(Excerpts from Taekwondo & World Martial Arts, by Prof. Lee, Kyu Seok)
The traditional Korean religion appears to have originated in the earliest time of the Korean people, when the first Koreans migrated across the Altai Mountains and settled into the peninsula. Religion has been historically influenced by the three major schools of oriental thoughts, namely Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism.
Proof of this fact can be seen in the names of the ancient Shamans and the Rituals of the Heavens. Those faiths, along with new schools of thought, The interpretation of traditional Korean philosophic thoughts varies according to what scholar is doing I did his interpretation including Eastern Studies.
Jeunsan and the Great Religion have all contributed to traditional Korean philosophy. Korean traditional philosophy does, however vary in interpretation, with different interpretations among scholars.
The formation of Tangun thought can be traced to the worship of heaven and the concept of humanitarianism. It is reminiscent of the Buddhist concept of mercy and emancipation, Confucian humanity and meditation, and the Taoist nature of inactivity and concept of a supernatural being.
These concepts have formed an unbroken tradition in Korean philosophic thoughts and are, even today, a part of any religion a Korean person may embrace. Accordingly, Taekwondo philosophic thought has also been influenced by these concepts.
Korean Traditional religion promoted the creation of martial arts such as Taekwondo in the performance of the Feast to the Heavens. The practice of martial arts involves mental concentration much like that required by the Shaman practicing his/her traditional rituals.
A person who could perform acts beyond normal human control was thought to have been haunted by a supernatural spirit. While the offering of sacrifice is not a part of traditional Korean religion, the idea of self-sacrifice manifested in the observance of Tabooism and the abandonment of the disciple's private life for that of the religious life has also been espoused by Taekwondo practitioners.
Taekwondo and other oriental martial arts were highly influenced by such ideas as that the state of divinity can be found in the condition of perfect self-effacement and impassivity. Buddhism influenced Taekwondo through its beliefs in contemplation and mental concentration.
Above all, as shown in the Five Buddhist Commandments, Buddhist ideology greatly influenced the manner in which the practitioner could use his acquired skills. The code of conduct practiced by all Taekwondo practitioners, which requires that the juniors respect and learn from their seniors, was influenced by Buddhism.
These codes also highly influenced by other Oriental schools of thoughts, provided the solid organization character of Taekwondo. Taoist ideology helped to define the ultimate goal of Taekwondo practitioners namely to rise to the state of the pure martial artist, and taught Taekwondo that meditation, as well as physical training, could help its practitioners achieve that cherished state.
Taoist philosophy teaches that no one can become a true human being except through contemplation, impassivity, and inactivity. There are many Korean tales of masters who were very severe with new students.
So severe that only the truest man could develop the right mental attitude and could be accepted as a true student. This test of character is often found in the teaching of Taekwondo even today.
Taekwondo practitioners are often very self-motivated in practicing for self-development, self-defense, and good health. But every Taekwondo practitioner must understand that he/she must study long and diligently to develop the proper mental discipline.
To learn Taekwondo is to gain physical skills, while simultaneously intensifying spiritual strength. The necessary virtues of a Taekwondo practitioner include, among others, courage, boldness, thoughtfulness, composure, endurance and promptness.
The most important codes of behavior are self-denial, taking initiative, and the observance of courtesy. Self-denial means overcoming such faults as avarice, impulse and passion.
Taekwondo practitioners must resist idleness and distraction and, instead, plan their goals and heartedly whole give their best efforts to achieve those goals. Taekwondo practitioners must take the initiative to set a good example to both their seniors and juniors, not only by their Taekwondo skills, but by all of their words and deeds as well.
Seniors and instructors must take the initiative to pass on Taekwondo as more than a set of skills to be mastered, but even more importantly, as a tradition and a philosophy of life. The practitioner must embrace a humanitarian code of ethics to strive for spiritual cultivation.
Courtesy must be observed so that social order can be maintained. This right behavior will foster mutual respect for all things so that the strong will not always have their way at the expense of the weak.
The observance of manners is extremely important to Taekwondo practitioners to temper the strength and skill gained through daily practice. Other basic codes the practitioners must follow are protecting the weak, fighting for justice and always keeping faith.
As each individual benefits from his/her service and instruction to others, society as a whole will also benefit. Perhaps the ultimate goal of Taekwondo philosophy is to play a center role in national development through individual development.
The final goal is to achieve harmony with nature and the self. Balance is gained by controlling both evil and good forces (Yin vs. Yang): A true Taekwondo practitioner knows how to behave in all situations.
The goal of practice is to make the practitioner a true human being. That is, along with man's physical condition, Taekwondo is oriented towards improving man's mental frame of mind.
The philosophical goal of Taekwondo is to direct teach practitioners the principles of peace-oriented techniques and the concept of using constant discipline to broaden one's horizon and enrich one's life through constant discipline. The martial art spirit of Taekwondo is the pursuit of the virtue of human life in a spiritual way through the cultivation of ones own character.
Master only the techniques of Taekwondo amount to practicing martial arts and nothing more.