Taken from The Way of Traditional Taekwondo: Philosophy and Tradition
Why do we make an oath? When you awake in the morning, you make an oath (or a plan) for your day’s actions. You commit to a purpose. So, before a Taekwondo class begins or prior to leaving the class to return to the world, we must make an oath pertaining to the action we will take.
While gyeo-roo-gi (sparring), doing il-bo gyeo-roo-gi (one steps), working out, exercising, etc, in class, you should have the words of this oath burned into your mind. That way you will remember how to treat your partner regardless of the situation that arises. At the end of class, we prepare our mind for the people and situations that will challenge us prior to the next class we attend.
If there is no oath, there is no goal. The oath is a commitment toward your goal. It is a “signature” of that commitment. Each time we meet, we remind ourselves of the oath so we don’t fall short of our daily goals. When students go to elementary school, they see many positive and encouraging words that are placed strategically on the walls to help them make goals (study, concentrate, good attitude, etc). This oath will help them on the right path to becoming a better human being as will the Songahm Spirit of Taekwondo.
The Songahm Spirit of Taekwondo has been fitted to the goals and ideas of a dedicated Taekwondo student. It evolved from a list of tenets and an earlier oath so that the by-standers (those listening to us recite our oath) could understand what we were pledging line by line, and in doing so, make us responsible to keep the oath.
Recited as Songahm event begins:
I will practice in the SPIRIT OF TAEKWONDO
This line represents the ideas and philosophies of Songahm Taekwondo. To say “I will practice in” means that you will practice not just accordance with the rules and within the system of Songahm Taekwondo, but also in the morals and ideals which these precepts intend to attempt to instill in each student.
with COURTESTY for fellow students
The first of the attributes discusssed is Courtesy because of its importance. If a student is without courtesy, that student is not only un-teachable, but should never learn to wield such power because of the lack of compassion for humans.
LOYALTY to my instructor
Often students that that “instructor” is limited to their Taekwondo sah-bum-nim. In this context, the student is pledging loyalty to all the people that directly instruct him or her. This includes parents, teachers, mentors, etc. Students usually believe they are loyal. However, this is usually because their loyalty has never been tested. True loyalty is undying and unending. The Korean philosopher Yi Whang once wrote: “Though I may be crucified a thousand times, I will never lose my loyalty to my king.”
There is a story that the Grand Master loves to tell concerning a king and his subject:
There once was a king’s subject, a young man, who was very devoted and loyal to his king. The young man also honored and respected his father. One day, the king wanted to know just how loyal the young man was. So, he invited the young man to have a drink in the palace with him and began to just talk about life. The king asked, “Do you honor and obey your parents?” The young man replied, “Of course my king. I love my parents and would give my life for them.” The king was pleased with his answer. The king then asked, “And what about your loyalty to your king?” The young man responded, “My king, death itself could not separate me from serving you.”
The king thought for a moment and posed a question: “If your father and I were swimming in the great river and both of us faced death by drowning, with only moments left, who would you save? Your father or your king?” The boy though for a moment. Realizing that either answer would be unacceptable, he answered the king, “My king, I would rescue my father.” The king became disappointed and his face fell. Then, the young man calmed down and said, “Please, sir, allow me to finish. I would rescue my father, but then I would jump in the river and die with you.” The king, pleased in his response, made the young man ruler over part of the kingdom.
and RESPECT for my juniors and seniors
It is not uncommon in many martial arts for this line to be misunderstood. To understand this fully, we only need to look to the animal kingdom where examples are found in packs of animals that are led by a “respected” senior. In all ancient civilizations to the current government system, there are levels of respect based on skills and power. However, respect should not just travel up. People seem to think that respect should only go up the rank ladder; that is not necessary for a senior person in rank or social status to show respect for his or her inferior. Well, remember that the person standing on top of the ladder should always speak with respect to the person holding the bottom. Any society without respect will cease to exist. It will destroy itself. This is the reason that the world is suffering such violence and rebellion among its youth. Today’s culture is greatly responsible for not teaching the youth respect for their juniors and seniors.