Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Seven Tenets Part 3: Perseverance and Indomitable Spirit

To top off my discussion of the Seven Tenets of Tang Soo Do, we're going to discuss Perseverance and Indomitable Spirit. The two, quite obviously, go hand in hand. In fact, for a very long time I considered them to be redundant, as they can both be summed up by saying 'never quit'. However, there is an acute difference between the two.

Indomitable spirit is a refusal to accept defeat and to continue pushing forward.

Perseverance is the refusal to stop no matter the difficulty faced.

Essentially, Indomitable Spirit is a resilience in the face of defeat, while Perseverance is resilience in the face of resistance. There is some overlap, but there are, to me at least, clear instances in which only one applies. To best demonstrate this, I'm going to pull out a pair of anecdotes.

For my particular Dojang, our black belt tests involve a times 3 mile run with pushups, sit ups, and jumping jacks. As you go up in the ranks, you have to fit more of the calisthenics into the same time frame (the run stays constant). At the test for my second degree, I found myself pushing the time limit at the end of the run. Nothing too close to risk not passing, but enough that I decided to pick up the pace on the last lap. As it turns out, this was not a good call. Three-quarters of the way around the track where the test was being held, I passed out. I fell over, threw up, and blacked out for about a minute. I regained consciousness to my instructor saying my name and asking if I was alright. I don't think I spoke, but I nodded, got up, and walked the rest of the way.

To me, this is perseverance. I stumbled and fell, quite literally, but did not give up. I could have stopped if I chose. With a quarter of the track left out of sixteen laps, my instructor would probably have pitied me an counted it, even if I got back to the finish line beyond the time limit. However, it was important to me that I finish what I started with integrity. I finished in 58 minutes.

To contrast, the tests also include two other portions focused on techniques, knowledge, and skill. The first time I took the test, I passed the first to portions without a hitch. However, between week two and three, I had an accident. I, humorously enough, tripped over my neighbor's dog while playing with it and hyper-extended my elbow. Not damaging enough to break it, but enough to make me very worried about the test. I get to the last day of the test, my arm bandaged up. There's maybe twenty people crammed into our Dojang to watch the three of us test. I get through about twenty minutes before something we do jars my elbow. Suddenly, I can't move my hand and my entire arm is replaced with a sharp, stabbing pain. I'm forced, in front of everyone, with tears in my eyes, to leave the test, becoming the first, and to my knowledge, only student from my Dojang to leave any test without completing it.

I was upset for maybe three hours. I distinctly remember lying in my bed staring at the ceiling, feeling sorry for myself. However, eventually the disappointment and embarrassment melted away, and I just accept that what happened happened, and in six months I'll be able to test again. And, sure enough, six months later I passed with flying colors.

This is it indomitable spirit. The ability to lose. Everyone loses at some time or another, and it is how we deal with loss that reflects who we are. A martial artist will grow from their loss, understand what it meant as a reflection of themselves, and build upon that knowledge to achieve success in the future. For me, my failure at the test taught me to respect my body more. It is better to understand where to draw the line than to leap across it without thinking, especially if you intend for that line to move farther away.

These two traits together make up the mindset of a martial artist when it comes to adversity. When faced with a challenge, a martial artist will not abandon their task because it becomes too hard, and when they fail, a martial artist does not wallow in self pity or blame others, they accept responsibility and learn from their shortcomings.

These are the Seven Tenets, and they reflect the proper mindset and traits of a Tang Soo Do practitioner. One must maintain integrity, concentration, perseverance, respect and obedience, self control, humility, and indomitable spirit to truly embody what it means to practice Tang Soo Do. Different styles hold different traits to higher regard, but almost all styles have a core philosophy like this. As I continue my journey, I am sure I will encounter new approaches to the idea of a martial artist, and as I discover new things I will share them here.

So ends my discussion of the Seven Tenets of Tang Soo Do. For now.

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