Philosophy of Taekwon Do Fundamentals

The five fundamental principles or tenets of (ITF) Taekwon Do are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable (unconquerable) spirit. Once, a 3. Dan (third level black belt) asked me which of the principles was the most important. After some contemplation, I realized self-control embodies the other four principles and concluded that self-control is the most important fundamental principle of Taekwon Do.

After further contemplation, however, I realized that my conclusion depends on an unsettling premise; it requires that self-control is necessary to be courtly; that self-control is necessary to maintain integrity, and so on. In other words, that self-control is the most important principle implies that humans are inherently impolite, corrupt, lazy, and have a weak  spirit; self-control is needed to control the in-built human features.

The premise that humans are inherently impolite, corrupt, lazy, and spiritless is not necessarily wrong, but certainly implies a negative view of things. If, instead, the premise was that humans are polite, honest, persevere, and spirited, as part of a more positive view, self-control would not be required, it would not embody all other principles, and the five principles would be of equal value.

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