Did you know that there are five tenets of Tae Kwon Do? These are five core beliefs or character qualities that all of us should be working to develop in our Tae Kwon Do practice and in all areas of our life. They are Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control and Indomitable Spirit. That’s a pretty impressive list, and much could be said about each of them, but in this article I want to talk a little bit about that last one. What does it mean to have an Indomitable Spirit?
The dictionary defines Indomitable as “Incapable of being overcome, subdued, or vanquished; unconquerable.” It’s closely related to the third tenet of Perseverance, but it conveys an even stronger idea of staying strong and sticking to your beliefs and convictions against seemingly insurmountable odds. It also contains the idea of rising above our failures and weaknesses. A person with an indomitable spirit may get knocked down, but they get back up each time and keep going in pursuit of their goals.
If you have been at our school for a little while, you have probably heard the definition of a Black Belt from the founder of the U.S. Chung Do Kwan Association, the late Senior Grandmaster Edward B. Sell. He taught us that “A Black Belt is a white belt that never quits”. I have heard that definition many times, but it was not until recently that I heard a story about Senior Grandmaster and how he demonstrated this in his personal journey. In April of last year Grandmaster Brenda Sell was in Louisville for the Midwest Regional Training Conference. As she talked with us, she shared a story about her husband and how he had actually failed his brown belt grading exam when he was moving through the colored belt ranks. I was shocked to hear that. Because of all that he accomplished in Tae Kwon Do and in his life, I had never thought about him actually failing at anything he had tried to do in his martial arts training. She went on to tell us what he did after failing that test. She said he took a few days to re-group and refocus, and then he doubled his efforts and went back to work to get ready to test again. He was in the Air Force in Korea at the time, and she said when he was on guard duty on the flight line, he would actually practice his forms and techniques each day right on the flight line during his breaks. In a few months he retook the test and passed with a very high score. We all know the rest of his story, how he went on to become the highest ranked non-Asian Tae Kwon Do master in the world and founded the U.S. Chung Do Kwan Association. Think for a minute about the impact he was able to have, and what would have happened if he had become discouraged and quit practicing after that first brown belt test. There would be no USCDKA, and none of us, or any of the thousands of students and black belts who have trained under him and his system, would have benefited from his teaching. I’m glad he had an Indomitable Spirit and did not give up!
Developing an Indomitable Spirit will help us reach our goals in Tae Kwon Do, but it will also help us in all areas of our lives. All of us face challenges in our jobs, in our families and personal struggles. If we develop an Indomitable Spirit, we can face these challenges and overcome our own failures and weaknesses. I heard a Japanese proverb that summarizes really well what it means to have an Indomitable Spirit. It says simply, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”
Written by Glenn Choat