Rules of the Game (part 1)

22 days to Coachella…

When I was a kid studying Tae Kwon Do, the first rule I learned was that there were nineteen rules that had to be rattled off before class could even begin.

At the start of class, we would line up in front of our sabumnim, Master Bai and recite them from memory.

I had hoped for a more esoteric, Confucian, Art of War meets Fortune Cookie-esque set of rules (Respect your enemy; Consider all vantage points before moving toward the goal; You will have great success at an early age; Never play leap frog with a unicorn)  But Koreans, being the pragmatists of the Asian world, had a far more grounded outlook. As such, the rules began with the following:

1 – No smoking in the DoJang at any time

2 – No gum-chewing in class

3 – No profanity in class

4 – No jewelry is to be worn during class

I guessed that these were meant to keep the DoJang from degenerating into a smoke-filled dump, frequented by gum-chewing, potty mouths, swathed in bling.

After these early rules, things heated up.

5 – Students are not allowed to belong to another DoJang

6 – Never get a drink of water without permission

I always found it interesting that Rule Five, (which forbade inter-dojo practice) was so casually slipped in between four and six, thus making it seem far more innocuous than it actually was, when the fact was that joining another DoJang was the worst thing you could do and therefore should have been the first rule.

Next came:

7 – Never lose your temper in the DoJang, especially while sparring

This was really more of a safety tip than a rule.

8 – Never lean on the wall, or lay on the floor spread-out

It was my understanding that this rule was a throwback to the days of rice paper walls, though I never confirmed it.

9 – Students must keep their finger and toenails clipped short and clean at all times

Easy enough and sort of a no-brainer. Moving on, we then had:

10 – No horseplay or whistling

According to this rule, horseplay begat whistling, though I’d never seen any evidence of that.

At this point in the daily “Spouting of the Rules.” my sister Jenny, would lie on the floor (in flagrant violation of Rule Eight) out of sheer exhaustion. While Jenny lay there, we would all continue with the next set of rules, which dealt with the two heavy hitters of the martial arts world:  Respect and bowing.

11 – When you see Sabumnim (Master Bai) you must bow to him

12 – Bow to the flags before entering and leaving the DoJang and before leaving the office

13 – You must respect your Sabumnim and always use the word “sir” when speaking to him

14 – You must respect all senior belts

15 – You must bow when asking questions

16 – When fixing your uniform or belt, do not face your instructor

17 – You must bow to all black belts

18 – You must call all black belts “sir”

The general rule of thumb on this portion of the rules was to build an extra ten minutes into your day to account for bowing and “sir-saying.”

Once we finished these, Jenny would usually stand for the last and most dramatic rule:

19 – Always keep in mind that you are being taught a deadly art, treat it with respect and above all, never misuse it.

Deadly art? Really?  Oh, and for the record that nonsense about having your hands registered as ‘deadly weapons’ once you got your black belt — was a big load and frankly a bit of a disappointment, especially considering we drove to the local police station to do it…

NEXT UP:  Rules of the Game (part 2) THE RULES OF COACHELLA.

1 Comment


One response to “Rules of the Game (part 1)

  1. Thanks for a great post and interesting comments. I found this post while looking for some lyrics. Thanks for sharing this article.

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