Martial Arts: International TaeKwonDo Alliance
Many people think TaeKwonDo only teaches kicking and punching because that’s what they see in the movies. Martial Arts does teach people how to defend themselves but that is only half of it. The martial arts schools in the International TaeKwonDo Alliance teach students good moral values and important life lessons. In the ITA, the students are taught ten tenants and they are expected to live by these tenents. The students also learn the Elements of TaeKwonDo and follow them in their training and life. Students are also expected to show respect toward instructors and higher ranks and they also learn leadership as they progress through the ranks.
Originating in Korea, TaeKwonDo means foot- hand art. The art of TaeKwonDo is ancient and has branched off into many different organizations. The International TaeKwonDo Alliance is one of those organizations and has not been around long. The ITA was founded in 1983 by Craig Kollars, Bert Kollars, and Art Monroe who all began their training around 1969 (“Features and Structure of the ITA” 3.1). The three founders all started training around the same time and are now either senior grand masters or grand masters. Another person who played a key role in the founding of the ITA is Dr. He- Young Kimm, who is a ninth degree black belt and has written many books on other forms of martial arts. “The Founding Members of the ITA began their TaeKwonDo training in 1970 and their professional association in 1977. Together, the ITA Masters in 1983 formed the foundation of what has become the International TaeKwonDo Alliance to share the spirit of an ancient art” (“About the ITA”). The International TaeKwonDo Alliance has only been around for twenty six years but the TaeKwonDo has been practiced for thousands of years.
Ho-Am Tiger Rock is the name given to the style of the International TaeKwonDo Alliance. Dr. He- Young Kimm proposed the name Ho-Am TaeKwonDo as the style of TaeKwonDo that would be practiced by the ITA. There are many reasons for the name and most of them have to do with symbolism. “ITA TaeKwonDo is known as Ho-Am TaeKwonDo. This name symbolizes the spirit, values, and vision of ITA TaeKwonDo” (“History of TaeKwonDo” 2.9). Ho-Am is Korean for Tiger Rock. This is the reason for the ITA’s symbol being a bengal tiger. In Korean, the word Ho means “tiger” and the word Am means “rock”. Tigers and the Rock both symbolize different ITA beliefs. The Tiger is a symbol for justice and bravery and the Rock is a symbol for the immovable spirit of the Korean civilization as well as the western civilization (“History of TaeKwonDo” 2.9 – 2.10). Both the Tiger and the Rock are strong symbols in the ITA. They represent more than justice and bravery, they represent strength, beauty, courage, and much more.
One way the ITA teaches values is through ten tenents: honor, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self- control, courage, community, strength, humility, and knowledge. These tenents are the foundation of the ITA. Students are expected to follow these tenents in every aspect of their lives.
The ITA pledges itself to contributing to the art of TaeKwonDo, providing leadership and instruction in an ancient discipline that represents an alternative allowing practitioners to avoid the stresses and pitfalls of life in this modern age. This can be accomplished by teaching practitioners to strengthen their minds and bodies through regular TaeKwonDo training and to impact society honorably. This mission will be undertaken within the guidelines of our tenets: Honor, Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Courage, Community, Strength, Humility, and Knowledge (“History: Our Past and Our Present”).
Before every class the students recite all ten tenents and at the end of class they say the cycle tenent, which is a certain tenent that changes at the end of each cycle or after each testing. These tenents are what make up the base foundation of the International TaeKwonDo Alliance (“Features and Structure of the ITA” 3.1). During the class the students use their tenents in all activities. Of course, during class is not the only time these principles are supposed to be used. The students are supposed to use these tenents outside of class.
Honor and integrity are two tenents that are similar. Both mean to have sound moral character and show respect toward others. Honor and integrity are important in martial arts and useful lessons to be learned. The tiger cubs, children age’s four to six, are taught that “honor is the gift I give myself” (“Principles”). Being honest is one of the most important things, because once trust is lost, it is hard to earn back. It is never okay to be dishonest even if it does not seem like a big deal (Jefferson). Showing honor and having integrity are important qualities and the ITA tries to instill these values in all students.
Three more tenents are courtesy, self- control, and humility. These qualities are extremely important in all aspects of martial arts. One of the main events that helps teach students these lessons are tournaments. Students must be courteous to their judges and competitors and they are expected to be humble. Humility plays a huge role in competitions. All competitors must show proper courtesy and sportsmanship towards all of their peers at the tournament (“Sparring Competition” 11.22). Self- control and courtesy are also shown in sparring. It is a learned skill to be able to hit someone without hurting and also students show courtesy toward the higher rank. In free sparring students must be courteous to their partner by bowing before and after the match and they must show self control by not hitting too hard and also by not getting frustrated or angry at their partner (“Free Sparring and the Tenents of TaeKwonDo” 12.8). These tenents are all learned through different activities but are all useful outside of class.
Perseverance, courage, and strength are all essential in a person’s life. Without these traits, people would never accomplish anything. Students in TaeKwonDo must learn to persevere through many different situations. Receiving a no- change at a testing is one of the most common set backs in a martial artist’s career and many students become discouraged and quit after receiving one. Courage is also shown during testing. At testing, students must perform certain tasks in front of their peers, parents and a panel of judges, and it can be intimidating the first few times. Strength is also necessary for testing. Mental strength is needed to face the pressure of performing in front of people and as a higher rank physical strength is required for breaking boards. These are lessons learned at testing as well as during class and students are supposed to use the lessons outside of TaeKwonDo.
The last two tenents are community and knowledge. Different academies do different things to encourage their students to improve their communities. Participating in community service projects teaches students to be good citizens. “While training authentic and highly skilled TaeKwonDo artists, the ITA believes the higher purpose of TaeKwonDo education is to prepare students for the responsibilities of citizenship. TaeKwonDo is about real and powerful experiences, resulting in the discovery of innate capabilities and a heightened sense of responsibility” (“Community: Art, Academy, and World”). The ITA does not only teach student’s patterns or forms, they teach students the history behind each form. Students are expected to know the Korean history and the law of the harvest meaning of the form that corresponds with their rank. An example would be seed form, formerly known as Chon-Ji. The law of the harvest meaning is the planting of the seed or the beginning and the Korean meaning is the beginning of human history (“Seed Form (Chon- Ji)” 11.3). People are always gaining knowledge and the ITA teaches people to be students in every aspect of their lives.
There are four elements in the International TaeKwonDo Alliance and the first one is the Essence. Each form of martial arts has their own style that makes it unique. The Essence is made up of five principles; Balanced postural Alignment, Extended Plane Dynamic Force, CAT or Controlled Acceleration and Timing, Staged- Flow Transition, and Mindfulness Living and Training (“Elements and History of Ho- Am TaekwonDo” 2.1). The first principle, balanced postural alignment, refers to the alignment of joints in order to perform safe and effective techniques. Extended plane dynamic force is using straight lines of movement to create power. CAT movements are especially unique to the ITA. There are half CATs, CAT ones, and CAT twos. Each of these help give forms their own rhythm and a rare tempo. Staged- flow transition is broken up into two parts, or stages. Stage one is the beginning of a technique and is the preparation or set up. Stage two is the release of energy at the end of a move. Mindfulness living and training, the last principle, refers to always being in the present moment and focusing on the activity at hand and nothing else. “The Essence of Ho-Am TaeKwonDo is the fabric of our style resulting in its unique flavor” (“Elements and History of Ho- Am TaekwonDo” 2.1). The essence teaches students to be aware of their bodies and their surroundings at all times and helps them stay focused with everything they do.
The mission of Ho- Am TaeKwonDo, the second element, instills responsibility into all students. The mission also teaches students to leave conditions better than when they found them. The mission goes hand in hand with the tenent community by trying to improve civilization. “The mission of Ho-Am TaeKwonDo strives to inspire a sense of responsibility and commitment to our community, challenging students to do what is right and ethical” (“Principles”). Students also have to be responsible in their training by going to class at least two times a week. If a student becomes irresponsible and does not get his or her classes in than he or she will fall behind. Through the Ho-Am mission students learn to be more responsible in their training and the also learn to give back to their communities (“Elements of Ho- Am TaeKwonDo” 2.4). The mission is an important part of the ITA curriculum and helps prepare students for the real world.
The next element is journey and it is different for everyone. The journey starts with learning physical technique and then incorporates knowledge of culture, history, and science. All of this goes into developing an artist mind. “The journey of the Ho-Am TaeKwonDo Artist follows a progressive path, beginning with physical technique and leading to development of the artist mind” (“Principles”). A student who has developed an artist mind will also develop the desire to live a meaningful life. Everyone will develop their own journey and will follow their path and not that of anyone else. Everyone’s journey is different; students must follow their own path and not that of the people they train with (“Elements of Ho-Am TaeKwonDo” 2.5). Martial artists must develop both a physical mind and an artist mind which will help them to live a full, meaningful life.
The last element is the philosophy of Ho- Am TaekwonDo. Part of the philosophy is the law of the harvest and students must learn the law of the harvest meaning for their form. For example the meaning of plant form is sprouting of the seed (“Plant Form (Do- San)” 11.5). The philosophy is based on the law of the harvest and the ten tenents. A student in TaeKwonDo must reap what they sow. If they don’t put much effort into their training they will not grow, however, if a student puts forth great effort into their training they will become a better martial artist (“Elements of Ho- Am TaeKwonDo” 2.3- 2.4). Students must learn to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions and the philosophy teaches them to do that.
The ITA also teaches students respect. Students are expected to show respect toward instructors and higher ranks. Students must refer to higher ranks as ma’am and sir or by mister and misses. Also, when instructed to perform a task, students answer “yes ma’am” or “yes sir” and do the task without question. Another way students show respect is at formal events. “When we first meet a higher rank at a formal event, we always greet them with a bow. When we leave at the end of the event, we always say good- bye with a bow” (“Higher Ranks” 2.6). Also during sparring the higher rank throws the first technique and sets the pace. The only time the higher rank does not throw the first technique is at competitions in order to even out the playing field. When students do not answer up or follow orders they may be told to do pushups or a variety of things depending on the instructor. This helps teach students respect and they are expected to take these teachings and use them in the real world.
Students are also taught to respect their peers or the other students in class. They must be respectful in class, at testing, and at competition. During class students should listen to their fellow classmates when they are speaking and they should also stand still and focus all of their attention on what their peers are saying. At testing students should show respect while others are performing by being quiet. If students are noisy at testing they may distract those who are presenting their set material. At tournaments students must show respect by remaining quiet while others perform their forms but also during sparring. Before the round begins, students bow to their opponent to show that he or she respects them. It is important for people to learn to respect others, especially to those who are around their age.
Another important quality instilled in ITA students is leadership. One way for students to learn this skill is by joining the instructor program. There are five levels in the instructor program and at each level instructors gain more responsibilities. Level ones will not typically be asked to teach class and level four instructors will most likely be up front and in charge of the class. However, any level may be required to teach. Whether an instructor is teaching the entire class or only a segment of the class, they have to be able to lead or take control of the class.
Some people think TaeKwonDo only teaches kicking and punching. They are wrong. TaeKwonDo teaches self defense as well as good values. The International TaeKwonDo Alliance is dedicated to teaching students to live by the ten tenents: honor, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self- control, courage, community, strength, humility, and knowledge. “The ITA pledges itself to contributing to the art of TaeKwonDo, providing leadership and instruction in an ancient discipline that represents an alternative allowing practitioners to avoid the stresses and pitfalls of life in this modern age” (“History: Our Past to Our Present”). The physical aspect of martial arts is only half of the curriculum. TaeKwonDo uses a combination of mind and body. “Ho-Am TaeKwonDo training involves strenuous physical and mental challenge. The goal of training is to develop the mind and spirit as well as the body. TaeKwonDo, as a martial art, is a balance of strength, humility, and knowledge” (“The Physical and Mental Element” 8.2). There is so much more to the ITA than just learning to fight. Students must learn to use their martial arts training responsibly.
Another argument that comes up is that children will cause trouble and will start fights. This is also not true. TaeKwonDo is for self defense purposes only. Tiger cubs, or students who are between the ages four to six, are taught a tiger cub promise. That promise is, “I promise to use TaeKwonDo in class and to escape from strangers. I will not use tae kwon do to cause trouble” (“ITA Tiger Cubs Belt System” 7.3). Student who do use their skills for the wrong reasons will be forced to leave the ITA. The International TaeKwonDo Alliance has no tolerance for violence. “Students who demonstrate violent, overly aggressive, or uncontrolled temperament will not be allowed to train” (“Proper Attitude” 5.4). students will not cause trouble because if they do they will not be allowed to be part of the ITA.
People are also afraid that their loved ones may be injured in sparring. If the students are careless then they could get hurt. However, at the same time, if students are being careless while sparring they will be told to take their gear off and sit out. While sparring students are supposed to use light to no contact, any thing more than that is considered excessive contact. If students are using excessive contact while sparring the instructor will tell them to remove their gear and sit out for the remainder of the sparring segment (“Testing Sparring Rules and Protocol” 12.15). At green belt, when students first start sparring, absolutely no contact is allowed. That is because at green belt students don’t have the self control to hit their partner without hurting them. Students are taught to use self control while sparring. This includes staying calm and not becoming angry and controlling techniques so as to not use excessive contact (“Self- Control and Free Sparring” 12.8). Instructors are their in class to ensure safety and make sure students are not goofing off while sparring.
Too many people have the wrong idea about martial arts. It is not just about kicking and punching, it also teaches good values and life skills that will stick with students their entire lives. Learning self defense is only half of what the ITA teaches. The tenents and the elements make up the foundation of the International TaeKwonDo Alliance. Students must also show respect toward all, whether they are instructors, higher ranks, or their fellow peers. Also by joining the instructor program students have the chance to lead a class and teach other what they know. The International TaeKwonDo Alliance teaches many valuable lessens that should not be ignored. People should focus less on the fighting and more on the values that are taught.
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