The spirituality of Taekwondo

Originally Appeared in : 9906-3/14/19

Having a toddler race toward you with a Tinker Toy sword shouting “ninja” may sound harmless, but it’s more harrowing than you might think. Especially, when you’re certain he’s not only confident in his abilities, but also full of his mother’s follow-through for getting things done.


“No Isaac, no ninja,” I said.


“Yes sir” he replied, hands by his side as if he’d correctly completed a lesson from Mr. Miyagi.


Thanks to a free month trial from a local Taekwondo studio, the martial arts had found their way to the Halcombe house. Besides the customary kicks, punches and running around paired with shouts of “hi-yah,” any reply to Magan or myself was concluded with an equally loud “yes ma’am” or “yes sir” all thanks to Master Cordry, their instructor.


For the first two-and-a-half weeks, I had to regularly request that all of Cherokee Rose Taekwondo’s newest white-belts-in-training refrain from single, double or reverse kick/block/punch/rolls near our TV. In their defense, they were simply trying to show off their new moves to their Pops but, ever the overcautious dad, I didn’t want their moves to precipitate a trip to the store to buy a new TV with all of our Hi-Yah savings.


Breakfast time included repetition of the Korean number system or an obscure passage from the Book of Numbers (hana, dul, set, net, daseot, yeoseot, ilgop, yeodeol, ahop, yeol) by everyone, including Taekwondo spectators AnnaMarie and Isaac, while I hollered the third verse of the Taekwondo Student Oath, “I will not misuse Taekwondo,” in any direction where loud noises and potential violations were taking place across the house and yard.


It wasn’t until the President’s Day holiday that I finally got the opportunity to witness their training firsthand, and in the first minutes it looked like all they were going to do was beat on punch dummies and roll around the floor in search of a staph infection. Master Cordry was wrapping up paperwork tied to a tournament that had taken place the previous weekend, and only spoke briefly to Simon, Jesse and Eli as she let them continue to free range.


I was starting to get suspicious of the whole training session until Master Cordry walked to the center of the mat and called her three pupils to attention. They all marched to their individual squares, and began their exercises in earnest.


By the end of the hour-long lesson, the boys were Chungi-ing here and walking across a fictitious creek there and, most importantly, heeding every one of Master Cordry’s commands like they were close to taking on Cobra Kai’s Johnny Lawrence in the All Valley finals.


With the month near a close, and the free trial about to conclude, it was a no-brainer to start paying for Master Cordry’s services (not to mention she gives a ridiculous discount for large families).


Magan’s and my interest in continuing the training had little to do with creating a Catholic version of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (although that sounds really cool now that I mention it), and everything to do with teaching them a valuable lesson that could impact both their day-to-day lives and their faith lives.


Respect, self-control and discipline are at the core of our walk as Catholics, whether through adherence to the Ten Commandments, regular prayer of the Rosary, or participation in activities like Adoration or Holy Days of Obligation.


Titus 1:8 calls for us to be “one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.” In a similar way, 2 Timothy 1:7 says “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”


Just like the boys are seeing the self-control, discipline and respect associated with Taekwondo, Magan and I hope they realize that when they harness that power for God’s will, great things, miracles even, can happen in their lives and for others.


For now, though, I think I’m about to have to remind Isaac about that third verse of the Student’s Oath and pray I get a “yes sir” in return, or risk a Tinker Toy knot on my noggin.


Jason Halcombe has five sons and two daughters. He and his wife, Magan, are members of Immaculate Conception Church, Dublin.

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