23 September 2009
What I Have Learnt So FarWhen I first encountered Tang Soo Do, I was a scrawny 13-year-old boy with no sense of structure. After 5 years of being taught Tang Soo Do by Master Bell, I am completely different both physically and mentally. The lessons I learnt from Tang Soo Do have given me the knowledge to make better decisions—decisions that have improved the quality of my life. With my current level of understanding, I will write about some of these lessons.
Knowing how to learn is extremely important, as it is a basis for all other lessons. It took me 4 years to learn this lesson. Applying this lesson, I have greatly improved my life in most aspects including school and family. In my experience, the most important aspect of learning has been training on my own. There are a few reasons for this. First, when I train at home, I am able to pause and see the mistakes in my techniques. Second, training gives me time to fix those mistakes, as class time alone is not enough for this. Third, training gives me immediate comfort. After exercising, my body is stronger, my mind is better able to focus, and my breathing is smoother. After studying, I feel good knowing that I have gained some knowledge.
Increasing awareness is another important skill I have learnt. One way I increase my awareness is by physically opening my eyes wider. Although I do not fully understand why this works yet, I have found it to be very effective. The other way I increase my awareness is by mentally choosingto be more aware.
Listening carefully is also very important. When I do not listen carefully, I am less likely to understand what the other person is trying to say, which leads to me making that something else was meant—something that can be very dangerous. In order to listen more carefully, I have done a few things. First, I fidget less in my conversations, which gives me more resources to focus on the speaker. Second, I look more at the speaker, which gives me more information: body language and tone are just as important to understanding as are the words spoken. Third, I listen less in defense, which helps me better understand what the other person is saying, as listening in defense just blinds me from the goodness in the other person's words.
Wisdom can be thought of as an understanding of life. I have found that an effective way of gaining wisdom is writing a journal. When I write in a journal, I get a chance to reflect on what has happened. And by putting what happened in writing, I am forced to ask myself questions: “Why did he do that? Why did I act that way? What is there to learn from this?” By thoughtfully answering these questions, I gain a bigger, clearer picture and am better able to understand the situation.
Thinking before acting is another important ability I have learnt. By using this ability, I have on several occasions been able to make better decisions. To sharpen this skill, I have made a habit of reflecting on impulsive actions, which helps me to understand why those actions happened. With this understanding, I can prevent myself from acting impulsively in the future.
Procrastination is another bad habit that Tang Soo Do has helped me reduce. I have learnt of a very effective way of reducing procrastination: making a schedule. And I have witnessed first-hand why it works. First, when I make a schedule, I know exactly what needs to be done that day, so I am forced to be aware of my procrastination. Second, a schedule sets a time for me to do these things, so I waste less time. Third, a schedule links procrastination to my character: every time I do not follow the schedule, I have to tell myself that I am irresponsible.
Acting based on reality is also important. I have experienced that emotions often get in the way of actions. I may emotionally want something, but the reality is that fulfilling this desire will come at a price. If the price is too high, fulfilling this desire will be irresponsible. However, this does not mean that emotions are bad. In fact, emotions are an important part of every person. The only problem is when these emotions interfere with good judgment.
Replacing bad habits is also something that I have learnt how to do. To replace a bad habit, I use a simple three-step method. First, I identify exactly what change I am considering. Second, I understand why I should change. Third, I make an effort to change. Using these three steps, I have been able to replace many of my weak habits. A good example of one of these habits is lying.
Lying is a bad habit that I have replaced using the four-step method discussed earlier. Step one was identifying what lying was. To make it simple, I defined a lie as anything that was not true, which meant that “white” lies were lies. I also acknowledged that I was a liar. Step two was understanding why I needed to stop lying. I did this by thinking about the consequences of lying. Step three was actively making an effort to stop lying. I did this by actively linking lying to a dishonest character. With every lie, I was forced to tell myself that I was dishonest.
I am truly grateful that I was given the opportunity to learn these lessons, as I can see how the extent to which they have improved my life. However, this is not the end. There is always more to learn. This is personified by Master Bell's description of himself: “Today, a teacher; forever, a student.” With the knowledge I have gained so far, I am now in a position to learn more advanced lessons.
Posted on March 31st, 2010. The content of the essay itself has not been modified since September 23rd, 2009.