Tradition and merit

Often today, tradition is scorned.

“Oh, that’s the old way of doing things.”

“Don’t be such a fuddy-duddy.”

“The new way is much cooler.”

However, it is tradition that binds us together as a Tang Soo Do family. We have traditional forms, techniques, stances, and one-step sparring techniques that have not changed in hundreds of years. This enables mobility. You can join David Fuller Karate from another school, like I did, and not feel like you are completely new and out of the loop. Imagine if every martial arts school had their own style? It would be mayhem.

So, keeping up a tradition is a powerful thing. But, Tang Soo Do is also about merit. I call it a meritocracy. The easiest example of this is your belt rank. You earn the belt rank based on what you do in class and in your test. It isn’t about who you know, or what you look like, or with whom you associate. It is about your proficiency in Tang Soo Do and your character. Period.

Now, it is important to note that merit and tradition must be balanced. We must not bind ourselves so closely to tradition that we let down the value of merit. For example, someone comes into karate class, and is 4 feet 10 inches, 300 pounds, has blue skin, and yellow hair. This person does not fit the traditional profile of a martial artist. However, if this person shows us that he or she really rocks it out with side kicks and forms, then this person should be treated and evaluated based on merit.

At the same time, merit can be at tension with tradition. A person may start doing karate and instantly learn all techniques, all terminology, and all forms within a week. Black belt is next right? Wrong! We have traditions, and our traditions state that black belt is not a state of simply knowing terminology and being able to execute techniques.

Keep these principles in mind not only in karate class, but also in life. This is how we live our lives as warriors.

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