Many students new to traditional Martial Arts are surprised to discover the importance placed on philosophy, and some will inquire or ask: “What is philosophy?” Simply put, philosophy is a belief system that involves a code of ethics that we as people will live by. These beliefs, or ethics, will determine how we view the world, our perception of how we should behave and think. It involves concentrated effort, and an inner battle that we will fight against our human nature. And so we find that we must develop sincere self-control and self-discipline in order to put philosophy into action in our individual lives.

The philosophy of traditional Tae Kwon Do demands much of the student, and master, and is the main requirement for the development of the inner-self. This philosophy of behavior can for some be more difficult or demanding than all the physical stances and movements of martial art training. And yet, if there were no other rewards in the practice of Tae Kwon Do, the efforts made to perfect ourselves as people of good character are beyond price. It is from the philosophy that we will develop self-respect and self-esteem.

In order to accept and develop this philosophy we will have to become like the artist who creates a beautiful picture on a blank canvas. The picture will be created because of what the artist adds to the canvas. On the other hand, we must also become like the sculptor, whose creation begins as a massive stone that is shaped and molded, and benefits from all that is taken away. Thus, we add beliefs to our way of thinking, and subtract other beliefs or notions that keep us from advancing as martial artists and as people of integrity and wisdom. As we develop strength and flexibility of body and limbs, we also must develop strength and flexibility of mind and spirit. The physical work we do will help us accomplish one half of this whole, while the philosophy will aid us in the development of the other.

Master Cliff Bird
December 12, 2001