Live the Tenets

Pete Cossey, 1st Dan, Hwa-Rang, Tauranga.


It’s not a great feeling being punched in the face – especially when it is your 17 year old son and you asked him to go gentle on you.  Then after that, a few minutes later his “gentle” side kick lands in your stomach causing you to keel over and gasp for air. Self-control isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind, although it should be, as any sort of revenge or retaliating would be foolish.

The tenets of Taekwon-Do are virtues that reflect a high moral standard. They are Courtesy (Ye Ui), Integrity (Yom Chi), Perseverance (In Nae), Self Control (Guk Gi), and Indomitable Spirit (Baekjool Boolgool). Every Taekwon-Do practitioners has the name of each tenet memorised and at least a couple of times a week we renew our commitment to these virtues when we say that we will observe the tenets in the first line of the Student Oath. How well do you take on board the tenets both inside and outside the do-jang?


Courtesy (Ye Ui, pronounced ye-wee)

Last year I had the privilege of being a supporter at the World Champs in Dublin, Ireland. I was surprised at how many Masters were present, by my count 101 Masters attended. It reminded me of the importance to being courteous to others. Many of the Masters’ wore their formal gold ties so you could pull yourself back from racing through a door to be courteous, and respectful. But they didn’t always wear the tie so it was a good habit to be courteous to everyone. It is easy to get into a habit of racing around everywhere but in the process you tend to put yourself first, you know first out the door, first in the door, first to rush off to do something …. let’s make an effort to put others first.

Master Alberto Katz (closest) and Master Abelado Benzaquen (both from Argentina): Photo by Jackie Strachan, Atyok Sports Photography


Integrity (Yom Chi, pronounced yom-chee)

I bought a van from Hamilton a few weeks ago, according to the advert it was in great condition. Upon seeing the van I was rather surprised that the seller could claim it was in good condition when it had obviously been trashed from a cosmetic point of view – evidently used to take Kiwi fruit pickers around the orchards … I tend to think the better of people so after a test drive I handed over the money and went on my way thinking ‘ it just needs a bit of a clean’. The departing comment from the seller was ‘it pays to have it running for 5 minutes or so before you use it’. Interesting. So I drove it back to Tauranga, seemed okay. Next morning however when I tried to drive it out of my driveway it could barely move, it was like treading water, it really should have moved forward … It would indeed be a better world if we all had integrity! Having integrity is about being honest, truthful and not corruptible.

According to integrity literally means having “wholeness” of character, just as an integer is a “whole number” with no fractions. Now that we are taking about numbers, when in a TKD class and you are told to do 20 press-ups, do you have integrity? Do you try for 20 or settle on less.

Lots of yellow ties.  Photo by Jackie Strachan, Atyok Sports Photography


Perseverance (In Nae, pronounced een-nay)

A few people seem to be naturally great at everything; most of us however, encounter at least a few things that prove to be a challenge. One of my big challenges is destruction. My body seems to automatically try and preserve itself as much as I try to command it to submit and hit the target!

What do you find difficult or a challenge? I remember watching my son doing speciality kicks and he would try for hours to hit high targets, he persisted for months and months and eventually he was able to move the heights up. Or for you maybe its perfecting patterns before a grading and you just keep getting them mixed up. At times it can seem to be an endless process of re-learning and being reminded of things you have been told before. What is needed is perseverance. Success is not often immediate; perseverance is working on something even when there is a delay in achieving success.


Self-Control (Guk Gi, pronounced gook-gee)

When everything is going smoothly and your way it’s easy to be self-controlled. On the other hand, when things go wrong or you don’t get your own way, well that is when you need to pay particular attention to the way you (“self”) respond to the situation. Self-control is about keeping yourself in check. Forcing yourself to be patient with the situation or person. For me it’s a tenet that especially comes into play with sparring and destruction because that is more likely to be the time when I get hurt! It’s not only having control physically of your actions, but also emotionally and with what you think and say. If you drive a car you often need to exercise self-control when you think or perceive another person has done you an injustice. There is no end to daily situations where you can decide to exercise self-control and like physical exercise and building muscle it is not until you exercise self-control that you get better at being self-controlled.

                                                               Photo by Jackie Strachan, Atyok Sports Photography


Indomitable Spirit (Baekjool Boolgool, pronounced beckjool boolgool)

Having an Indomitable Spirit, may sound a bit weird, but think of someone who keeps on fighting and never gives up, they appear “impossible to subdue or defeat”. They are strong, brave, and determined, particularly someone who has the courage to stand up for something that they believe is right. Again, according to the word indomitable starts with the Latin prefix in, which means “not” and the second part is from the Latin word domitare, meaning “to tame.” So the word literally means “not able to be tamed.” When we team the word indomitable with the word spirit it describes someone with a can-do attitude.


Live the Tenets

So remember to apply the tenets to your everyday life. Be polite to others (Courtesy), be honest (Integrity), don’t give up (Perseverance), control yourself (Self-Control), and have a can-do attitude (Indomitable Spirit). Taekwon.