Life Lessons From Taekwondo

Feb 20, 2015 1 Min Read


A way of life. To me, these four words best describe one of the most recognisable forms of martial arts: taekwondo.

Unlike other oriental martial arts, taekwondo is a rather dynamic sport with active movements that include a variety of foot skills.

I honestly cannot remember a time in which this sport was not a part of me.

At this juncture, perhaps it’s best I let you know, that the views and opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

It is purely my reflection on the knowledge acquired throughout my years in taekwondo, in which I have chosen to put forth as life lessons (though I’m always learning something new during each training session).

Respecting others

After being introduced to this sport 10 years ago, the first thing that caught my attention was the act of bowing to one another.

This simple act is done not only towards the instructor but also to senior students and your opponents.

I used to wonder:

“Why do it?”

At that tender, young age, I did not seek to question but merely obeyed. It was only later that I began to understand the significance of this act. The answer was respect.

This was a valuable lesson as it is one that can and should be emulated in the workplace today.

Yes, it is a given that we all show respect towards our friends and superiors but often times we do not show it to our foes.

I can already hear some of you yelling in disapproval:

“Respect a foe? That’s crazy!”

It is not an absurd idea, for the ability to show respect to those whom you disagree with speaks volumes of your own character.

The power of perseverance

Perseverance is a fundamental value of taekwondo. It is gained only through the honing of both physical and mental strength.

One cannot exist without the other, for it is only with both that students are able to reach the status of a competent black belt holder.

The initial period of strength and flexibility training is one that every taekwondo athlete will remember.

Every drop of sweat and tears shed were in the hopes of creating a better self. These are the formative years where both physical and mental strength are cultivated.

However, it is only during a sparring competition (one-to-one combat) that the power of one’s perseverance is truly tested.

I say this because, during training sessions, it is always a familiar face that greets you on the mat.

In a competition, the familiar face is replaced by your opponent’s face, with the single-minded aim of beating you to win the competition.

Facing your opponent, you have three options:

  • to give up by not appearing at all (mind you, it really does happen)
  • to give in by stepping onto the mat with defeat clouding your mind
  • to give it all you’ve got by going in with the unwavering belief that you will emerge victorious.

Likewise, in the workplace, we should not give up too easily. The human spirit is capable of wonders, sometimes far beyond that we can possibly imagine.

We should welcome adversity from time to time, for it is only in such moments, that we discover our character.

In team, we trust

Another aspect of taekwondo is the poomsae, which is a combination of fixed movements utilising both offensive and defensive techniques.

Unlike sparring where the focus is on scoring points, the poomsae is all about form – the perfect execution of kicks and punches.

In a competition, the poomsae is usually separated into an individual and team event. The individual event is difficult enough, but the team event is even more difficult and challenging.

This is due to the fact that you now not only have to worry about your own movements but also that of your team, for synchronisation is the key to winning this event.

It is in the team event that you see “magic” happen before your very eyes.

How is it that some teams win while others don’t? Trust. The glue that holds them together.

You see, often times, each member in the team is unable to see the other’s movement, yet they move in such perfect synchronisation that one finds it hard to comprehend their ability to do so.

Those who master the poomsae team event are truly a sight to behold with their unified shouts and their flawless face-level kicks.

Similarly, in the workplace, we should have faith in our colleagues. A goal is only achievable if the bond of trust holds the team together.

That being said, each member should put the team as their first priority and not behave in a self-serving manner.

Concluding thoughts

Taekwondo has many life lessons to offer that are very much applicable to one’s worklife. These lessons are just a few that I have highlighted, but who knows, perhaps once you have decided to join this ancient martial art, you may uncover other lessons.

My decision to join taekwondo is one that has altered the course of my destiny.

Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken, comes to mind where one’s life is made up of the choices one makes. Without a shred of doubt, I know that this was always meant to be “and that has made all the difference”.

Dinesh has a passion for developing young minds and strongly believes that regardless of age, it is important to keep one’s “spark” burning brightly. To engage with Dinesh, drop him a line or two in the comment box below or email us at For more Starting Young articles, click here.

Published in English daily The Star, Malaysia, 21 February 2015

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