What my taekwondo school taught me about courtesy and respect

The following is an essay I wrote for my Friday, Dec. 16 belt graduation at my taekwondo school (dojang), the United Martial Arts Center (UMAC), in Warwick, NY. This is a requirement of all students who are graduating to the next belt level. I’m graduating from yellow (the second rank in the school) to orange (third rank).

“What the UMAC taught me about courtesy and respect”

By Teresa Edmond

Dec. 9, 2011

It’s been said that whatever is worth doing is worth doing right. With that, I believe whatever is worth doing is also worth putting effort and respect into, and that includes taekwondo. While studying taekwondo at the UMAC, I learned not only about breaking boards, forms and how to spar, but also a little history of the martial art. I learned about the history behind the South Korean flag, the poomses (forms), and had a briefing about how many different forms of Korean martial arts over the last 2,000 years evolved into modern-day taekwondo. In history, Korean soldiers have used taekwondo to defend against military forces, indicating that the defenders have great pride for their people.

In the front of the dojang are two flags: American and South Korean. The students pay their respect to the American flag because it represents students’ home, heritage and patriotism. But students also show regard to the South Korean flag because Korea is taekwondo’s motherland. Though the students are American and not Korean by nationality, the Korean flag indicates a martial art that Koreans had and will always practice in the name of patriotism.

Every white and colored belt student is like a child, and every black belt (especially master, instructor, or grand master) is like a parent. Like a child should respect his or her parent, so should a white or colored belt respect a black belt. But every black belt is also  a student and should, in turn, respect their teachers. These teachers go way back in history, so of course it makes sense for every taekwondo student, no matter what belt or dan, to respect the the overall history of taekwondo.  Every taekwondo student is a part of this special family tree, and in order to be proud of where one comes from and what he/she learned, one should understand and respect the tree’s history.

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