My Future Goals in TKD and Why I Want to Achieve Them

The Spirit of the Martial Arts. What is it really, and how does it relate to our training and daily lives?

A quick way to understand an abstract notion is draw references from the tangible world. Study important people and their work, picture their actions and for a moment live their lives. Let’s try this together:

Leonidas, the great warrior King of Sparta, lived in Ancient Greece, 2500 years ago. His enemies came by the thousands to conquer his country but he stood in their way along with his 300 men. His fate was sealed. Nevertheless, he chose to empower future generations with a profound message he shouted at the enemy: “Μολών Λαβέ” (molon labé). You want our land? “Come and Get It!” His indomitable spirit went on to live for centuries. Today, we even make movies about it.

When I was a kid I knew of another great hero. This one was my contemporary and I soon found out that not only he was an awe-inspiring movie action hero, but he was also a legendary martial artist and a philosopher in real life. His name was … Bruce Lee. He spoke of defeat as only a state of mind. He taught that our mind determines the end result. He spoke of water inside a glass. The water always takes the shape of any glass. Be water, my friend. That, is the Way. Similarly, our own Grandmaster Kim’s recently taught me: “Adjust to any situation, any time, anywhere”.

Musashi was another great warrior and philosopher who lived in the 1600’s and went undefeated for more than sixty duels to the death. A proficient painter and carpenter himself, he encouraged his students to learn the Arts and study philosophy as a way of becoming better Martial Artists. And vice versa.

One of Musashi’s most well-known paintings is “The Shrike on a Branch”. It’s nothing but a bird sitting at the top of a branch next to some river bed. Or is it! Well, art scholars make point to the precision of the painting. It is obvious that the skillful swordsman painted the tree branch with a single brush stroke. They also talk about how “empty” the painting is, yet it manages to maintain balance.

Now, if you watch carefully, you will realize that what initially appears as a random squiggle midway on the branch, is really a caterpillar climbing up, towards the shrike. So, the shrike is waiting for the caterpillar! But for martial artists, especially those who have studied Musashi’s life, there is much more: A martial artist always thinks two or more steps ahead. The bird is waiting for the “big fish”. Literally! Waits for the caterpillar to fall, and a fish to jump out of the water to catch the caterpillar. The fish is the huge payout for the shrike, with minimum effort. Embrace the emptiness to see the whole picture.

Leonidas with his indomitable spirit, Bruce Lee with his teachings, Musashi with his long legacy and Grandmaster Kim with the roar that can bring down mountains, are the embodiment of The Spirit of The Martial Arts.

It is my goal to practice more the application of the martial arts through the in-depth study and performance of the poomsae patterns. The Spirit of the Martial Arts is hidden in there, in every block, punch and kick, in every takedown and in every eye-poking and deadly neck-breaking move. Better understanding leads to a better, more balanced, healthy and peaceful life. That’s The Way.