I want to share a few of my thoughts and feelings regarding the student oath. First, I appreciate that such a mechanism (the oath) exists as part of our practice of encouraging us each day to focus in on our motives for doing what we're doing and the correct attitude(s) with which to approach our practice. On the other hand, I've always been skeptical about collective oaths, never sure I want to participate in the pledged of allegiance, the girl scout oath, etc. My skepticism stems at once from a kind of fear of "big brother" (sister) - that I will be sucked willy-nilly into false consciousness, bad faith, ideological over determination -- and also from a knowledge that the words are widely interpretable, so that what I mean by "freedom," for instance, might be very different than what the woman standing next to me means.
As an example, take the assertion that I shall observe the tenets of Tae Kwon Do. Courtesy. I'm not sure I always want to be courteous; indeed being courteous might in some contexts prevent me from being a champion of justice. I do think that respecting the humanity of other people (and life force of other beings) is important (and this is addressed for the TKD community in the second line of the oath), but I'm not sure I equate that with courtesy. Self-control. This is the word I most grate at. I think I -- and many girls/women -- may practice too much self-control (and courtesy). This habit prevents me from speaking my mind sometimes when it might be better that I did, expressing anger directly, laughing heartily. In TKD, perhaps we are meant to be thinking about things such as controlling when and how and to what degree we use force. This, I agree is crucial. Yet, I might replace the oath of self-control with one of personal responsibility and/or self-esteem.
Freedom, justice and a more peaceful
world. I'm all for this, and so is George W. Bush, if you listen to him talk.
I think he believes it too. And what about the Korean military functionaries
who established TKD as part of training for soldiers? I am frankly not sure
of the degree to which I associate my practice of TKD with these three things.
I do experience a sense of freedom from encultured/feminine physical constraint/restraint
when I punch, block and kick. I do think that if more of us did this (and
took off our high heels and danced, etc.) we'd experience more freedom; and
I think instructors , seniors and other students doing models its possibility
for me. Justice -- I also wonder about this. Certainly this can't simply
be about taking justices, as they say (and in this case literally), into
our own hands. I'm still working on the link for me personally between my
practice of TKD and justice. Peacefulness. Can I help build a more peaceful
world by being able to (or imagining I am able to) defend myself against
attack (maybe) or by being able to spar? By quieting the mind through concentration
necessitated in TKD practice? Certainly TKD's contribution to peacefulness
requires the context of a larger pacifist philosophy and practice that can
simultaneously address itself to matters of peace in the home, in the street,
in the penal system, in the international arena. Is this really what the
founding fathers imagined? Maybe the links are easier in a society infused
with Buddhist thought.