Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Seven Tenets Part 1

Earlier, I talked about the Five Codes of Tang Soo Do and how I interpreted them. While the Codes serve as rule of conduct, the Seven Tenets list the traits that describe the ideal practitioner of TSD. They are a little more vague at times, but I find that to make them that much more fascinating to talk about.

The Tenets are as follows:

Respect and Obedience
Self Control
Indomitable Spirit

I  mentioned the 7th in my last post, and I'm going to spend the next few posts talking about these traits in more detail, how they apply to TSD, and what it means to adhere to them in daily life.

The first Tenet is integrity. The dictionary gives three definitions of integrity:
1. Adherence to moral and ethical principles.
2. The state of being whole, entire, or undiminished.
3. A sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition.
I personally believe that the first definition is the one meant in the Tenets.The ideal TSD practitioner should be moral, inside and outside of the dojang. By its nature, martial arts is something violent, and like a gun or a knife can be used to hurt others. What differentiates the martial artist from a a thug is understanding and respecting violence. My instructor was fond of the saying "Karate doesn't teach you how to fight, it teaches you how not to fight." What we learn in the dojang is a skill that one avoids using. It is the last resort, to be used when words fail, or when you don't have the option to run. That's right, run. Just because you can put that person in their place with your fists does not mean that you should.

This ties closely to self control, the fifth Tenet. No matter how angry you get or how badly you want to hit someone, Doing so for such selfish and petty reasons isn't right. A proper martial artist does not bow to their own whims and always remains in control. Like the gun or knife, an accident or unintended abuse of martial arts can have severe consequences.

Integrity and self control aren't reserved for the dojang, though. If you avoid immoral use of violence seriously, but are otherwise predisposed to bad behaviors, you have only taken the surface of the Tenets to heart. If you keep your use of violence in check, but are not otherwise disciplined, you haven't truly learned self control. 

This is the hardest part of the Tenets. It can be easy to just keep the good behavior in the dojang, never use your skills at all, but outside of practice you are rude, angry, and immoral. I've seen it dozens of times, even by those who reached the rank of black belt. A belt, a uniform, and a few years of doing drills in a class doesn't make you a martial artist, it makes you a dabbler, or at best just an athlete. 

I've internalized integrity very strongly. I have a distinct opinion of right and wrong, and I do my best to stick to it. Self control, however, has never been my strong suit. I am a lazy glutton who likes to sleep. But I'm working on it. The key to the Tenets is that they give you something to aspire to. No one is born with a complete martial artist mindset. It is something grown, nurtured, and maintained over time. 

Next time, I'll try to cover concentration, respect and obedience, and humility.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Dealing with a Stumble

As you may have noticed, I haven't posted in a very long time. Almost a full month, in fact. This is due to several different occurrences, some good and some bad, that left me tired and distracted. Over the last month, I barely exercised, ate poorly, but was more social and busy doing twelve different things at once. While I left off preparing to talk about Tang Soo Do's Seven Tenets, I think I have a better idea for a post today. I can come back to that later, but I think now is a good time to discuss what to do when you seem to have fallen off the wagon.

This sort of thing happens frequently to people who are trying to make serious life changes. Smokers trying to quit, someone trying a new diet, it's very easy for one little cheat to turn into a return to old habits. For me, my attempt to delve into serious martial arts training and practices is very similar. My personal weakness is laziness. If don't feel like the choice is beyond my control, that it's at my own discretion and not being demanded of me by someone else, I usually won't do it. I like to sleep, I don't like filling out forms or applications, and I'd rather sit at a computer and do nothing all day, if given the chance. My endeavor into martial arts is partially about trying to break that lazy streak, to get myself going and moving on my own, but as we have evidence of from the last month, I kind of really, REALLY suck at it.

So what do you do when you fall off the horse? You get up and try again.

This is a sentiment that is so frequently repeated there are multiple clichés for it. Falling off a bike, the wagon, a horse, stumbling, tripping, so on. I like clichés, because they tell us that this isn't an original problem. Having trouble keeping up a new, healthy habit or simply reverting to old ways isn't something that's only ever happened to me (or you). People  have tripped up and lost their way since our ancestors were living in caves, which brings me to my first reflection on what to do when you have a hiccup in your diligence.

You have to remember that it's ok.

I won't lie, when it finally hit me that I'd slacked off so hard over this last month, I felt like someone had stabbed me in the heart with a rusty knife. That stinging guilt of failure by your own hands is something that's I'm familiar with, but never get used to. I'd let people down, if only a few, but I'd also let myself down. When I sat down to write this post, I was telling someone how crappy my day felt because of how disappointed in myself I was. I'd let more than just my blogging fall to the wayside, and I'd neglected to do many things over the last month that I had needed to get done, or promised someone I'd do. However, as I continued to write I realized that what I need to do isn't to feel angry at myself but to accept that it happened and move on. This happens to plenty of people, and I'm not any better or worse than anyone else because I did it too.

People are complex things that don't make sense, and I can make less sense than most. People will set goals and then we'll sabotage ourselves, then feel angry for it. But in the end, we aren't lesser for having done so. When you lose track of yourself and your goals, so long as you recognize that it happened and are willing to try again, it's ok. It's not the end of the world, you aren't a piece of trash, and you shouldn't get angry at yourself. Which brings me to the next reflection on this situation, deciding what to do next.

One of the most common Einstein quotes is "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." When you want to get back into your desired life change, you have to pinpoint where you went wrong, or else you will lose your way again. Part of my stumble was external, that the gym was closed for the last half of May and I hadn't known, thus throwing my workout routine for a loop. This is only half of it, because my personal philosophy on exercise is that if you want to do it, you don't need a gym. My habits fell apart because I let the gym closure stop me. Once I ceased exercising, everything else followed. My sleep schedule changed because I wasn't expending as much energy during the day, my eating changed because I'd wake up at a different time or wouldn't make food because I didn't feel like it, as my lethargy increases when not exercising. I was out of my house most of the day for 6 days a week, which helped my mood stay up, and I was social and making progress with certain projects, but I wasn't spending my time efficiently, another side effect of not including a daily workout in my routine.

Moving forward, I'm going to try to be more aware of this weak point. I am a creature of habit, and if I let my new habits slide, my old ones will perk up at the first opportunity. Starting this afternoon, I'll try to get my lazy butt back into gear, even if it's a low one.

I can close off this post by bringing up the Tenets, like I had mentioned before. This is a little out of order, but I feel it is appropriate. The seventh Tenet of Tang Soo Do is indomitable spirit. A martial artist doesn't let mistakes bring him or her low. Defeat is not complete until you accept it within yourself, and this setback is not truly a defeat for me. I have stumbled, yes, and lost some progress, but in doing so I have learned more about how I function and what I need to do to succeed, and I can take that knowledge and turn towards the path again with new vigor and confidence.

No battle is lost if you can still imagine victory.