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A Warrior's Path

Hwa Rang! Tournament time is a point of reflection, much like ringing in a new year. I am wearing a Tae Soo Do red belt, but what does that mean? I have grown so much since last year when I competed as a green belt. On the outside, I hold myself more like a warrior, but most of these changes have actually taken place in my heart.

Thanks to Hwa Rang Do, I am beginning to comprehend what divides martial arts from martial sports. It begins with tradition where the essence of a true warrior emphasizes more than the body, but also the mind and the spirit. Without that balance, I am not whole.

A few months ago, I went for a walk with one of my instructors. I was feeling dissatisfied with my training. When he asked me what the problem was, my answers were superficial – my falling techniques needed work and my base leg wasn't coming up high enough on my jump spin kicks.

He gave me one of those truly penetrating looks of disappointment. “After all this time, do you really think that is what being a Hwa Rang Do warrior is all about?” It was a question I did not need to answer, but one that has caused months of soul searching.

Punches and kicks aside, Hwa Rang Do has given me so much – self discipline, honor, strength, humility, and, above all, a family. When I chart my progress in this academy, I now measure what I have given back. That is the way to maintain the balance, because I have received so much. When I help others by teaching the kids, talking to prospective students, or hearing the plights of my brothers and sisters, I know that I do so in the spirit of the Hwarang and I know that I have found a home.

Hwa Rang Do crosses boundaries of culture, ethnicity, economic status, and inherent athletic ability. It creates hope and connects its true followers no matter where we are on this journey. And when we help others along this path, we grow.

Saturday, April 29th, 2006 marks another beginning for me. Looking around the gym and feeling the excitement of the competitors means much more to me than it did only a year before. Connectedness, togetherness, and wholeness take on new meaning. Little Dragons and Juniors run up to me showing off their medals and trophies. I hug them and beam in earnest. I am so proud of them. Laughs and words of encouragement are exchanged among adult students and my voice is part of that harmony. The difference this year is more than a punch or a kick; it is belonging and a purpose greater than me.

The original Hwarang warriors were spiritual leaders in their communities. Despite being stripped of their rank by King T'aejong in the 1400s, the Hwarang found a way to continue their legacy living in secrecy and seclusion. It is this perseverance and greatness that marks a true Hwarang warrior. This is what makes Hwa Rang Do the most remarkable art of all time.

The jump spin kicks will come with practice. Inevitably, I will either learn to fall right or injure myself. What is more important is that I have begun a journey. It is a journey of self-discovery and maximizing my true potential. As I, and those around me, continue to grow and live by the Meng Sae, our impending influence on the world is limitless. This is the way of the Hwarang.

- Karen Vieth
April 30th, 2006

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