The Power of the Tae Kwon-Do Student Oath
“But, my friends are gonna hate me,” he said.
A student once pulled me aside, faced with what he believed to be a moral dilemma. Someone from his friend group at school got their hands on a copy of the answers to a test they were about to take.
“If I look at the answers, is that cheating?” he asked. I told him of course it was.
“Master Gorino… I don’t know what to do.”
“You know exactly what to do,” I told him. “Because you learned it here.”
The student oath that was created by General Choi Hong Hi, that every student at my schools takes, goes as follows:
1. “I will follow the tenets of Tae Kwon-Do”
As we have discussed in previous posts, there are five tenets of Tae Kwon-Do: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, and Indomitable Spirit.
Courtesy is simply being a good person who is nice to other people. We teach all of our students to be courteous inside and outside of the dojang. Our students open doors for people. When they see something on the ground that someone else dropped, they pick it up. More importantly, our students never expect anything in return. They do the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do.
Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Do the right thing when no one is looking. Always keep your word. These things show that you have respect for others, and that you command respect for yourself.
Perseverance means always striving to do your best, even in adversity. Sometimes perseverance is confused with never giving up, but we don’t believe that to be the case. We realize that some things are simply not meant to be. The important thing is that while you were figuring that out, you gave it your very best effort.
Control your emotions when faced with a stressful situation. Control your emotions when you are under fire during a fight or in sparring. Do not panic when a situation demands calm. Never use your emotions to manipulate others.
Never shy away from doing what you know in your heart is right, even when you know things can go badly. Firefighters show an indomitable spirit when they run into a burning building. Police Officers show indomitable spirit when they chase someone who has a gun through a dark alley. Soldiers show an indomitable spirit when they go to war to protect our freedom, even though they know they might not make it back.
But, you don’t need to be a hero to show indomitable spirit. You just need to do the right thing, regardless of what others might think.
2. “I will respect my instructors and seniors”
As is true of all parts of the oath, this applies both within the dojang and without. Within the dojang, it means instructors, those who have been training longer, and those who have achieved a higher rank. Outside of the dojang, it means parents, neighbors, teachers, etc. My son Charlie never refers to someone by their first name. It is always “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” “Sir,” “Ma’am,” etc.
3. “I will never misuse Tae Kwon-Do”
We are teaching people how to be powerful. We are teaching people how to physically dominate other people. We are teaching people how to protect others. Essentially, we are giving people a weapon.
That makes us responsible for cultivating the person’s mind so that they have respect for that weapon, know when to use it and, more importantly, when not to.
4. “I will be a champion of freedom and justice”
This doesn’t mean putting on a cape and going out every night to fight crime. A student of Tae Kwon-Do doesn’t go out looking for a fight, though they will always be ready for one. We do want students to know how to use their weapon to protect people. Moreseo, we want them to know how to stick up for someone without fighting.
Being a champion of freedom and justice just means you’re going to do the right thing and treat people the right way. Everybody is equal, and we accept everyone.
5. “I will build a more peaceful world”
Peace starts from within. Even though we are teaching people to be capable of violence, through the oath, we pledge to be peaceful people. And it is our hope that the peace that we practice will ripple throughout the world like a pebble in a pond.
The student oath is what sets Tae Kwon-Do apart from other martial arts. General Choi created it to establish a moral and ethical standard within Tae Kwon-Do. At the time, no other martial art had one.
General Choi believed that the moral cultivation of a student was just as important as the physical cultivation of that student.
That is why I told my student that he knew exactly what to do with the answers to his test. That is why he ultimately did the right thing, regardless of how his “friends” would react.
He learned it here.
Master Gorino’s Tae Kwon-Do offers a trial program for individuals and families in Buffalo, NY and the surrounding areas that allows you to get a feel for the different classes, meet our instructors, and experience our dojang. It’s a great way to see if Tae Kwon-Do is right for you. To learn more or to sign up, register online or call (716) 836-KICK (5425) and a member of our team will follow up with you on next steps. We look forward to helping you achieve your goals. Pil-Sung!