Self Control

You can never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself. — Leonardo DaVinci

Self-control Sophie…This tenet-teaching dragon has been the hardest to look at. It’s the one I grapple with most. Sometimes I confuse Sophie with her twin brother, Denial Dan.

There is a fine line between self-control and denial. Self-control is to acknowledge the problems exist, are real, and deal with them straight-on. Denial is to see the problems and turn away, assuming it will “All work out.”

Self-control is an act of will.

To have self-control as a part of taekwon-do is a dual challenge: to punch yourself (or your opponent) without causing harm; and not allowing extraneous affairs into the training space.

For some, self-control may be not showing off one’s taekwon-do, or using it as “fun-and-games.” It could be not taking the bait of another: “So, you’re a martial artist? I bet you can’t (fill in blank here — knock his socks off, break this, kick this high…)” For others, it could be not teasing a brother or sister with it.

For the senior students working with the juniors, self-control is working each technique as carefully and solidly as possible — to the level of the other student. It would seem cruel to have a black belt spar with a new student at his or her own level. It is better to have enough control to work with focus and power, and to work with the student, not compete with them.

For the junior students, self-control comes in a different form — having enough control to know when to stop, to be able to pace working with the senior, to not feel pressured to work to the level of the senior.

Self-control in the dojang is also a form of intense concentration and a necessity. It is not letting the outside world inside the walls of the space. Nothing else can exist in that room but the present. Training is training. The arguments at home, at work, the joys, all must be left at the doorway. Self-control in the dojang does not mean denying these things, merely keeping them in check.

To me, that is why I bow in. It’s the place where I acknowledge the change and try to leave everything outside. It doesn’t always happen. I have come to realize that training in class is not the way to work anger out. Perhaps after class with the bag or meditating with the lights out and KODO playing on the CD player. During class, all else must cease to exist. Control is shared with the instructor.

Self-control is just that — a conscious decision and choice.

Random Thoughts on Self Control

A man who is master of himself can end a sorrow as easily as he can invent a pleasure. — Oscar Wilde (Portrait of Dorian Grey)

It is in self-limitation that a master first shows himself. — J. W. von Goethe

He who conquers others is strong.
He who conquers himself is mighty. — Lao Tse

The man who man would be must rule the empire of himself.
— Percy Bysshe Shelley

The highest possible stage in moral culture is when we recognize that we ought to control our thoughts. — Charles Darwin

He who cannot obey himself will be commanded. That is the nature of living creatures. — Nietzsche

The angry man will defeat himself in battle as well as in life. — Unknown

You can never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself. — Leonardo DaVinci

Govern the lips as they were palace doors, the king within: tranquil and fair and courteous be all words from that presence leave. — Edwin Arnold

Control is restraint upon movement, and because complete control would be complete restraint, control must always be subordinate to motion — if there is to be any motion at all. — Alan Watts (The Book)

What lies in our power to do, it also lies in our power not to do. — Aristotle

For twenty years I have dealt with anger, and I still have not managed to dissolve it away completely. Thus I know controlling oneself is difficult. – Xue Xuan

To learn technique you must carefully control the workings of your mind and body. This is what students misunderstand. Controlling the mind and body does not stifle the spirit; it sets it free. — Hideharu Onuma

One who restrains the senses and organs of action, but whose mind dwells on sense of objects, certainly deludes himself and is called a pretender.
On the other hand, he who controls the senses by mind and engages his active organs in works of good, without attachment, is by far superior.
— Bhagavad Gita

4 thoughts on “Self Control”

  1. Very interesting!
    I wrote my Taekwon-do Black Belt thesis on the spiritual values of Guk-gi (Self-Control) and (and Taekwon-do’s 5th oath (“I shall build a more peaceful world”)
    Clearly you have some kind of learning/teaching in the martial art.
    Do you practice Taekwon-do? If so, ITF or WTF?
    Do you currently hold a belt?

    1. I do not currently practice – though aspire to again one day. I trained in ITF under Master Stephen Barrett, but spent as much time as I could taking photos for Master Twing here in Vermont. My last belt was a red stripe…

      I started writing as I trained as it was much more than about “fighting” to me – and this is what allowed me to keep a balance.

      1. I couldn’t agree with you more! “Fighting” (sparring) is the tiniest aspect of Taekwon-do (or many martial arts for that matter). (It’s just the most visual).

        I would argue that it really isn’t about fighting at all. (Maybe only in that you are ‘fighting’ yourself – you are challenging yourself – you are your own biggest obstacle.

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