Statistics show that even in these times of recession and austerity over thirty million people including more than two million black belts currently practise Taekwon-do worldwide. What''''s even more interesting is that all of these people practise for different reasons. Children may practise Taekwon-do in order to learn self-defence skills to protect them from bullies at school, or to emulate their movie or TV heroes. Teenagers may be attracted to Taekwon-do by the competitive sporting aspect, or the positive self-image they can develop. For an adult, it may again be the self-defence aspect, or the physical and mental benefits gained through regular training. All of these are very noble reasons; so why then is Taekwon-do predominantly thought of as a physical art.

The benefits gained for practising Taekwon-do are manifold and not exclusively confined to just physical development. If an Instructor concentrates on just the physical aspect of Taekwon-do, then it follows that his students will be nothing more than sportsmen or athletes. With the onset of age, these physical attributes will fade and all that will remain will be a shadow or memory of one''''s former self and glory.
Regular training is important in so far as it develops the physical skills necessary to block, punch and kick etc. But we should never lose sight of the fact that the mind and body are interrelated and as a consequence, students should be taught to cultivate a healthy positive intellect along with a healthy disciplined body.

A Taekwon-do practitioner is a person of action. Without action, nothing is accomplished. For instance if you are sparring and you see your opponent coming forward with a strong side kick, and you fail to take appropriate action, i.e. block or side step, then you are going to get hit. Another example could be breaking several boards at a rank test. If you fail to strike with the proper speed, power and concentration, then the boards will not break and you will hurt your hand in the process. In both instances failure would occur due to the lack of mental preparedness and or positive action.
Positive action is always accompanied by certain positive mental characteristics, most notably self-confidence. Self-confidence is a major component of success, and is built on the foundation of previous success .We must learn from our experiences, so that we may succeed. Once this has been accomplished, true self-confidence will follow.

Even a small success promotes a degree of self-confidence, and can be used as a stepping stone for even greater success. For example when I first got my black belt it changed my life. For the first time I had achieved something difficult on my own. This new found belief in myself gave me the confidence and strength to accomplish much more. I try to explain to my students that from the time they break their first board or pass their first rank test, they will have put themselves on a pathway for life. A path if travelled with concentration and confidence will lead to other success, not just in their Taekwon-do but in their outside lives as well. When you accomplish something difficult, it gives you the strength or impetus to go onto further success.

Taekwon-do training also teaches us control- both physical and mental. For Instance when we are sparring we are taught to make sure that all our punches and kick are pulled short of our opponents target areas. If we do not, then we are going to seriously hurt one another. This is an example of physical control. We must also exercise mental control both inside and outside the dojang.

If we get into arguments, then we are responsible for what we say. Therefore we must learn to control our temper. There will always be conflict in your life if you demonstrate a lack of control in your personal relationships. Taekwon-do practitioners must control their behaviour in order to become role model for others.

Another great benefit of our Taekwon-do training is that it helps us to think in a positive fashion .We can all look at our lives in two ways, either positively or negatively. If we look at life positively, then you cannot sit around and wait for things to happen. You must make them happen. How can we do this? We can do it by setting goals for ourselves, working hard to achieve them and by never quitting or giving up.

It is important that we all set goals in our lives. To go through without goals is to lead a meaningless and unproductive existence. In setting goals, we accept the fact that there will be occasional setbacks and obstacles. However, if we continue to visualise our goals and work towards them, then it will only be a matter of time before we achieve them.

It is so easy nowadays to be influenced by negative thinking. There will always be people who will tell us that “you can’t do this” or you haven’t “a hope of doing that “. People like that are usually lazy and their advice will never help. A Classic example of negative thinking can be in found in people who try to seek refuge in drugs or alcohol. Many young people complain that they have no future, and try to escape their problems by taking drugs. Taekwon-do training with its positive benefits for our youth, can instil in our children the belief that you can achieve anything; regardless of the circumstances of birth or the level of education you possess.

Part of the Taekwon-do philosophy should be the setting and pursuance of goals. Having said that, it’s worth noting that we have the means to achieve these goals. The tools that we use are tactics and burning optimism. These qualities are gradually achieved by discipline, concentration and perseverance - commodities that are constantly being developed in our physical training in order to succeed.
This then is another example of the intrinsic link between our physical development and our mental development within Taekwon-do. Our spirit is freed through the physical action of the body. For instance, if someone has a good idea, that idea will always remain only a thought in their head unless it is acted upon and brought to realisation by physical action. Positive thought along with positive action creates a positive outcome.

Taekwon-do also teaches us self-improvement. We constantly train our body to develop stronger kicks and punches; better balance, co-ordination and timing. Since everything in our lives is open to improvement, we can also apply this search for perfection in our daily lives. The principle is the same whether it is trying to perform our job in a better fashion, working at improving our relationships with our loved ones, or trying to develop more powerful kicks and punches. This then is how Taekwon-do can truly become a way of life.

Taekwon-do is both an art of mastering certain physical skills and the way (DO) of living a more complete and happier life. Physically, it can help us get in better shape, lose weight and provide with an excellent means of self-defence. It can sharpen our reflexes, improve our co-ordination and supply us with a sport of global proportions.

Mentally Taekwon-do can provide us with much more; Instructors should teach students that the ultimate goal of Taekwon-do is self- mastery; the ability to control one’s self and one’s destiny. As we grow steadily older, our physical skills will gradually deteriorate; our techniques will lose some of their speed and our kicks will not be as high. However Taekwon-do is not merely an art of action; it is also a philosophy of life as taught by ITF President Grandmaster Choi Jung Hwa IX Dan who continues to promote his father General Choi Hong Hi’s Legacy. Such characteristics as courage, integrity, perseverance, self-confidence and indomitable spirit (all of which can be achieved through regular training in Taekwon-do) can never be taken away from us, not even with the passage of time.

By Master Norman Creedon VIII Degree
Taekwon-do Federation of Ireland