What a strange and wonderful journey it still is...

by Tiago Costa

Recently, my taekwondo master was talking with us (students) during class. I was sitting in a corner of the Dojang with the Pajanim because we were both injured, but the rest of the class was lined up before our master and he spoke to the whole class.

Among other things he asked who was there without the pre-ocupation or ambition of earning belts. The Pajanim who is red and a black tag and I (red belt) both raised our hands along with a couple of people in the class. We didn't say anything but the other people justified themselves with the fact that earning belts wasn't their main concern and all that they wanted was to learn.

To tell you the truth, I rose my hand because I've been on a 7 year break and things are very tough on me, because I'm picking up right where I left, and being a red belt when you have to re-learn everything and even some other things which you didn't know can wear you out. Not that my master or my colleagues placed that pressure upon me but as someone who loves martial Taekwondo, I feel like it is disrespectful of me not to try harder than anyone else (which resulted with a strain of my right leg).

So I felt that I wasn't worthy of earning the belt, therefore I wanted to learn all that I could before I would ever consider taking another step and earning the black tag. Then my master said, among other things, something which I didn't expect. He said that it was very disrespectful for himself and the art the fact that a student had the ambition of earning new belts.

The belts themselves are his recognition of the students skills and that he was matured as both martial artist and as a person. I do know some masters have their students changing belts to keep their interest and motivation but that's another subject and this isn't the case.

So, there I sat the entire class, listening to the things my master said and I it is overwhelming to admit that I've learned more about Taekwondo in that corner than in 5 years in the other Academy where I've trained.

I don't mean to bore you with these thoughts but this is the part of the inner journey, the spiritual side of the art that we tend to forsake many times. And I must admit that all these new things left me a bit lost on my path, because of my strain and because of my ignorance I feel like I can't keep on practicing Taekwondo nor do I deserve to.

The only motivation I have is that my master also said that this path towards black belt will lead us to a place and a time when we will look at the black around our waist and realize that after all that we've been through we don't know nothing yet, and that our journey has just begun.

After this I can't say that I practice Taekwondo for physical fitness or to earn belts. I do it to achieve perfection, for whatever that means. Like someone wise once said, practice a thousand hours and know the art, practice ten thousand and you'll know yourself.

I do hope that I earn the recognition of my master, through the belts but I also hope that each passing minute in the dojang or in my life can take me closer of being a great teacher like him but in my own "Do".

Deb's Reply

Hi Tiago

Many thanks for sharing your inner thoughts - I'm certain you are helping others who are going through similar struggles on the journey - and of course you are right - a black belt is only the beginning.

Keep on going to class and you will find your way - it sounds like you have a fantastic teacher to help you find it.

Thanks again Tiago

Deb :-)

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Jun 22, 2011
by: Anonymous

You have just opened my eyes to the fact that belt colours don't matter, it's the learning and development that counts, and becoming one with taekwondo... you have taught me that i could stay a white belt forever but i could learn more than many others.
The next time i enter the Dojang, i will not focus on getting the yellow tag but i will perfect every movement, after all the tag is only a reward, not an aim.

Jul 30, 2010
Learning is key
by: David Fiscus


Thanks for sharing you thoughts.

A couple months ago I was in our locker room, and I overheard a member of the health club asking a 2nd Dan taekwondo student what level Dan was his goal. His answer surprised me, he told the man that his goal was to learn, and practice what he learned and the belts were just a byproduct of what he learned. I went home that night and reflected on his words. Very simple, as I guess most profound truthes are. I liked his philosphy and have adopted it as my own.

David Fiscus (Currently Red Belt) TKD student.

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