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  • Writer's pictureSpencer Bennington

The Joy of Kicking

Welcome back to Rhetorical Roundhouse! Last week I shared a tournament report from the Florida Tae Kwon Do Open. Again, congratulations to all competitors and kudos to our students from US Tae Kwon Do--everyone did an awesome job. If you haven't seen the videos from last week, go check them out!

This week's main topic is something that I think we all need to be reminded of from time to time, something seemingly simple but extremely important. Before I get to that though, I want to pause for a moment in celebration of Veteran's Day.

As a martial artist, I've been taught that fighting should always be a last resort. Many people bend the rules on this, however, and look for ways to indulge violent tendencies. Many others take this tenet seriously and only fight when absolutely necessary to protect one's self or loved ones. Even though I never met them, I'd like to think that my two grandfathers were in the second camp. From all accounts, both were loving, peaceful men, but both served in World War Two for a cause they deemed greater than themselves. I'm thankful for the sacrifices they made, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and I'm thankful for all the other veterans past and present who do the same thing every day.

My paternal grandfather, US Army veteran

My maternal grandfather, US Navy veteran

Honoring veterans is an important tradition for the legacy of Tae Kwon Do as well. In the contemporary politics of the sport, it can be easy to forget that Tae Kwon Do was spread to the West primarily through military training. Historical figures like General Choi Hong Hi and Nam Tae Hi and many other WW2 or Korean war Veterans popularized Tae Kwon Do through international demonstrations as well as sending military officers to train foreign armies. The way many of our famous Western movie stars like Chuck Norris first encountered Eastern martial arts like Tae Kwon Do was through such training during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. So, thank you to all the many veterans responsible for the spread and evolution of an art and sport that brings so much joy and peace to so many across the world.

Thanks to the kinds of sacrifices these and other veterans made, we get to live in a fairly peaceful time, one where I can write about today's main topic: finding joy in Tae Kwon Do.

For many of you, this might sound a bit redundant--of course there is joy in Tae Kwon Do, kicking things is super fun. But what I want to talk about today is just a reminder that, sometimes, it's important to break up intense and serious training with something that is purely for fun.

Here's an example...remember a while back when everyone was obsessed with the #bottlecapchallenge ? It was a fun time for Tae Kwon Do practitioners across the world because we got to make silly things like this:

I was reminded of the importance of having fun in training recently when I watched two of my teammates at US Tae Kwon Do brainstorm fun thigns they could do on their demo team. If there is an exemplary pair of seriously talented Tae Kwon Do practioners out there that have more fun than Sam and Eduardo, I'd like to meet them.

So recently I've been trying to have a bit more fun too. Maybe you saw my #pumkinsmashchallenge Halloween special on Instagram?

Beyond this I've decided to be a bit more loose about bringing my Tae Kwon Do self out to play in public. A couple weeks ago at the bowling alley I saw an arcade and just couldn't resist...

(Keep this one muted if you have small children cameraman was a bit excited by the kick!)

So why am I sharing all of this? Why is it important to be silly and find the fun joy in our training? Well, if you practice the Taegeuk forms, you should know that form two, Taegeuk Ee-Jang, symbolizes the tae principle of palgwe. This principle represents joyfulness and enthusiastic energy and reminds us to be kind, gentle, and convivial externally with a powerful internal energy. The first form reminds us of the creative energy we possess and then immediately after the second form reminds us to master this state of joyful energy. I don't think this is a coincidence. In fact, I think that if you stay too serious about your training, in any context, it becomes much harder to achieve new goals. For example, I've been working hard to master a new kick recently, but it wasn't until I took some breaks for all this silliness that I actually made some progress on the 540 roundhouse. It's not perfect, but it's a breakthrough.

So if you want to move forward and improve, never forget what got you to that level of determination in the first place. Never forget that we do this for fun, for the challenge, for the happiness it can bring us and others.

That's it for now. Next week I'll have a fancy research update regarding chapter 4 of my dissertation--it's getting down to the wire! In the next few weeks I should also be releasing some new additions to the pumsae poetry series (finally!)

As always, thanks for reading. And Happy Veteran's Day!


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