I basked in it.  But at the same time, Tae Kwon Do was becoming more meaningful to me, and this exploitation made it feel cheap.  I was confused and didn’t know how to deal with those feelings.  Then one day in practice, I listened to myself say the third tenet of the student oath: I shall never misuse Tae Kwon Do.  Tae Kwon Do is used properly to build strength, assertiveness, and confidence in women.  I should never be used as a crutch to support bad self-esteem or to impress gawking peers.  I realized, using my martial arts training in this way is a gross misuse.  Suddenly the true, personal meaning of that tenet was clear to me.  I decided on the spot to limit very carefully any mention of my martial arts training from then on.
    Since that day, I have kept my Tae Kwon Do experience largely to myself.  I never bring it up in conversation, and when people ask me about it, I can talk about it with pride but not smugness.  I always tell the truth about my belt level.  In the beginning, it wasn’t always easy to tell people, I just started; I’m only a white belt.  They weren’t as impressed with me after hearing that.  But I could not in good conscience exploit martial arts for attention or popularity.  This decision has both added to my confidence and truly enhanced the value I attach to my training.  It’s not at all about what other people think of me.  It’s about bringing out something good in me, however slowly I may progress.  Now I can honestly and happily say that I shall never misuse Tae Kwon Do.