When it comes to grading students to their black stripe, I ask students to prepare a short speech on Taekwon-Do before they take on the final stretch towards achieving black belt – it can relate to any aspect of their training or journey in Taekwon-Do.

This is my student, Peter Stander’s speech. He is a “veteran” in our club and has thus far proven that age is not an obstacle in the pursuit of one’s goals and dreams.

Taekwon-Do in my life

Peter Stander1Ever since I was a small kid I wanted to do Martial Arts, as I’m sure every little kid wants to at that age. Unfortunately I was an orphan and didn’t have the luxury of parents that could provide for me to make my dream come true. An old lady that helped my mom with a place to stay when she had nowhere else to go, adopted me after my mom left me with her when I was only 3 months old. The old lady was getting an old age grant and we lived in a one bedroom, zink government village house.

Cooking food and boiling water to bath on a black coal stove was how we had to manage and “my gran”, as I used to call the old lady, went to bed hungry many nights, just so that I could have bread to eat or have decent clothes and shoes to wear to school. So doing Martial Arts would have been a luxury we could not afford. So my hopes and dreams faded with time, until I was earning my own money.

As a naive young man I then tried out a few Martial Arts but was never completely satisfied with it, so as soon as I started I also stopped and lost interest in Martial Arts. Until one day when I attended an I.T.F Taekwon-Do class. I was gobsmacked! The skill and power the Black Belts had in their kicks, hand techniques and patterns were so amazing. The cherry on top was when I had to hold a curved kicker pad and got side kicked by a Bo-sabum. I’m a big heavy guy weighing over a 100kg and despite leaning into the kicker pad, I was propelled backwards a couple of meters. I wanted to know more and be like the Black Belts. I was like a small kid in a toy store, I wanted to learn more and quick as well, I couldn’t wait for the next training class. So at a young, tender, mature age I started doing Taekwon-Do. As I started training I realised this is what I was looking for all my life, but I soon also realised that Taekwon-Do is not for the weak, you have to be strong in body and mind and have a strong will power.Peter Stander2 This Art was not going to be an easy path. It’s not an activity you just do to keep fit or because you want kill some spare time. Taekwon-Do is a way of life… it’s a commitment to live by the Oath and Tenets of Taekwon-Do.

It becomes part of who you are and it influences the way you look and react to life in general.

So with the support of my wonderful family and the help, advice and guidance from my fellow students, Black Belts and my Instructor, despite sometimes feeling like I want to quit or I will never get it right, despite the cuts, bruises, injuries and some bloodshed, it’s been an amazing journey. The only regret I have is that I didn’t find Taekwon-Do earlier.

InstructionI always like to write and teach from experience. As an Instructor, I always prefer to make the mistakes myself and for my students to learn from them rather than to learn for themselves, although unfortunately this does happen on the odd occasion. Often in class I will talk to my students to remind myself of certain things – I am actually talking to myself, reminding myself of what I believe and should be doing, passing on my thoughts to my students at the same time. Even I lapse on the odd occasion, so I find it fitting that I am writing this article in an injured state just after speaking about this to my class. Take it from me; the proof is in the pudding. Here is the lesson:

It is inevitable that at some point in your martial arts training you will sustain an injury of some sort. The injuries sustained can range from minor to serious. The extent and cause of damage is dependent on all kinds of factors, but the most common is to do with what, in Taekwon-Do, we call “dallyon” – or should I say, lack of dallyon.

In brief (I will write a detailed article on dallyon in the future), dallyon refers to equipment maintenance. Equipment in this regard refers to our bodies, and in turn, our minds. To be in good maintenance as a martial artist we must condition our bodies and minds to be able to handle the rigours of combat. Physically, this includes stamina, strength, flexibility, hardening of attacking and defending tools (forging) and diet. Mentally, this includes confidence, focus and positive thinking.

MMA: UFC 168-Weidman vs SilvaIn my training, I have found that every time I have injured myself something, or things, have been out of alignment in my dallyon. I have found this to be true with my students too. Yes, there may be a completely freak accident somewhere along the line, but that is extremely rare. On closer analysis there is normally an imbalance either mentally or physically that has led to the injury. Each aspect of dallyon effects the others – when one pillar is out others will begin to crumble. This will most often culminate in an injury of some sort.

When an injury occurs people have different ways of dealing with it. Many will drop out of the race, others will become far less involved and others will embrace it and use it to learn and further themselves – often coming back stronger and more determined than they were before. They see it as a challenge rather than as a defeat or an obstacle.

There are times that we must heed what our bodies and minds are telling us. Not so as to give in to laziness, but to actually hear and understand what is necessary for us to do. When an injury occurs it is even more important for us to listen. Any injury should be given close analysis and the root of the cause should be addressed accordingly. Adjusting the dallyon in the correct manner will most often fix the problem from occurring again.

keep-calm-and-think-positiveI find that the most difficult thing to maintain, especially with a serious injury, is a healthy state of mind. The mental state can turn into a far worse injury than the physical injury itself. Negativity can be a dilapidating disease – it is important to consciously block out the negativity and force positive thought. This will make the healing process of body and mind far easier.

I always choose to apply the math equation to injuries. – x – = +. Something negative is affecting your training – this multiplies and culminates into something even more negative occurring (injury) – You take the lesson and apply it to have a positive outcome.

These are some good steps to follow:

1. Listen to yourself – you know somewhere deep inside when there is something wrong or out of alignment.

2. Analyse what the cause of and root of the problem is – don’t just ignore it and think it will go away on its own.

3. Correct the problem – where necessary seek help and guidance from people who may have more experience than you (perhaps Instructors/seniors in your club).

4. If an injury has already occurred, refer back to number 2 and 3 above.

role model5. Be positive – keep on telling yourself positive things to strengthen your mind. Think of and re-enforce the reasons why you should bounce back.

6. Bounce back – don’t allow something as insignificant as an injury (no matter how serious) to kill your dreams.

7. Be better than you were before – keep your dallyon in alignment and grow in strength from the experience.

Instructors and seniors – show your students and junior classmates how it is done. Be the role-models they see you as. Even the best slip and fall occasionally, but it is how you deal with it that truly separates the best from the rest.

Wishing you all injury free training!

ITFThis seems to be a taboo subject for many people. It is often a subject that goes ignored, or, if it does come up, there seems to be a lot of political correctness about it. People don’t seem to want to pledge their loyalty anywhere.

I would like to offer my views for anybody who cares to read. The purpose of this article is not to offend anyone; it is merely a brief overview of my feelings on the subject. Any differing opinions, agreements or advice are welcome as always.

Firstly, I am a member of the ITF led by GM Choi Jung Hwa.

Secondly, I don’t believe there needs to be a call for unity of the “ITF’s”.

Why do I say this? Because as far as I’m concerned there is only ONE ITF. The ITF led by GM Choi Jung Hwa! I believe that instead of a call for unity there should be a call for people to return home.

Please, let me explain my reasoning (briefly albeit).

Taekwon-Do treeI don’t believe there will ever be a fully unified body consisting of all the members of old. There will always be people who will have their own ideas, form their own groups or remain independent (for whatever reasoning). This is nothing new. Splinter groups and individuals will always be there and always have been there. It happened in the “old ITF” under General Choi, and it will continue way into the future under anyone who runs the ITF. People seem to look to the past and think of a Utopian ITF where, in fact, this has never been the case. The “old ITF” had countless groups and individuals break away from it. The difference is that in the past they did not break off and proclaim themselves to be the ITF. They had the sense to call themselves by something else. Also, back in the day it was not made so public. The use of the internet and social media has made everybody’s business known to the world. Much of the goings on in the past were easily covered up or controlled in one way or another, a feat not so easily accomplished in this day and age with information at our fingertips. In the past we would not even hear of a dispute or a fragmenting group.

I believe that if all of the higher ups were so intent on a single, unified body, then there would be one. The fact is that each of the so-called “ITF” groups has their own visions, goals and agendas. None will be willing to give up on what they have under their control. One group sees the ITF and Taekwon-Do as something to be wielded as a political tool, another sees it as a corporation.

In my opinion, the only group to truly deal with the martial art for the art itself and considers its members, is the ITF led by GM Choi Jung Hwa.

Is the ITF perfect? No! It never has been. But there is consistent change to make it better. The members can be heard to a much greater degree than in the past. Is everybody going to be pleased with the ITF? No! I disagree with some things myself occasionally. Is the ITF everybody’s cup of tea? No! The ITF will never be able to please everyone.

communityGroups breaking from the ITF (whatever they call themselves) is inevitable and can be viewed as a good thing or a bad. Personally, I think the more choice a person has the better. It must be remembered, though, that choice has consequences and we need to live by the choices we make. Choice affords us the opportunity to align with like-minded individuals. The “splits” have done just that. I have made it a policy to do this in my personal life for some time now. Some will stay, others will leave. You do not need to be friends with people who counter-act you at every turn – these people are best thrown away like bad rubbish. There is no difference when it comes to the ITF and Taekwon-Do. The days of one size fits all are long gone. There is no more “You can have it in any color you like as long as you choose black”.

To me, unity is not the mere fact of having numbers. There cannot be growth just for the sake of growth. Just because a person appears to have lots of friends doesn’t mean he is going anywhere. Unity is gathering all of those with the same mindset and striving towards a common goal. It is this that gives you the edge to drive forward, attain your goals and achieve whatever you set your mind to. It is about having a vision and working towards the common great with men on the same mission. People say that there is strength in unity, but what is unity. You cannot make a strong chain if some of the links are made with plastic and sponge. You collect the steel that can be forged and hardened and use only that.

mission and visionIf unity is about numbers alone, then concessions have to be tailor made to suit every individual. This would cause havoc. There would be no rules or standard for the sake of pleasing people. Organizations do have rules and they are to be followed. One of the reasons for rules is to maintain a standard and to keep certain ethical practices in place. People decide that they are above the rules and expect the ITF to turn a blind eye and put up with them. An organization must have to be rules and these rules need to be enforced, but that is the same in anything. People cannot expect to be a part of an organization and be free to do entirely what they want, often, acting against the best interests of the organization. Members who disagree with the rules now have a choice to find somewhere with rules better suited to them, or, like many others – create their own splinter group and run wild with whatever it is they feel like doing. When people don’t get their way they act like spoilt children and leave. Perhaps that is a down side – some dissatisfaction, pack up and run elsewhere? Or, maybe that is a good thing… do you really want such people in your organization?

One thing that will never change is that there will always be those who disagree with something within. No organization is perfect but with hard work and determination of members with a common goal and the best interests of Taekwon-Do, their students and the organization will surely prosper. Students, instructors and masters should have belief and faith in their organization and what path it is headed down. Through belief and faith will come loyalty. Despite any hiccups along the way the one’s loyal to the greater good will proudly be able to represent their art and organization.

Unfortunately, even within martial arts there are bad seeds. Being highly ranked does not make somebody a nice or good person. Many will use rank to try to intimidate or manipulate others. Some organizations like to use the names of masters to create a feeling of legitimacy within the ranks, but in the end that means nothing if the organizations intentions are selfish and full of hidden agendas. Members, more specifically, Instructors should question the motives behind their organization and not mistake blind following for loyalty. I don’t believe that students should be involved in politics. They should train for the training and that is it. Instructors, however, have an obligation to act in the best interests of their students and do what is right by them, like a parent and his/her children. It is up to the Instructors to be more diligent and do their homework. They need to be making educated decisions and not just blindly follow who they have been told to. They should seek out and align with the organization that meets their standard and then they will prosper within. Instructors should know what direction their organization is headed in and delve a little deeper into what may be visible on the surface.

Black BeltIn terms of the countless splinter groups that have popped up; there are those that may have split for intentions right to them, but in majority most have split off and still try to ride on the ITF wave, even passing themselves off as “ITF” in some cases. They break up the groups even further and then shout “UNITY!” from the rooftops. Splinter groups calling for unity? Really!? This is contradictory and hypocritical. So why do they do it? Because they can cash in on it. It is purely a financial game, if you ask me. The “ITF” name holds weight. More weight = more money. If they can convince or steal even a little of the membership from the other “ITF” organizations they will gain financially. Who would they market all of their wares to without any following. Who better to target than confused souls who feel a little lost and don’t really know where to turn. Like con-artists preying on the weak, misinformed and desperate.

Do I dislike members of other “ITF” organizations? Not necessarily. I think that many are misguided, others are “yes men” and others are just better suited to those organizations. What’s to dislike? I am happy where I am and don’t have either the opportunity or inclination to associate with members of the other organizations on all but rare occasions.

I don’t believe in following anything that I don’t have faith in and, as I said earlier, I am a proud member of what I consider to be the only ITF. It has strong leaders under the guidance and of GM Choi Jung Hwa.

Choi_Jung_HwaThere are those that will refer to the history of General Choi’s death, but my question is this – who wrote that history? Some say he said this, others say he said that. I have heard so many spins on so many stories that I almost believe I can fly. The only sad truth is that our founder passed on. I don’t think it is about what General Choi may or may not have said then; it is about what we do now. The General was a great man and gave me what I enjoy most in this world in the form of Taekwon-Do, but he was still human, and as all humans, was fallible. He too could make mistakes and misjudge situations just like the rest of us. I remember years ago, somebody said to me, “General Choi had two sons – Taekwon-Do and Choi Jung Hwa.” Let me ask you, who knows a sibling better than one’s own brother?

There are fantastic practitioners and masters in all of the Taekwon-Do associations. Of course it would be great to see all working as one as a well-oiled machine, but some are just never going to get along, regardless. I am sure that those who decide to come home will find welcome and will strengthen what the ITF stands for. The more that decide to come home, the better.
At the end of the day, I may be an insubordinate, little nobody in the eyes of many, but it is people like me who love, practice and instruct the art. It is people like me that make up the organization. And it is with this I end:
soaringeagleFrom a personal perspective, I would not call for the joining of the “ITF’s” or the countless splinter organizations, , I would call for the Members, Instructors and Masters with the same vision, strength and character of GM Choi Jung Hwa to come home and forge forward to make the one ITF soar with the eagles once more.

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