The Tenets of Tae Kwon-Do: Self-Control


The five tenets of Tae Kwon-Do are a model for a student’s behavior. It is through these guiding principles that one’s character is developed and nourished. Every Tae Kwon-Do student memorizes the tenets and applies each belief into their life.

4. Self-Control (Guk Gi)

When I was younger I sustained a leg injury during a full contact match. To help in my recovery, I joined a co-ed volleyball league to work on my jumping. Even though the league was recreational, some people were quite competitive. We played against one team where the guys were acting like real jerks. They were loud, obnoxious, and would do anything to win the game. In particular, they targeted their shots at our women, mainly by spiking the ball directly at their heads.

I, of course, did not think highly of their strategy and lost my self-control.

So at one point during the game, I positioned myself at the net directly across from one of the loudmouths. My team set the ball for me. I jumped to spike it and the guy jumped to block it. (Have I mentioned I’m a seventh degree black belt in Tae Kwon-Do?) My arm struck the ball with the force of a hurricane. This knucklehead never had a chance as I blasted the ball squarely into his face.

For the briefest moment I hung in the air watching my opponent eat the ball. All was right in the world. I could already hear my teammates cheering for putting that guy in his place. But the Karma Cafe always serves you what you deserve. I had hit the guy so hard, he fell backwards and lost his footing. We both came down together, except he landed on his butt and I came down on his feet. I severely twisted my ankle in three places and was out of Tae Kwon-Do for weeks.

Self-control is maintaining your emotions and remaining calm during stressful and difficult situations. It’s a form of discipline, and without discipline there is no victory. My volleyball experience wasn’t one of my proudest moments. It taught me how quickly a situation can get out of hand, and it has made me a better person.

Losing your temper is an example of not having self-control. When you lose your temper, you don’t think clearly. Your emotions get the better of you and you make bad decisions. You say and/or do things you later regret. Without self-control, situations escalate out of hand with zero chance of success.

Having self-control also means not crying unnecessarily. We talk about not letting our tears get in our way and saving them for sad moments in life. For example, the death of a pet is extremely sad and crying can help heal the pain. But when you miss a block and get kicked in the stomach, crying does not help the situation.

It can be a difficult lesson for some people. The impact of a punch or kick can be shocking, but lying on the floor crying doesn’t help the situation. It’s during these moments I lean in and whisper to the student the four loving words of the dojang: shut up & get up.

In the real world you must maintain your composure. Let’s say I was passed over on a job promotion. Should I plop down in the hallway and cry about it? Should I fly off the handle and scream at people? Well, I could, but then I’d be looking for a new job.

Self-control is the glue that binds all the other tenets together. Without self-control, you’ll never succeed.

This is the fourth post in a five-part series on the Tenets of Tae Kwon-Do. View posts on Courtesy, Integrity, and Perseverance.

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