Friday, July 29, 2005


Master Hughes often gives a little talk at the end of class. I believe it's meant to be inspiring. Sometimes it is.

Imagine me giving one of those talks . . . here's one I would give

So tell me. What's the most important move we do in Tae Kwon Do?

No, not Kwanzu, though that's a cool move.

Nope, the first and last moves of our form are very important, but not the most important.

Here's a hint. It's the first move we do in TKD.

No, not horse-stance-middle-punch. Before that. I'll give you a hint. You do it before you even enter the room.

Yes! Bowing.

Let's all practice bowing. Think about it as you do it. What does this movement mean to you?

Cheryot! Kun Yeh!

When you bow, you bend over at the waist. You make yourself smaller. You make yourself vulnerable. That's one reason why bowing is important. It reminds us to show humility. That means we don't think too much of ourselves in TKD. We bow to Master Hughes and black belts, but we also bow to white belts and those of our rank. This reminds us that we should respect those around us, and always be ready to help them and put their needs before our own, no matter what the rank.

When you bow, you also have to stop what you're doing. I love watching you young kids run through the dojang at top speed, but then stop to bow at the door! You're reminding yourself of who you are right there at the doorway: you are a martial artist, practicing a new art. You have to stop in the middle of your busy activity to bow, just the way we all stop in the middle of our week to practice with one another. Someone once wrote that we bow to show respect for the moment. In TKD, we have to be "in the moment. We can't do our form right or do a break if we're worried about what's coming next or fretting about what we just did wrong. Bowing reminds us to slow down and be "in the moment"

I think the most important thing we learn from this move, though, was something Ms. Pryor said here a few months ago. She asked us why we bow, and some of us gave different answers: to show respect to you, our teacher. To show respect to the flag. But Ms. Pryor had a different answer in mind.

"It's to show respect for this place and what goes on here."

Every time we bow, we humble ourselves to the moments of learning and teaching that go on here in the dojang. When we bow, we show that we submit ourselves to the training we receive here. We stop in our daily lives to be here--even on hot nights in the summer, or during the year, when we could be busy with shopping, studying, or watching TV.

Next time you bow, try to remember how important this little move is. It's not a fighter's move. It's the move of a martial artist, one who is willing to be changed by what happens in these moments we have here, and maybe even let the study of Tae Kwon Do be a part of life.

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