I will begin with my understanding and application in life of the first key concept, Yong GI.
Hwang Kee did a great deal of research in the martial arts, both technical and philosophical. It would seem that the eight key concepts were drawn from the Hwarang of Korea. The Hwarang, also known as Flowering Knights, were an elite group of male youth in Silla, an ancient Korean kingdom that lasted until the 10th century. There were educational institutions as well as social clubs where members gathered for all aspects of study, originally for arts and culture as well as religious teachings stemming mainly from Buddhism. The history of the Hwarang was not widely known until after the liberation of Korea in 1945, after which the Hwarang became elevated to a symbolic importance. The Hwarang lived together for a fixed period of time in order to “learn military arts and cultivate virtues.
The original codes of the Hwarang were:
Loyalty to king and country
respect and obedience to one’s parents
loyalty and trust among friends
to never retreat in battle
wisdom in the use of deadly force, never kill unjustly
Hwang Kee expanded these so that they were in line with 10 articles of faith, which I will discuss further later.
Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan’s eight key concepts: (Both basic and literal translation)
Yong Gi (Courage) (Brave / Spirit)
Chung Shin Tong Il (Concentration) (Mind and Body Unified as One)
In Neh (Endurance) ( Internal / patience)
Chung Jik (Honesty) (Right / Straight)
Kyum Son (Humility) (Humble / Humble)
Him Cho Chung (Control of Power) (Power Manage Right)
Shin Chook (Tension and Relaxation) ( (Relaxation / Tension)
Wan Gup (Speed Control) (Slow / Fast)
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because without courage, you can't practice any other virtue consistently.” Maya Angelou
Courage ( Yong Gi) (Brave / Energy)
Webster’s dictionary states the word courage means: noun, the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, without fear. Idioms: have the courage of one’s convictions, to act in accordance with one’s beliefs, especially despite criticism.
Yong Gi in its basic Korean term means, courage. However the literal meaning of the words are brave/energy. From the time a student steps onto the Dojang floor for the first time it’s their first experience into Yong Gi.
One common fear that most people have, especially when their younger is the ability to get up from other people and speak or perform. They start to experience this first in preschool. It could be as simple as a musical program put on by the students for their parents. Most times the parents are probably more scared for their children then the children are. So that nervous energy is an example that shifted over to the child from the parent. Because the parents being nervous for their performance the child senses this and takes on a nervous energy. Children learn from our example in all aspects of our life, how we approach things, face difficulties and handle ourselves under pressure.
Many times courage is needed because of the unknown. The situations in our lives cause us to be nervous about the outcome of what might happen. Most times in these situations the outcome is never as bad as we thought it was going to be. A good example of this is when we were children. We’ve all had experience of going to an amusement park for the first time. The first thing we have is a tendency to look at is the largest roller coaster, and hearing the screams coming from all the people on the ride. This energy which is being produced around us causes and effect on us. It starts to make our physical demeanor change; we might start to sweat, have a dry mouth, or have our body physically shake. I’m sure we can all remember standing in line waiting to get on a ride for the very first time. It’s the anticipation of what’s about to happen is what causes us to be nervous. However that energy that’s being produced isn’t necessarily fear. But rather an adrenaline rush that causes us to become excited.
Even in these situations there are elements around us that help us deal with these fears and anxiety. We take a seat on the roller coaster and some type of restraining device comes over you. The very first thing you see most people do is check it to make sure it’s functioning correctly and then they usually hang onto something because they know the motion of the ride is going to be quick and knowing. In martial arts we talk about courage, and the very first thing most people think about is that warrior attitude. In Soo Bahk Do for example we call that Moo Do or martial spirit. In Japanese systems martial arts this is called Budo. The actions related to making it become visible is called Moo Do Ja Seh in Soo Bahk Do.
In ancient times this warrior attitude meant living or dying. It was an everyday occurrence to face life head on where the result could mean dying. So courage is essential in the process of the eight key concepts. It’s a very first step its path. Each of the eight key concepts is dependent upon each other to become fully realized in its applications to life.
Fear of the unknowing never leaves our life, they just reappear in different manifestations throughout our life. In ancient times and even today situations occur we have to come to that realization that we won’t live forever. Because of that realization we have to come to an understanding within our own self that we are always given two paths to take. One path, is to the unknowing and its outcome. The second path is to avoid situations in our life to make us feel comfortable. It is through the first path that we can experience true Yong Gi.
Each person has different things to face, and everyone has their own way of dealing with situations. So courage to one person may be totally different than to another. Some people have a fear to fly, of heights, and animals as an example. However to others there is no need for courage, they seek those things. For some reason I can’t really explain it might be based on her up bringing, their family life, life experiences, and experiences of others that allow them to face these difficulties without fear or anxiety.
Most situations that I’ve seen over the years including myself have come from the unknowing of what the actual outcome is in situations. Most times in my personal experience the outcome of the situation is not nearly as bad as I anticipated it to be. However it’s this uncertainty that causes us the anxiety. So what is it that makes us take a step forward into that situation and faces it head-on? Fear can come from many factors, peer pressure, wanting to face a challenge, reaching our goals, or even our personal safety. People in the military for example constantly face very difficult situations. Not always in a combat situation but rather situations where their leadership has to create an environment of safety for others to follow. It’s easier for us to be able to overcome our fears if we know that we are protected in some way. In martial arts it’s vital for an instructor to create a safe environment for the students to learn. Instructors must have a full understanding of student’s different fears that they might experience. This is generally based on their own personal experience during their own martial arts training. The mistakes they made more than likely to be this mistakes the students will make.
Instructors with this understanding, must plan the lesson they want to share with their students in a manner which safe and based on their own experience for a positive outcome. Now this is not to say that the students should not have to struggle to learn. Even in learning a new technique for example they have to have Yong Gi to approach it. Depending on their maturity level they either will or will not have the correct mental approach to tackle the task.
With most physical things the body has to learn to move. This can only be done with practice and repetition so that we can develop muscle memory. So the mind has to control and understand that this takes time. If we approach it in this manner the outcome is always better. However sometimes students want to rush to that outcome. So really courage in this situation is about allowing the natural process of the mind and body to adjust to new situations. In this situation courage relates directly to speed control and endurance.
Most people in their jobs have to use courage on multiple levels in her daily lives. It could be as simple as a new job interview, taking on a new project at work, being put into a leadership role where others are dependent on us. However through preparation just as with the body we must take time both mentally and physically for positive outcomes. But with the right brave energy or Yong Gi, the task at hand can be dealt with. I’ve been working as a surgical technician sense 1981. There many times when I was put into a new surgical procedure. I understand that it had to be safe for myself, the surgeon and the patient. It was through my concentration that would help create an environment that would allow the surgeon feel more comfortable as they approach their procedure for the patient. Not to say that I was not nervous at all, quite the opposite. When I first began I would get all the physical responses of the being nervous before a procedure. But because of my training in martial arts I to had approached it the very same way just as I would when training.
With this approach it helped to decrease the anxiety response, both mentally and physically so that I could be control the situation. As time went by whenever I was put into different surgical procedures I found it interesting to be able explore this area of my martial arts training. So instead of seeing the situations as something that causes stress, I started to approach it as a learning tool. When my mindset changed the whole situation changed. So I would seek out more difficult cases to do and put myself into that situation, to test my Yong Gi. As with most situations the outcomes were better than I anticipated. Once I started to do this using first of the eight key concepts I started to apply them on a daily basis. The more that I approach things this way as martial artist, my art and life started to become inseparable.
It gives us an element of control over everything that surrounds us to a certain point of course. When we see ourselves in situations where we are in control it takes away the levels of anxiety and frustration. Courage is the first step in bringing the eight key concepts to life. As a martial arts instructor since 1986, I always thought it was very important to be the student first. I believe the moment when some martial artist reach a certain level or rank they sometimes forget about the importance having the beginner’s mind. We can always learn as we go through life. The things we thought we understood might change though age and our ability to see things differently. We have to have the courage, and humility to allow ourselves to be that student. As an instructor I am constantly learning new things about myself though my students. Understanding that we are always learning keeps us humble, and allows us the chance to experience the courage to change.