Learning versus Learning the Alphabet
Children in the first grade have already been exposed to the alphabet, but as they try to draw the letters they tremble and are unsure, but the letters are still recognizable. You may think you already know how to move your body, but if you remember you first Taekwondo class, then remember how awkward and clumsy you were. Your front kick was sloppy but still recognizable as a front kick.
After children learn to write the letters, they begin to put them together into words. As Taekwondo students, as we learn the basic techniques, we learn to put them together into combinations.
Children learn that some letters are silent and not pronounced, while other letters have a special accent on them. As Taekwondo students, we learn the same thing. Some parts of a technique are vital but they are downplayed so as not to be noticeable, while other parts are highly stressed and readily apparent.
After you learn one language, when you hear another language, you may notice some of the same characteristics, or you may notice some subtle differences in pronunciation, such as the h in Spanish. You may notice confusion in some languages between some letters, such as between s and c, or the difference in pronunciation in Italian when the c is followed by an h or a vowel. As Taekwondo students, you may notice the way other martial art styles perform their basic techniques. They are not necessarily wrong, it just a different way of doing the same thing.
If you know more than one alphabet, you will see that related alphabets have letters whose shape is very similar, if not the same, like the A in Cyrillic, Latin, and Greek alphabets. Some words have the same meaning in different languages. If you know more than one martial art, you may notice some similarities between them, even when they claim to be new or different.
Teaching versus House Building
Teaching Taekwondo is similar to building a house. The foundation (the basics) must be laid first. Then the structure (patterns, sparring, etc,) of the house is built. As the house nears completion, the final touches (strategy, tactics, theory, etc.) are completed. When constructed properly, the house will stand for many years. When taught properly, a student will be a solid martial artist for many years.
Learning versus Seasons
A lifetime sometimes seems as but a year, and a year has four seasons. Therefore, the lifetime of a Taekwondo student may be compared to the lifespan of an annual plant as it lives through the four seasons.
The lifespan of an annual plant begins with spring when fields are tilled, fertilized, and planted with new seeds. The new seeds bud, and begin to grow. Under the intense sun, some plants will wilt and die, some will thrive, and some will even begin to bear early fruit. If a fruit is picked too early, it will not fully ripen in time for market; instead, it will begin to rot.
In the spring of the lives of Taekwondo students, their preconceived ideas about the martial arts are tilled so they are ready for the planting of new ideas that are then fertilized through constant training in the basics. Some of the new students will wilt under the intense training and quit; others will start blooming and show potential; and a few will show great promise. Similar to the fruit that was picked too early, sometimes these promising students are rushed in their training so they may compete. Similar to the early fruit, on the outside they appear ready, but inside, they are immature and underdeveloped. They may achieve early victories but as they progress, they are unable to maintain their intense level of training. These students will be more prone to injury, will probably get frustrated, and some will eventually burnout.
During the summer, with plenty of water and sun, the plants continue to grow and mature. They weather the wind and rain and their fruit grows larger and begins to ripen.
In the summer of the lives of Taekwondo students, with proper instruction and training, the students begin to mature in Taekwondo. They develop flexibility, stamina, and strength, and their techniques gain speed and power. Some students get injuries but they learn to adapt and work through them. Students suffer losses in competition, but the losses make them stronger.
Autumn is harvest time. Ripened fruit is picked and sent to market where it draws great acclaim. The air begins to turn cold, the leaves of the plants began to change colors, wilt, and fall.
At the beginning of the autumn the lives of Taekwondo students, the students are at their peak. All they have learned and practiced begins to come together and they win most of their competitions. More than that, they have come to understand how much Taekwondo has meant in their lives and how they are better persons for the training. Toward the end of autumn, students begin to lose some of their edge; they are not as quick and not as strong. They begin have a sense of foreboding. Their physical powers are fading, injuries become more frequent, illnesses become a problem, and the physical expressions of age become more prevalent. However, a lifetime of Taekwondo training helps slow the pace of aging and gives students the strength to accept aging as process that must be endured if one is to achieve final victory.
As winter progresses, plants complete their lifespan and die. They prepare for their inevitable death by insuring that new seeds are available for the next spring.
During the winter of the lives of Taekwondo students, the process of aging results in decreased flexibility and physical strength, and training becomes more difficult if not impossible. Students began to spend more of their time insuring a new crop of students is available to carry on the art. As the aged students die, their legacies live on in the hearts of the younger students whose lives they touched.
Patterns versus Stage Actors
When performing on stage, actors learn they must exaggerate everything they do. Body movements, arm motions, facial expressions, voice loudness and inflexion, etc. all must be exaggerated so they may be seen or heard by all audience members, even those in the last row. Small movements will not be seen or appreciated by all audience members. When students perform a pattern at a testing or in a competition, the audience, and sometimes the judges, are far away from the performance area, so, for pattern movements to be seen and appreciated, all movements and facial expression should be exaggerated. Fully chamber all techniques, full extend all techniques, do not move so quickly that movements may not be appreciated, exaggerate facial expressions, when circular movements are required, make large sweeping movements, and kiai loudly. Pretend you are performing your pattern for a judge in the last row of the audience.
Teaching versus Painting
A painter does not start by completing the painting at one point and then moving to another point. The painter starts with a faint layout of the entire painting, adds bold colors to large areas, and then works down to the more subtle colors in small areas. As the painting nears completion, the painter steps back to view the painting as a whole and then makes changes where required. Sometimes highlights are added to accentuate certain areas to make the entire painting a work of art. Taekwondo teaching is similar to painting a canvas. The basics are taught, then major techniques are taught, and then the finer points of Taekwondo are stressed. Instructors sometimes need to step back and look at the overall performance of a student and make adjustments as needed. Instructors also need to look at each student individually and teach him or her things that will accentuate his or her individuality.