My three favorite television shows when I was growing up were M*A*S*H, Star Trek, and Cheers. In all three, we have a group of people who love one another and are loyal to each other. Loyalty, as in the form of respect and friendship, became incredibly important to me. Dedication to real people and real values became part of my core.
In M*A*S*H and Star Trek we had characters who flouted the very rigorous systems to which they supposedly were loyal, while revealing a dedication to their work and to their friendships. The "official" system was not as important as the informal intertwining of their shared beliefs in truth, justice, fairness, peace, and life. In M*A*S*H, Hawkeye would go to all and any extremes for his patients, to the end of the war, and for his peers. His system of justice was not written down, but his integrity became obvious, even as his glaring flaws were displayed. In Star Trek, Captain Kirk cared about his crew and ship first, and himself second. He was sworn to uphold a Prime Directive (look it up, if you like) above his own life. Spock, a creature of logic, betrayed his logic often when his friend and captain needed him. And, in Cheers, a gang of losers could love one another and accept one another blindly regardless of, or perhaps because of, all of their flaws.
What is our Tae Kwon Do studio? I believe it is an amalgamation of all those experiences I absorbed through the "boob-tube". We have rules, but they are less important than our loyalty to one another. Anyone, regardless of his/her flaws, or perhaps because of them, fits right in. And, for good or for bad, I see in my students a greater dedication to one another than to Tae Kwon Do. If I am teaching my students anything, though, it is perhaps that strength of character, in learning to trust in others, and hopefully eventually in themselves, can be our greatest legacy.
Parents often call and ask me what our studio is about. Well, I try to explain our proud history as the first Tae Kwon Do studio - Chung do Kwan - in the world. The unique, special, gifted nature of our teacher, and his effective fighting techniques that he teaches us. I talk about how we are not a tournament school, but a studio that focuses on tradition, respect, and practical self-defense. At the end of the day, I would say what we truly are, is a group of misfits (including myself) who have been lucky enough to find one another and build a community of strength for one another. While we probably never realized we were doing it in the process, we have found a place to be safe and real.
These fictitious television shows may be memories of the past, but they helped create something that is very very real, and it is ours.
Thank you everyone.