Is it Timing? Quick Reflexes? Sheer Determination? Novel Techniques?
by Hwa Chong with Patrick Harrigan
My congratulations to each and every competitor among you. You have survived years of basic training and risen through the ranks to the level of this championship. Now you will be put to the test.
What does ‘success’ mean?
Most athletes dream of one day becoming a champion. But a champion in a match or on the playground is not the same as a champion in life. What does it mean to be a champion? What does it mean ‘to succeed’ in life? What is ‘success’? Let me illustrate my point with an anecdote:
In medeival times, a man once encountered three masons who were building a cathedral. When asked what he was doing and why, the first mason replied, “I am building a cathedral for the glory of God. What could be greater than that?” The next mason explained that he was perfectly content to work for wages that enabled him to feed his family. The third mason frowned and complained bitterly that he was neither paid enough nor recognized for the superior quality of his work.
So which one of the three masons do you suppose was living the most successful life?
Our way of taekwondo may be compared to water. Of all the elements in nature, water is the most life-sustaining. Water is endlessly flexible; it assumes the shape of whatever contains it. Like water, we avoid attacking strong points head-on, but move around like water to attack weak points. While appearing to do nothing at all, water demonstrates the Way or Do (Tao) that we aim to imitate.
To become like water, firstly we must study ourselves, our ways and the ways of our competition. Once we identify an adversary’s weaknesses, we can see how to overcome him. If a technique fails, we do not try to out-do other competitors, but rather we aim to out-think them. We think ‘outside the box’, outside of conventional ways of thinking. Our thinking, our understanding is constantly evolving. Whether in life or on the battlefield, once we stop moving and evolving, we are finished.
David and Goliath
As an example, take the story of David and Goliath. Goliath was a giant warrior in his prime, while David was a mere shepherd boy. And yet, David faced Goliath full of confidence. How? Because he understood Goliath’s one weakness and knew how to defeat the giant when no one else even dared to try.
Taekwondo teaches us to step back and adopt fresh perspectives over and over, perspectives that expose our own weaknesses and those of others. From this position of humility, one is ready to serve humanity. That is the purpose and function of taekwondo.
I wish you every success. But it is up to you to choose your goals. Choose a goal that serves humanity rather than self-interest.
World Kangdukwon Federation