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Tae Kwon Do - Martial Art

December 16, 2005

I've been taking tae kwon do for about 6 or 7 years now, and every time I practice I keep learning more. Sure there are the repetitious hand movements, blocks, kicks, drills, and warm up exercises, and performing those drills and exercises over and over and over again start to get mundane. But after you start to reflect on the intracacies of tae kwon do practice, you'll soon start to hone your body movements and take notice of the position of you arms, legs, hands, feet, head, etc. while performing each movement. It's only after recognizing and contemplating your body position that you'll realize why tae kwon do is a true martial art.

Tae kwon do is a way of life, there is no way around it. Once you commit to tae kwon do and get past the basics, you'll soon start associating everything you do while practicing tae kwon do to your life. Motivating yourself to go to class is the same as motivating yourself to go to work. Practicing push-ups, sit-ups, and other exercises is like peforming other day-to-day rituals. And pushing yourself to do more push-ups, sit-ups, and other exercises is like pushing yourself to learn more about your job and to handle more stress in your life. In this way tae kwon do transcends a typical workout and starts to become a link between what you "are" now, and what you want to become. The sooner you realize you can push yourself physically (and ultimately mentally) to do those 5 extra push-ups or 20 extra kicks, the sooner you will realize you have the power to do whatever it is you want with your life.

My instructor, Master Vince, has always made a point of describing the artistic side of tae kwon do and its movements. Master Vince learned from my grandmaster, Master Lee. Master Lee moved to America from Korea knowing little English and opened a tae kwon do school at which Master Vince was his first pupil. Because of the language barrier Master Vince was forced to learn more by imitation rather than by taking orders. I believe this formed the basis of Master Vince's insight to the very important artistic side of tae kwon do. Instead of someone telling you, "Start your inside block with your first palm facing towards your body at your opposite shoulder, sweep your hand to your blocking side, and snap your fist around at the last moment," he was forced to watch and imitate. As a result, a pure appreciation for the art of tae kwon do arose.

At first, it is difficult to associate tae kwon do and tae kwon do practice movements and techniques with art. How can you consider a punch or a kick or mountain block a form of art? The answer becomes clear the first time you see someone perform a tae kwon do form "artisticly", taking care to make sure every movement is performed with an exactness. Sloppy movements do not look artistic. Crisp, meaningful movements do look artistic.

So what is a "crisp, meaningful movement"? When performing a tae kwon do form, or any movement in tae kwon do, you need to think about every single body position in the form or movement. Where should your head be, where should your eyes be looking, when do you snap, how should your feet be positioned? These are questions that must be considered before and during a movement. The more you practice, the more the movements become ingrained and the less you actually have to think about them.

And perhaps the most important factor when performing "artistic" movements in tae kwon do, are your "body lines". Body lines, as I will call them, are forming parallel or perpendicular lines with your arms, legs, and other body parts. When you perform a front stance inside block, the line of your back leg and the forearm of the arm performing the inside block should both be on the same "line", parallel to each other. This type of thinking and care is what makes tae kwon do an art. When you position your body with "mathematical exactness" so that every line in your body is straight and every angle looks purposeful, you are creating art, with your body. When you see someone perform a tae kwon do form or movement "regularly", and then compare with someone who performs the form or movement "artisticly", you will be enlightened and understand the artistic side of tae kwon do.

The artistic side of tae kwon do is just an extension of the fact that tae kwon do is a way of life. The more time you take to think about your movements in tae kwon do and to perform those movements with an exact, artistic intention, the more likely you are to take care when making decisions in your real life. Once you begin to understand and master this artistic side of tae kwon do, you can start applying that understanding to your everyday life.

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