Taekwondo is more than just being a "ninja"

Many times over the years I have heard that parents enroll their kids in martial arts because their child wants to be a ninja. I, alongside my older brother, wanted to take Karate when we were kids because of our amazement with Daniel LaRusso and Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid films. Much like how professional athletes inspire young athletes to join a soccer or basketball team, children look up to and want to become their role models. In the US, where professional martial artists are not well known, children see movies like Ninjago and Kung Fu Panda (and The Karate Kid) and want to do all of the cool tricks and magic-like techniques they see on film. When my brother and I finally were given the chance to join a martial arts school, we quickly realized studying Taekwondo was way different than "sweeping the leg" and balancing on objects performing the "crane kick." Young students who join Becks Martial Arts also realize that being a ninja is not quite the same as climbing walls and doing a triple backflip to escape danger. White belt students undergo a quick orientation in what is like to be a Taekwondo student, a hagsaeng (학생), and most students soon drop the guise of being an experienced covert ninja assassin and humble themselves to accept they actually know nothing about being a ninja. That is when they start learning more important qualities about themselves and life in general. Humbling ourselves to admit we are a novice at something is the beginning of becoming a master at our new interests or specialized fields. In the Korean language, Hungul, the word chosim (초심), is translated to English as "a beginner's intention." Chosim is having an open-mind, an eagerness to learn, and the ability to not let preconceptions about the subject inhibit the student's learning process. I allow my students discover how to be the best beginner student they can be on their own, because ego and pride are a force within us that only the individual can curtail. Young students need the guidance of their parents and other family members to help them in this process, as well as the help from their new Taekwondo instructor, or sabumnim (사범님) and classmates. Adult students are not adverse to this process either. In fact, beginner adult students are less likely than children to easily adopt chosim in their new Taekwondo practice. As adults, we pride ourselves at not being beginners at much. In education, professional careers, parenting, sports, negotiating, I can go on and on; adults are proud to be experienced in life, as we should be. Having experience in life is a way we earn respect from others. It is a way we stand out and become seen by others as unique in some ways. So as adults, we are usually thrown out of our comfort zone when faced with starting something new. New adult students of Taekwondo must overcome much more than children to tie on a white belt and start their journey. It is one main reason I see so many adults give up and not earn a black belt. Chosim, however, is not a bad thing. It is a necessary step in growth. Uncomfortable as it may be for some, its is the first step in learning something new, as an open minded beginner, willing to be humble and admit that "I know nothing." So for young students and adult students alike, encourage yourself and your loved ones to accept chosim in order to become the master you and they can be!

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