Master C. Terrigno - 6th Dan
Editor, Tang Soo Do World
Definition: A tradition is a custom that is memorized
and passed down from generation to generation,
originally without the need for a writing system.
Whether cultural or organizational, a
tradition may include one or all of the following: dance or specialized
movements, ceremonial clothing, ritual, tests or challenges, and a code
of conduct. Like many martial arts,
Tang Soo Do was born from tradition and includes all of these. We
practice stylized movements (hyung, one-steps), wear specialized
clothing (do bok), salute our flag, meditate and bow to seniors
(ritual), participate in rank grading and tournaments (tests /
challenges), and behave in a prescribed way with our peers and seniors
(code of conduct).
societies are changing quickly, constantly striving for the
new and improved, making it much more difficult to keep a
tradition alive. There are still some cultures that continue
to "live" their traditions every day, but very few. Most try
to walk both lines - the modern way and the old way, and
it's a tough balancing act. One side will always tend to
dominate (usually the modern) at the expense of the other.
As students of Tang Soo Do, we also walk both lines - living
our normal lives with one set of rules and then switching
gears to enter the martial arts culture with a completely
different mindset and customs. Many adults, especially
beginners will quit training after a short time. They may
be put off by the formalities of bowing and responding with
"Yes Sir / Ma'am" because it makes them feel subservient and
uncomfortable, or they may have underestimated the time and
dedication required to properly learn the art in a
traditional environment, as opposed to getting the quick
results promised with many new non-traditional,
In the end, time will always
be a factor in determining the effectiveness or value of any
given thing. Traditional martial arts have stood the test of
time for a reason. They are effective in the real world and
they also have a positive, beneficial effect on other areas
of our lives. That's a winning combination. The question
will continue to be, is the tradition and formality what one
really wants or needs and is it worth the time and effort?
Everyone will have to answer
that for themselves, but for those that consider traditional
training of little value or useless, I would say this - The
Boy / Girl Scouts are different than just going camping on
weekends with a friend of the family and learning how to
pitch a tent. Graduating from a Police Academy is different
than completing a two week course on police tactics and the
use of firearms. And finally, what it takes to earn the
right to be called a Navy SEAL pretty much needs no
explanation. The greatest value of tradition, I
believe, is in what you become, rather than what you get,
and that is a very important distinction shaped by time,
quality of training, curriculum, organizational structure,
protocol and of course the participant's attitude towards it
It is no surprise then that
many martial arts schools and organizations have within
their manuals a formal set of rules and guidelines to help
practitioners understand what is proper and important to the
preservation of martial arts tradition.
The significance of the dojang is that it is a place of learning and self-sacrifice.
It is also a temporary refuge from the distractions, pressures and
responsibilities of daily life. Viewing it in this way is critical to making our time there
more productive and meaningful. By seeing
the dojang as a special place, we elevate
training to a higher level to meet that perception. It is not a gym
where one goes to socialize, work up a sweat and then leave. It is a
place where we transform ourselves into something more substantial.
That is why upon entering or leaving the dojang we always face the
flags and salute as a sign of respect, and of course, shoes are never
worn when on the dojang floor. While waiting for a class to begin,
students should strive to maintain a
feeling of calm and tranquility in the room. Loud conversation and
horsing around only serves to bring the outside world in with you and should be
avoided. It is also disrespectful to
others who may want a few moments of silence to mentally prepare for the
Students should also show respect for the school by
taking responsibility for its care and appearance. A school is a student's second home and should be
Cleaning the mirrors, organizing the training gear, sweeping the
floor and so on are other ways of demonstrating the humility that is
part our our development as martial artists. The instructor should never
have to ask for students' help on this matter, and seniors should lead the
way as an example to juniors.
The Beginning of Class
The protocol for the start and end of class may differ
slightly among schools, but generally it operates this way.
If there is a Dan member in the room, Gups should bow
to them upon entering. The same holds true for Dans entering
when senior Dans are present. If there are many Dans of different ranks
in the room, there can be an excessive
amount of bowing, so a
minimum rank rule may be in place to limit this. Ask your instructor if in
The instructor is usually the last to enter the room
and the first to leave. When he/she enters, the senior student or Dan
will call everyone to attention and bow to the instructor. Students
should then quickly line up according to rank with your immediate senior
to your right. (Never walk slowly as it is disrespectful and shows a
lack of discipline.) The senior at the head of the line will give
in Korean, to face the flag, salute the flag by placing right
hand over heart, return hand to side, close eyes and meditate, open
eyes, turn to face the instructor and then bow again. If a student is late
getting to class,
they should never enter the training floor once the class has begun.
Rather, they must wait at the doorway until recognized by the instructor
and then quickly go to the end of the line. They may only take their
normal place in line when directed to do so by the instructor.
First and foremost, the instructor is there for you
and should be given your undivided attention. Talking in class,
especially when the instructor is speaking is not acceptable. If you
have a question, raise your hand and be recognized before speaking. Bow
first, then ask your question. When the instructor is finished
again to show thanks.
From time to time, students may be asked to sit
while the instructor speaks or other students are demonstrating. The
proper seated position is legs crossed in front and hands resting over
knees. Never lean against a wall or sit in a lounging position. If a
student has knee problems or difficulty holding the position, consult
with your instructor as to what is acceptable to overcome the problem.
Other things to remember:
are addressed using Sir / Ma'am, Mr./ Ms. followed by last name or by
title such as Kyo Sa Nim, Sa Bom Nim or Kwan Jang Nim.
They should never be addressed
by their first name, even if they are friends or relatives.
● When moving around others who are in line or working
together, always walk behind them, never in front of, or in between them.
● When moving away from instructors (or test examiners and tournament
judges), always do so moving backwards (facing them), not by
turning your back to them.
● Unless otherwise directed by the instructor, students should avoid
"teaching" or "correcting" others in matters of technique. That is the
instructor's responsibility, for two
reasons - he/she is better equipped to assess a student's readiness to learn a new technique, and
also to ensure that demonstration and application of techniques are consistent.
● Never argue with
instructor or others in class. If there is disagreement, it should be
taken up in private with the instructor after class.
● When adjusting your uniform, always turn to do so, then
turn back to your original position.
The End of Class
The instructor will signal the end of class at which
time all will line up as in the beginning. The procedure with
respect to bowing, saluting flags, etc. performed at the beginning of
class will be repeated at the end.
Students should remain in line until instructor leaves. After the
instructor leaves, Junior Dans usually turn to face the Senior Dans (Kodanja) in
line and bow to them. After the Kodanja step out of line, Junior Dans will
turn to face Gups and all will bow again. The
class is officially over.
How we handle our uniform speaks loudly about how we
view our training and ourselves. Like any ceremonial clothing, the
uniform is an essential part of the tradition. Try to remember how you felt
when you first put on a
Do Bok. It was unlike anything
you've ever worn before. It made you feel special wearing it. So it
stands to reason that it be given special treatment and respect in
Uniforms should always be clean and wrinkle-free,
especially for tests and public performances. After class, even
though a uniform may be soaked with perspiration,
it should still be
folded neatly before placing in your bag. (In traditional Aikido
schools, students learn and are required to fold the Hakama and Do Bok in a very specific
way.) Tang Soo Do also has a method to fold the Do Bok, although it is
not taught in very many schools. (See Reference section for
To Fold Your Do Bok").
Children, especially, should also be taught that uniforms are for
training only and not to be worn while playing in the yard, eating
dinner or for Halloween. Even other adornments like bandanas, wrist
sweat bands and T-shirts would not be allowed in some schools, with the
exception of T-shirts for women, and then in white only.
Students must also learn to properly tie their belts well before
their first rank test, preferably after the first few classes. The
belt is an integral part of the uniform and therefore should always be tied
Reference section for
"How To Tie The
Always knock before entering Instructor's office (even if the door is open).
● Bow before entering and when leaving.
sit unless asked to do so.
● If you are an
assistant instructor and have access to the office, never sit behind the
instructor's desk unless permission is given, as this
would be presumptuous of your
Outside The Dojang
When at tournaments or tests, all of the above still
apply. Should you happen to encounter your instructor in a public place,
the courtesy of a bow in greeting as well as use of the title is proper.
As a martial artist, correct protocol is not limited to the training
hall - it travels with you.
Perhaps the least talked about item in
your training is the matter of personal discipline with regards to
paperwork and fees. A martial arts school, in addition to providing
consistent, quality instruction also has its own financial obligations
and deadlines that must be met in a timely fashion if the school is to
continue to operate. It is a student's responsibility to ensure that
paperwork and fees are handled in the same timely manner. An
instructor's love is to teach their students. Reminding them of their
obligations is a task they generally do not enjoy, and it is a great
show of respect on the student's part to free them from this.
Rules of the Dojang
Here is a compilation of specific rules
of the dojang consistent with many Tang Soo Do schools:
● Always be on time and
ready to train
● Remove shoes before entering dojang
● Remove jewelry before training
● Keep finger and toe nails trimmed
● No eating, drinking or chewing gum in the school
● No free sparring without the presence or approval of the
● Do not use equipment without approval of instructor
● Refrain from using profanity
● All students must wear approved safety equipment when
● Do not
engage in any activities that might degrade your reputation or that of
● Guests should be
informed that noise be kept to a minimum so as not to distract class in
● Never "teach" techniques to anyone outside the dojang
● Always be courteous and helpful to your partners