The first two purposes are fairly obvious. Tang Soo Do’s early developed evolved during an almost constant state of warfare in the early history of the Korean peninsula. The self-defense aspect of Tang Soo Do is a direct result of learning to use martial skills in combat to protect yourself, your loved ones and your kingdom. The physical nature of learning the self-defense skills naturally lead the practitioner to develop stronger-healthier bodies.
The third purpose (better person) does not immediately jump out as an obvious purpose of training in Tang Soo Do. In the past I have discussed the goal setting skills that are inherent to Tang Soo Do. This skill lends itself to becoming a better person but it is not the core of how and why.
Why should the Tang Soo Do instructor want to develop his students to become better people? The answer is simple. We teach the skills that can potentially take the life or livelihood of another person. As instructors we have a moral responsibility to be sure those that we teach use their skills only in righteous ways. To teach a student the combat skills of Tang Soo Do without also developing their concepts of humanity is reprehensible.
Now that we understand the why it is important to understand the how. As an instructor it is important to discuss with the students the philosophies of the seven tenets and five codes of Tang Soo Do. We must also speak with students individually to uncover the challenges that they face in everyday life. When working with children it is often necessary to work with the parents to mold the ideals of Tang Soo Do with their goals as parents. When the instructor understands the challenges and goals of the student they can help to steer and guide the student down the correct path.
The specific methodologies that are used to guide the student vary depending upon the individual. Typically we utilize the goal setting skills previously discussed with a plan to steer them on the path. Ultimately the goal of the instructor is to teach the student the value of self-evaluation. To help them develop the skills to determine proper action from improper action.
As instructors it is sometimes necessary to hold a student back from promotional testing until they are able to demonstrate they have improved their understanding of the five virtues of Tang Soo Do. Trust, Humanity, Respect, Etiquette, Wisdom. Students should demonstrate by their actions a continually improving understanding of these virtues. If the student lacks the proper level of understanding they should remain at their current level of training until they can demonstrate this understanding.
Often times the student or the parent of the student will not understand the importance of this development. Western society believes in the time-served concept. If I spend a prescribed amount of time at this level then I should automatically be granted access to the next level. Martial societies believe in progress through achievement. Show you have mastered a certain level and you will be granted access to the next level.
Unfortunately failing to understand this principal will often leave students believing they are being treated unfairly. This is as far from the truth as possible. The instructor must establish the standards and constantly monitor the student’s progress against these standards. The instructor must be willing to deny a student the next level of training until they see they have adequately mastered the current material. To do otherwise is inherently unfair to all the students. The student who is granted access before they are ready will most likely not properly develop the skills necessary for future progress. The students who did properly develop the skills will feel that their accomplishment has been diminished because the bar was lowered for other students.
It is the instructor’s responsibility to say yes and no to the students at the appropriate time. If a student should decide to quit training because they were told they are not ready then they truly were not ready to progress in the art. We hope that one day they will realize the lesson that was being taught and will return to the art. If they do chances are they will be ready to take that next step. If they do not, then the other students in the art will have a clearer understanding of the accomplishments that they have achieved.
As Tang Soo Do instructors it is our job to ensure that the art does not get watered down to appease those who do not wish to learn the art by the methods that have been laid out before them. We are charged not only with preserving the art for future generations but also preserving the integrity of the art, even when it requires us to teach the hard lesson.
Master Scott C. Homschek
Originally published on www.rvtsda.com May 2003