The Martial Art of Relationships

I am a keen supporter and formerly a student of the Korean martial art, Tae Kwon-Do – a sport that beckons students to graduate from one colour belt to another in pursuit of their milestone Black Belt.  

When the time came for me to start preparing for my 1st Dan Grading,  I was also mid-way through researching my debut book, “Wanted: How to Create a Relationship that Really Works”.

As I split my study between the two seemingly diverse subjects, I noticed that the Tenets of Tae Kwon-Do are very closely aligned to the relationship Allies that I was writing about. Had I not already committed to my  book plan, I might have been tempted to revert to the simplicity of the Tenets. Instead, I chose to keep this epiphany for blogging opportunities like this, trusting that the essence of the sport’s Tenets, is subtly included between the lines of my book. In this blog however, it’s subtlety aside.

Adopt the 5 Tenets of Tae Kwon-Do to Improve Your  Relationship

Courtesy – Students of the sport show humility and respect in the way they treat their fellow students, instructors and seniors and in the way they represent the sport to the outside world. They wear their white “doboks” with pride and don’t insult or demean each other, nor do they aim to hurt or cause injury.  Likewise for couples, show your partner the courtesy of respect. Evidence of courteousness is expressed through polite manners, chivalry, honouring each other’s values, empathising with each other’s state or stage – be they vulnerable, pregnant, burdened, angry, despondent, sad, stressed, retrenched, overwhelmed and so on. Value what you both bring to the relationship – validate and encourage each other. Courtesy is about being reliable, respecting each other’s boundaries and being gracious and honouring towards one another and the relationship. Listening well and seeking to understand, is courtesy in action. At the other end of courtesy is contempt, a master Opponent to any relationship.

Integrity – Like the students of this art who are encouraged to develop their inner self in tandem with their physical mastery, be true to  yourself in relationship. Check in with yourself to see whether what you think, feel and do is aligned or whether you are in dis-ease. Be true to your word so that you build trust and self-honour. Avoid over committing and being a people pleaser – say “yes” to you first. Essentially, aim at being the genuine article, not a version of yourself and know your limits. When you’re out of integrity with yourself, you’ll be dishonest in your relationship.

Perseverance – It takes many years of training, gruelling gradings, mental and physical set-backs to become a Black Belt. Likewise, no relationship earns its stripes without staying power and hard work. Your depth of character is revealed when you go through tough times. The key here is not to negotiate away parts of yourself to keep the peace but rather to recalibrate often so that you are both heading for the true north of the relationship, keeping functionality and creativity in balance. We can all manage the honeymoon phase of a relationship, but it takes honesty, vulnerability, good communication, clear boundaries and realistic expectations to reach the stage of relationship that rewards with breadth and depth rather than the highs and lows of uncertainty.

Self-Control – The sport nudges you to push yourself whilst knowing your limits. It requires measured steps and movements, sharp concentration, breathe work, flow, management of power and control of one’s temperament so as not to take the fight personally or become aggressive or unruly. In relationships, when life gets testy, we are prone to control each other rather than limit our own poor behaviour. We lose control of our thoughts, allowing fear to dominate, resulting in power struggles that lead to top-dog/under dog positions, you’re wrong and I’m right, I win you lose scenarios.To master self control we have to fight fair and take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and wants without controlling the other person or needing to control the outcome. Again, we need to know and respect our limits, acknowledge our feelings and contract boundaries to give us parameters. It only takes one person to affect change in a relationship – if you change the way you tango, your partner will be forced to change their reactions too. Control yourself in a way that has dignity and monitor yourself as if you were your own best friend, checking in to see if you are giving your best.

Indomitable Spirit – This is the certain something a Tae Kwon-Do student pulls on when they’re in the third round of a sparring match or when they’re two hours into a grading or when they’ve been training every day for weeks and their body wants to give up. It’s something that says “you can” when you think you can’t. I call it belief. There will be times when you might question your trust for your partner or yourself – this is when you need to ask whether the problem is bigger than the relationship of whether it’s a behaviour that can be changed and/or forgiven. It’s when we ask if we still believe in the person (or ourselves) when their behaviour has let us down. Relationships with an indomitable spirit are resilient, they learn from their failings and they allow for a certain amount of fallibility. This means correcting yourself when you let you or the other person down, recognising that you are bigger than your behaviour and bigger than your backstory.

Here’s to you getting your 1st Dan in relationships!








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