What role does Taekwondo have in a post 9/11 world?

Q. Unarmed combat versus terrorism? How do you establish relevancy in a post 9/11 world?

Back street's back. Better rock your body. JDK Taekwondo Perth starts off one training season without the uniforms to look at blunt edge impact tools. These are the days before we retreated to my garage.

The heart of unarmed combat is about protecting the ones you love. But as an anachronistic civilian self defense system, is easily out-gunned in today's world. However, this post isn't about acts of terror or random acts of violence. It is about the relevance of a budo or a moodo in the 21st century. The key essence of the switch from the study of a jutsu to that of a system which helps character development is where you find the true value of Taekwondo for the modern practitioner.

I heard a saying once some time ago which read everything changes, but the World stays the same. What does that mean to you? To me, this refers to the human condition, and the constancy of the issues we often face - that is irrespective of how fast technology seems to change, or the speed at which we hear of news from around the world.

As a system to envelop yourself in the path of 'do' or that journey of self reflection, a system such as Taekwondo can help the practitioner center themselves within an environment which is in constant flux. This is the advantage Taekwondo brings the modern practitioner - in its recreation of anachronistic combat and the resulting analogies to life's issues, practitioners have a wellspring to draw hope and inspiration from.

Q. So you have a world with constant violence, and you feel Taekwondo's role is to help the individual?

I think the reader would be antsy to hear of the readiness of practitioners to fend off one on one attacks. Unfortunately, terror attacks are typically not one-on-one, and most practitioners do not train with enough regularity or realism to mount a good defense against a committed terrorist. I'm not saying this can't happen, I'm just taking the weight of anticipation off your shoulders - most civilians have no idea of the realities of combat, and the facsimile which they practice could put them in a dangerous situation if they choose to act in such a situation.

So here you are in a world of constant violence. Not only of potential terror plots in your locale, but news of attacks in well known locations throughout the world. Not to mention the unending wars in countries which are at the forefront in the fight against terror. It seems like there's no stopping this violence. An individual can be overwhelmed without even being in the heart of a war zone.

The practice of Taekwondo brings you back to the here and now. You need to center yourself in your practice, or people will get hurt. You need to concentrate on what is instructed, so that you can progress. And you need to be aware of your training area so that you don't hurt yourself. These are all important lessons in perspective - to be there. To be focused. To be alive. And to be grateful for the opportunity to train, and for that brief instant while you're in the dojang to leave the immensity of reality outside the door while you contemplate your 'do'.

Q. How does a martial art teach philosophy?

The dojang, which is your training hall, is a place for moving contemplation. As a microcosm of the world, one gets to apply physical movements within its environs as analogies to understand relationships, transactions, and your place beyond the dojang. We do not strive to extract metaphysical meaning from each and every tactical exchange. But as we endure and exceed the challenges placed before us in this environment, this changes us bit by bit.

Beyond physical training and combat, Taekwondo has its Tenets to help the reflection of one's personal progress on the path. The Tenets of Taekwondo are:

  • Courtesy
  • Integrity
  • Perseverance
  • Self-Control
  • Indomitable Spirit

Together with the physical training and the reflection and discussion inspired by the Tenets, this guides the willing practitioner to develop traits that make them a moral and respectable individual.

Q. Apply your Tenets and explain Wikileaks.

Taekwondo is here to make us contemplate what is valuable to one's growth, and how we can be honest with ourselves. How to do the right thing. And how to make sure we support the right people and the right values. This is to benefit our loved ones. Our community. These things are simple and idealistic. And when this thinking comes into contact with grey areas - people attempting to do the right thing but which has been deemed illegal by governments, this is where our Tenets are really tested. But the world is not a stage in which our Tenets are paraded on. The Tenets guide our own introspection and our own action. They propel us to examine what we know, to seek out what we don't know, and to support what complements the path we've chosen. I didn't make WikiLeaks appear, but I feel gratitude for the sacrifices to bring this tool into public domain. If it was me to decide, I would use it more as a political tool, and not to 'air dirty laundy.' I'm not demeaning all of what it does, I am simply saying that it can be used for the greater good while lessening the risk it often actualises.

Q. And do you think self defence is still applicable in this day?

In this day of surveillance cams, crowd source videos, the awareness of the force continuum? The idea of self defence first is the idea of protecting the 'self' and those loved ones who are important to you. This is my indomitable spirit forging a path which diverges from other people. Sure an attacker can use a gun. Sure they can grab a knife. Or a bottle. Or a stick. But how often do they train with that weapon? How often do they go to the range and practice for real? Who's to say the gun won't jam? The knife won't slip? My thinking is that I'm going to be the best prepared I will be. And this is what they're going to face. To hell with people who try out martial arts for a few months. To hell with those arm chair warriors who say this won't work because MMA is where it's at. They have the right to choose their own path and to waste their own lives.

Q. How do people relate to you as a Traditional Taekwondo instructor?

Most people can't see beyond the every-day disguise I wear. I never really take off that dobok, even when it's off.

Upcoming Articles
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