Mind, Heart and Body

by Keith D. Yates

My teachers’ teacher was Jhoon Rhee, the “Father of Tae Kwon Do in America.” Grandmaster Rhee’s student creed is “Knowledge in the mind, honesty in the heart and strength in the body.” I have my students recite this saying at the end of our classes.

Many have used similar descriptions to describe the nature of man. One of Anthony Robbins early books is, Awaken the Giant Within: How to take control of your mental, emotional, physical and (he adds) financial destiny. In it he says our sense of self-esteem is dependent on the balance of these aspects.
Consider the physical. That is what most of us think about when we are training in class—pushups, stretching, punching and kicking drills. The physical benefits of the martial arts are obvious. We train our bodies to be flexible, to be fast, to be strong. “Strength in the body.”
But our minds are being trained as well aren’t they?

To borrow again from something Mr. Rhee says, the attention and bowing commands we use at the very beginning of a student’s martial experience teaches them the principles of DISCIPLINE (the attention posture) and RESPECT (the bow). Mental discipline and a respectful attitude towards others would go a long way in improving the situation among today’s youth. We have all seen the results of a little discipline and respect instilled in kids that have previously shown little of that. But as Grandmaster Rhee says, you can be smart and you can be strong but that does not make you a good person. Embezzlers are smart. Gang enforcers are strong. But they are not good. Which brings us to honesty in the heart.

In the book, All I really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Folgrum says a basic truth of life is honesty. If a little kid learns that he or she needs to be HONEST, that lesson can carry us into life and make us successful, he claims. If Bernie Madoff had been honest he wouldn’t be in prison right now. If you are an honest person others will be attracted to you. If you are a truly honest person they may even overlook some of your other, negative, traits. People with good hearts are nice people to be around. People like them. And if people like you and want to be around you, then YOU are certainly happier. So, what is the secret of happiness? Is it power, is it money? A survey of lottery winners found that the majority of them (after the excitement of winning and spending lots of money wore off) were not appreciably happier than they were before.

In the last 70 years our culture has greatly improved its standard of living. We have more conveniences, from big screen TVs to cell phones, than our grandparents had and yet we are no happier that they were, and in many cases we are MORE stressed out, more frustrated, and more discontent with life. If material possessions doesn’t make one happy what does?

Maybe it’s making a contribution to other people’s lives? Maybe it is knowing that you will be remembered for making an impact. The late, great champion Howard Jackson was a good friend of mine. Many of us have recently remembered the impact he made on a whole generation of martial artists. The US constitution says we are entitled to “the pursuit of Happiness.”  It doesn’t we are entitled TO happiness but to the pursuit of it. Most people pursue it the wrong way. To live a balanced and happy life you must invest in all aspects of your life. You can’t work out non-stop, nourishing the physical but not the other aspects. You can’t study all the time and grow physically fat and unhealthy.

I know you know this but do you really practice it as a lifestyle? The only way to develop positive and healthy habits is to repeat them—
repeatedly. All of these things, eating healthy and working out, being honest and respectful, are habits we must develop into a way of life. Believe it or not this is the “martial way” of life.
Like all good instructors, I want my students to strive for perfection. I seem to be a stickler for detail and some students get frustrated because they think they cannot please me. But they misunderstand. I don’t actually want perfection—I want the MIND-SET of perfection.

To quote Bruce Lee, “Perfection lies not in the destination, but in the journey.” It isn’t the results that make you strong it is the process. You are not a good martial artist because you are a black belt; you are a good martial artist because you did what it took to BECOME a black belt. So tomorrow try to approach life a little differently. Commit to being more balanced. Seek knowledge, seek to be a more honest and compassionate person, and, of course, train even harder. But don’t let any one of those goals crowd out the others. Then you can pursue your own happiness in a balanced way, in a positive way and make an impact on other lives along the way—the martial way.

Keith D. Yates is the the Managing Editor of Official Karate Magazine and the Vice-Chairman of MAGI.