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Tae Kwon Do - Second Degree Black Belt Essay

December 04, 2005

Inspiration and Leadership

If obtaining first degree black belt in tae kwon do is like graduating from college, obtaining second degree would be the equivalent of getting a Master’s Degree. Training for first degree means intense physical workouts, memorization of form movements, trying to understand one’s body, and learning the relationship between your mind and body. Training for second degree continues with these experiences, and also brings teaching into the mix.

When I first started teaching some of the classes it would mostly be warm-ups and exercises. I concentrated on trying to remember which exercises to do and in which order to do them. After awhile the monotony of doing the same exercises in the same order became a factor, and at that point I decided to add some variety and change up the order of the exercises or even change the exercises themselves. In doing so I learned that leading in warm-ups, just like every other aspect of tae kwon do, is an art.

Warm-ups are more than just repeating some of the exercises I’ve learned from Master Vince. If you go too fast or do too much, students tire quickly and could have difficulty performing or concentrating later in class. If you go too slow or do too few exercises, students may never warm-up which could result in injury or just plain laziness throughout the rest of the class. It was at this point, after seeing how students responded to my warm-ups, that I began to appreciate the power of teaching and leadership.

“In order to be a leader you have to lead.” I’ve been thinking about that phrase for the past few months as I get ready for second degree. Leaders, not only in tae kwon do, but also in real-life situations, possess a quality that makes them stand out from the masses. This quality varies depending on the leader and may be positive or negative. The leader of a basketball team, for example, may have a very high shooting percentage and play great defense. Or the leader of a chess team may have great instincts and predict what his or her opponent may do next. Whatever the situation may be, a leader creates a desire in others to be like him or her.

As a result, people following the leader are inspired to imitate. Logical thinking would say that in order to be like the leader, you have to do what the leader does, and that’s exactly what followers do. In the basketball example it may mean changing your shooting style to imitate the leader, or starting off with the same moves in the chess example. It is this desire to imitate that creates a leader.

The most important ability a leader possesses is the ability to inspire. When someone follows a leader, they are in fact being inspired to imitate the leader so they can accomplish the same goals as the leader. This means that the leader must choose his movements wisely and always be wary of the fact that people will be trying to imitate himself or herself. This applies not only to the tae kwon do school, but also outside of class. The stronger and more successful the leader, the greater the inspiration and/or influence he or she will have on others.

I’ve learned many many things since I started practicing tae kwon do, and I continue to learn every day and use the fundamentals of tae kwon in almost every real-life situation. When we look before we do our next movement in a form we are really learning to survey a situation in real life before we react. When we push ourselves to do five extra pushups with each belt level we are pushing ourselves to be more productive at work or have a greater capacity for every day stresses. When we learn and try to master a new technique or form we are learning to expand our mind and deal with change. The list can go on and on but the fact remains that the discipline and respect and strength we gain from tae kwon do can be related to all aspects of our life.

Leaders must teach others and convey the messages learned at tae kwon class as real-life teachings. These teachings and lessons should not be for just advancing belts in tae kwon do, but rather enhancing one’s own life and learning how to live life to the fullest and deal with any situation that may arise. Most importantly, leaders must strive to influence people to try their hardest and make the most out of their time.

My role in tae kwon do is beginning to shift from myself to others. While it is still important to continue expanding my own capabilities, it is becoming more important to me to inspire others to learn what I’ve learned. My goal is now to become a leader, inside the tae kwon do school and outside in “real life”, and inspire others to push themselves and accomplish all of their goals.

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