Since it was required of me to write a TaeKwon-Do thesis as part of obtaining a Black Belt, I thought I’d post it for others to read. I hope it inspires you to persevere thru whatever you’re struggling with.

TaeKwon-Do 1st Dan Thesis

By Ellen Humphries


One of the reasons I’ve made it thus far in Taekwon-Do is due to the fact that my thesis topic is on “perseverance.” I may very well have quit by now, if I had not chosen this topic. This topic is in fact what has kept me going the last six months. It has held me accountable.
Although, the main reason I have not quit is due to my husband, Michael Humphries, 2nd Degree Black Belt. If it wasn’t for his encouragement, help, and dedication, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would have quit at Blue Belt. Training with him and my two sons, Zach and Hudson Humphries, 1st Degree Black Belts, have made the endurance worth it and even fun for the journey.
After conducting an informal interview of Black Belts, asking them what made it hard for them to persevere to their Black Belt, I got varying answers but the number one answer seemed to be injuries and recovery. Another was time constraints because of life commitments. Still another was due to fear and anxiety from testing to losing confidence in sparring matches and taking months to find that confidence again. I personally fall under each category and will explain them below.
So what exactly does “perseverance” mean? I will give you some technical, spiritual, and personal definitions of what “perseverance” means to me.
A first definition is from an on-line dictionary which says:
per-se-ver-ance [pur-suh-veer-uh ns] –noun
1.Steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

I also took note of the fact that “perseverance” has another word inside of it which is “severe.” Another definition from the on-line dictionary is as follows:

se·vere (sə-vîr’) — adj.
Marked by or requiring strict adherence to rigorous standards or high principles: a severe code of behavior. Extremely difficult to perform or endure; trying: a severe test of our loyalty.
I personally can attest to many difficulties, obstacles, and discouragements through the course of my Taekwon-Do training. I have had knee surgery and took a six month absence. I’ve had a demanding life as a homemaker and ministry/school volunteer. I’m overweight, short, and in my 40s–that in itself has its own difficulties, especially in sparring. Our home was struck by Hurricane Ike with $35,000 worth of repairs taking six months to put our home back together again. I help care for my elderly grandmother who has been in and out of the hospital the last few years. And I’ve had extended family challenges. In spite of these difficulties, obstacles, and discouragements, I have persevered, albeit not always attractively and gracefully, sometimes fearfully, but always hopefully.
The International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) Phoenix Group Handbook states that the principles of character are key to the martial art student and without internal controls and personal morals, it invites disaster. In 1972, the Phoenix Group established its tenets to be Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, and Indomitable Spirit.
Because “perseverance” is the topic at hand, I will only discuss that tenet and not the others listed in the above paragraph. According to the Phoenix Group Handbook, the definition of the tenet “Perseverance” is: “The determination to work at a task until it is completed. The patience to let time and hard work accomplish your goal. The wisdom to recognize your limits.”
I find the definition here interesting in that it says, “wisdom to recognize your limits.” Being that I’m in my 40s, overweight, and short, gravity and age have revealed some of my limitations. I’m glad the ITF Phoenix Group allows me to recognize my limitations.
Another definition comes from the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do, Vol. 1. Its Explanation of Tenets says, “Needless to say, the success or failure of Taekwon-Do training depends largely on how one observes and implements the tenets of Taekwon-Do which should serve as a guide for all serious students of the art.” And that encyclopedia’s definition of “perseverance” is as follows: “There is an old Oriental saying, ‘Patience leads to virtue or merit,’ ‘One can make a peaceful home by being patient for 100 times. Certainly, happiness and prosperity are most likely brought to the patient person. To achieve something, whether it is a higher degree or the perfection of a technique, one must set his goal, then constantly persevere….One of the most important secrets in becoming a leader of Taekwon-Do is to overcome every difficulty by perseverance.”
Until I read the above explanation of “perseverance,” I never equated “patience” with “perseverance.” A mental light bulb went off in my head. I thought, “I’ve never been a patient person, no wonder it’s been so hard for me to “persevere.” It’s as if I found the missing link. Unfortunately, my lack of patience is a sign of immaturity. But in realizing that patience and perseverance go hand-in-hand, I think I’m finally getting it.
The last but not least source from which I find a definition for “perseverance” is in the Bible. This source is from which I hang my life. Without it, I have no hope of persevering through the day, let alone through to a Taekwon-Do Black Belt. Some of its references on “perseverance” are as follows:
Romans 5:3-4 “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” I have to remember that my suffering is producing more than just a sore body and a confused brain from remembering right from left and verbal definitions in English and Korean. My suffering and perseverance is producing character and hope.
II Thessalonians 3:5 “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” Christ is the perfect example of persevering through a tortuous death. If He could endure torture and crucifixion, I certainly can endure the discipline of Taekwon-Do.
James 1:3-4, “Because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” To finish the course, I must persevere. I like the reward of maturity and completeness.
Another set of Bible references are taken from one of my favorite Bible stories about David and Goliath.
1Samuel 17:47
All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
1Samuel 17:48
As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet him.
1Samuel 17:49
Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell facedown on the ground.
1Samuel 17:50
So David triumphed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone; without a sword in his hand he struck down the Philistine and killed him.

David used simple stones to protect God’s people. I’m sure he mastered the skill of aiming stones many times out in the field, tending his sheep. So too, students must use the simple stones of perseverance. Perseverance to attend class, study their verbal, and practice their material.

More often than not, I look at the giant of testing, competition, and knowing my verbal, instead of looking at the stone of persistence and getting accustomed to those tools—like stones of which David was accustomed to using.
Doing my part and trusting in God for strength to persevere is my goal.
In a recent book I read entitled, Checklist for Life for Women, I discovered these practical tips that I will start using in my perseverance journey:
o Keep a positive attitude and look for possibilities inherent in a difficult situation. For example, assuming the best, instead of the worst when it comes time to test or compete. Negative thinking drains my energy and distracts me from doing my best.
o Set goals that can be achieved. A good goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and well timed. For example, I have a tendency to procrastinate when I have a looming deadline. I should make it my goal to know all my material a month before testing, so the last month is just review, maintenance, and even helping other students and not being filled with anxiety.
o Do your best and take risks. Challenge yourself to reach a little higher, try a little harder, dream a bit bigger. I often underestimate what I am able to accomplish.
o Don’t quit. Persistence pays off. Plans and goals usually take longer than originally planned, like obtaining my Black Belt. I tell my children, it’s not always the most talented who are successful, but the one who is willing to work hard and stay for the long haul.
o Lighten up and have some fun. I tend to get too serious and self-focused when achieving goals and then I miss out on the best of life. Success means nothing if I’m unhappy or too self-focused.
I end with one of my favorite quotes and Bible verses. Max Lucado, a well-known Pastor and Author said, “Focus on giants—you stumble. Focus on God—your giants tumble.” In my own strength, I cannot obtain a Black Belt in Taekwon-Do. My humanity is too weak, insecure, and impatient. But like David said in I Samuel 17:47 “…it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s…” It’s not in my strength. Only in His strength will I persevere to the end.
J.F. Tompkins, International Taekwon-Do Federation Phoenix Group Student Manual (Jean L. Tompkins, D.B.A Hi-Kik Designs, 2002) p. 27
Gen. Choi Hong Hi, Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do: Vol. 1 (International Taekwon-Do Federation, 1993) p. 15 & 16
Zondervan, The Holy Bible: New International Version (The Zondervan Corporation, 1996)
Thomas Nelson Publisher, Checklist for Life for Women (JRQ Inc., 2002) p. 195
Max Lucado, Facing Your Giants (Thomas Nelson, 2006).

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. judy naydwell
    Apr 10, 2010 @ 12:56:32

    Well darlin, this is very inspiring and thought provoking, Well done, simple, direct, not over done or too wordy. And a great lesson in perseverance. I am proud of you.


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