Modern Taekwon-Do training fosters the systematic development of skill in its students through the repetition of fundamental techniques as exercises. Students often conceive of their progress as an uninterrupted, linear route to achievement. The true road, however, is rarely that. A more apt analogy can be found in modern educational concepts of the way writing happens.
With writing, as with Taekwon-do, students do not begin with the finished product. Writers begin by brainstorming ideas. In Taekwon-Do students, the parallel to this foment of conception comes as a combination of media impressions regarding martial art, most often gathered from a variety of sources, including film, text, advertising, direct observation, and word-of-mouth.
The next step for writers is to draft an initial text. For the beginning Taekwon-Do student, the analogue to this process occurs when he contracts with an instructor to receive his basic instruction and begins to imitate the body of fundamental technique.
At this point, writers move forward by what is known as a recursive process, which is a kind of circular pattern in which the writer repeatedly reads and revises what he has already written, continuing to correct, expand, and extend the text of his initial draft. To visualize this more simply, imagine that for every two steps you take forward, it becomes necessary to take one or even two steps back to refine the way you took those two steps forward. When the steps look just right, then you can once again move forward and beyond.
To describe the similar process in terms of Taekwon-do, just know that the day you learn to chamber and execute a side-kick, for example (or any other technique), will not be the last day you stop to examine the fundamental biomechanics of how you want to make that side-kick happen. It will be necessary not simply to repeat the technique thousands of times in order to improve it, but continually to reexamine your execution and compare it to the ideal represented by generations of instructors and masters. Like the writer’s progress toward his artistic goals, in this way the Taekwon-do student’s progress, measured in fits and starts though it might be, proceeds as a disciplined, conscious effort toward a fully imagined vision of technique.
As you might imagine, without editorial feedback from outside readers, even professional writers can waste a great deal of time on wrong turns and dead-end ideas, resulting in pages and pages of text having to be discarded. With Taekwon-Do students, the primary outside reader is their instructor, and his editorial feedback can keep early students from wasting a lot of time trying to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, by showing them what others before them have already discovered about efficient execution. More than that, a well-experienced instructor will know intuitively which refinements in technique to suggest as most appropriate for a given student’s stage of development. This procedure will be repeated hundreds, and even thousand of times over the course of a student’s training.
In addition to feedback from their instructors, students also receive feedback from their fellow practitioners, first through observation and imitation, but also through question and answer, and direct interaction in sparring exercises. In this way, the student learns to cultivate his or her own faculty for self-correction, and this becomes a critical skill the kup student must master in order to prepare for his first black-belt exam.
In general, then, students proceed by learning fundamental mechanics of basic techniques; they create skill by executing those techniques through literally thousands of repetitions; with proper guidance, students continually refine their technical precision and
efficiency of execution even as they grow in muscular strength, speed, and cardiovascular endurance. By this process they arrive eventually at the point where they can employ their skills in the creative expression of the art of Taekwon-Do. As their understanding and insight grow through experience and training, the depth and variety of their creative expression will evolve as well.
Instructors should never forget, however, that step one is mastery of the fundamentals, and should remind their students that fundamental skill must continue to be maintained through the practice of basic technique no matter how far advanced a student’s rank.