Harmony = Grandmother

Grandma&Me

Hello Everyone;

First, Happy New Year of the Sheep! Suppose to be the year of luck & fortune. I wish you all the very best in the new Year.

I have been absent for a while and thought I would restart my blogging by sharing with you my eulogy for my grandmother at her funeral in 2001. She is the mother of the Founder of Hwa Rang Do®, Dr. Joo Bang Lee. I think this is very appropriate to my current state-of-mind, my state-of-being.

“With the passing of our grandmother, I have no more grandparents. I feel extremely sad and a great emptiness overwhelms me like never before. Maybe I am a little older now and understand more deeply the value of what grandparents mean. I know that she is reunited with grandfather and I should not feel this way. However, I cannot help to think about all that she was and all that I should have done.

Har Ma Ni (Korean for grandmother), harmony in English means a pleasing combination of elements in a whole. Harmani was just that. She complimented everyone and everything. I have never met a more selfless, gentle, kind and generous person. It amazed me how she was able to communicate with Americans who probably never heard Korean in their entire life, by speaking Korean to them and with a few gestures they all understood her (now I understand that to be her energy, her intention; words are meaningless). Sometimes I thought she was psychic.

Whenever her grandchildren would visit her, she would give us something from the little that she had. When I was younger, it was sometimes annoying, but as I grew older I appreciated her generosity. To give, whether she was wealthy or poor, hungry or full, happy or sad.

Her greetings hello or goodbye was, “Did you eat?” and with that she would pull something out of her fridge and offer it to us. When I was younger, I use to fight with her and say that it was okay (as most people who know me, I have had a terrible appetite all my life; but it shouldn’t matter) and she would not take no for an answer, but now I will miss her carving the few apples she had left to feed her grandchildren. Even while she was in the hospital, helpless, fighting for her life, nearly comatose, when I came to visit her, she would mumble, “Did you eat?” I do not think that our generation can truly understand why she did that. We can never understand the struggles of her life when she was young fleeing for her and her family’s life from North to South Korea during the war; when food was scarce and every night she would go to bed hungry, and every morning would wake worrying how she would feed her seven children. I am sure she would have offered a piece of her own body to feed her children if she could. But today, we are all spoiled and we take the basic necessities of life for granted.

She was able to see the good in all of us no matter how bad we were. She was always happy to see us and she never complained about her condition and everyone else always came first.

I try to live my life without regrets, but I do regret, very much. In the recent years before she passed away, being her eldest grandson, her greetings to me was, “When are you going to get married?” And I promised her that she will see my wife before she goes to see grandfather, but because of my stubbornness and self-righteousness, I could not. We are all stubborn, self-righteous, and selfish, but she showed us that there is no room for any of that; not within the family and for her, the world. She was a true Christian. (Grandmother, have not married yet so you didn’t miss anything)

I regret not visiting her very much, but in my own mind, I had these great plans of making a lot of money and giving her all the things she ever wanted and more. I was once again self-righteous and full of myself. I should have done more for her. I am very sad today because it took her death to make me realize that I should cherish and love my family today and everyday by showing them how much I love them and not when I am ready to.

I thank my grandmother for raising and educating such outstanding children, my parents, with the traditional values of honor, respect for elders, and selfless devotion to one’s children and family and these noble traditions, I shall try to emulate for the rest of my life, not only to my family, but to all my friends and students.

Lastly, when my grandfather passed away, I felt my uncles, aunts, cousins all drift apart. It is my hope that Harmani’s passing will bring about greater harmony between all of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. (Of course this not manifest. How can harmony exist without harmani)

On behalf of all her grandchildren, I pray that God will give good care for my grandmother and we thank all of you for being present today to wish her farewell.”

She is my reference of serenity, calmness and true courage.
I will not promise,
I will not plan,
I will not strive,
I will not try,
I will be…

I miss you grandmother…

Grandmaster Taejoon Lee

Warrior’s Path – Walking with Death

The Warrior’s Path

Walking with Death

“I guess it comes down to a simple choice really – get busy living or get busy dying.”

The Shawshank Redemption

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Grandmaster Taejoon Lee faces off against Jokyo Simon Lee

I had a student come to me and ask for a private lesson to show him how to execute a jump spin kick. Of course I feel that it’s long overdue and he should have asked me many months ago when he was first introduced to it as a Tae Soo Do (TSD) Brown Belt. Nearing his TSD Black Belt graduation where he must complete the final part of his Black Belt Testing Requirements by successfully breaking five boards with kick combinations, finishing with a jump spin/low spin kick break, he felt the need to get some extra help to ensure his success. It’s a good thing he was proactive in trying to control the future outcome by increasing his preparation, but what really motivated him? We’ll come back to this. As we continued his private session, he was having a terrible time fixing his old habits. Finally I blurted, “What are you afraid of, what?!”

He answered, “I am afraid of falling.”

I replied, “You have been here almost three years, learned how to fall properly, you are standing on two inch thick mats, and yet you are still afraid of falling? Well, that’s it then. You must become unafraid and accept the worst outcome before you can move forward or perish (not in so many words).”

Human beings are motivated strongly by fears; mainly fear of injury, pain, hardship, embarrassment, and of the unknown. We try to balance our fears by creating comfort zones of predictable patterns to limit our uncertainty, deluding ourselves to think that we have some grasp on our lives.

We try to balance our fears by creating comfort zones of predictable patterns to limit our uncertainty, deluding ourselves to think that we have some grasp on our lives.

As we are taught in Hwa Rang Do to never retreat in the face of the enemy, we must first clearly define and understand this enemy of ours, essentially that is our fears. Let’s think for a moment what that is. Fear is an anticipation of negative results from a particular event, action, or set of conditions that has been learned from past similar events. The important thing to understand is that fear is not real. It is imaginary. It did not happen, and might never happen; it’s only our imagination, our mind which creates images with emotional and psychological attachments that become so real that we create our lives, our responses, and our choices based on fear – our imagination.

There are two types of fear discussed here: let’s describe them as good fear and bad fear. Good fear causes motivation for action and bad fear creates reasons for inaction. Good fear prompts proactive behavior while bad fear immobilizes our minds, causing either no response or complete abandonment – quitting. The good fear prompted the student to take action to prevent the negative result that he was anticipating with planning and preparation by deciding to take a private lesson. The bad fear prevented him from creating the necessary changes for betterment and advancing. He took refuge (as many do) in the comfort of what’s most familiar. Whether that’s good or bad, negative or positive, self destructive or self enriching has no bearing on the decision. Just as a hermit crab hides in their shell, so do we also hide in what’s most familiar. The student was not willing to give up what’s familiar and clung to it like a safety blanket (however old, filthy, or smelly it may be), fixating only on the potential negative result rather than focusing on the possibility for growth and change for the better.

Once I helped the student think through the worst that can happen to him – a broken leg, perhaps, maybe even death (highly unlikely but let’s give our imagination the benefit of the doubt) the student was willing to move into unknown territory. Where before he kept doing the same wrong movement, once he accepted the worst-case scenario, he began to try different ways. Finally after almost an hour of what was to be a thirty-minute session, he made some progress. However, something very interesting occurred. He made some advancement, but quickly regressed to his old ways when he felt he was losing control, uncomfortable with the new body positioning. I think he even fell once. Well, that confirmed it. His fears were right – he did fall. Fear is not logical, it’s not just mental or emotional, it’s all consuming, and it’s powerful. Fear cannot be underestimated, and the demon that has taken a lifetime to take root and grow cannot be defeated in a single brief encounter.

Fear is not logical, it’s not just mental or emotional, it’s all consuming, and it’s powerful. Fear cannot be underestimated, and the demon that has taken a lifetime to take root and grow cannot be defeated in a single brief encounter.

Furthermore, fear cannot be eliminated and should not be. Everything serves a purpose and so does fear. However, like all things, we must learn to control it, using it as fuel for action and exercising caution in making decisions. Being able to do this requires strength, which in turn increases our self-confidence, and enhances our self-image. These are all necessary weapons when facing the demon of fear.

Primarily, we need the strength to accept the worst-case scenario. If one cannot, then they must quit their task and hide from fear, as many people try to hide from death. The problem is that death will come and we have absolutely no control over when or how. The only thing we have control over is life. Hiding is only a temporary solution. Also, have you noticed that when we quit things, or give up on dreams, that in our minds it’s perfectly justified and we have all the right reasons to do so? Of course we do! How could we live with ourselves if it weren’t the case? This is how our mind works for self-preservation. Letting go of these justifications and delusions by being true and honest to oneself is the first step in battling our fears. As warriors then, by definition, we must train ourselves to be unafraid of confrontation and engage our enemy. We must accept and embrace death as a guest, a friend that walks next to you with life on the other side. Only by embracing death, by truly accepting it, can we begin to appreciate and respect life. Not to abuse our life and live recklessly, which would be disrespecting death, but by honoring life so that our deaths become more meaningful.

As warriors then, by definition, we must train ourselves to be unafraid of confrontation and engage our enemy. We must accept and embrace death as a guest, a friend that walks next to you with life on the other side.

This is the beauty and the power of Hwa Rang Do. We exercise dealing with fear on a daily basis as we take on physical, mental, and emotional challenges set by the art, fellow students, and me (the teacher) in a controlled safe environment. Hence, realizing our limitations, weaknesses, and the truth about ourselves, we can practice taming our personal demons and making them our friends that we may call upon for help – sources of motivation. As the protagonist, Andy, in the acclaimed film, “The Shawshank Redemption,” was forced to make a decision when all hope was lost, so do we – either to get busy living or get busy dying. After losing all hope, when facts were revealed that could prove Andy’s innocence were brutally suppressed by the prison warden, Andy was forced to contemplate the meaning of life. Hopefully, we do not need to be in such extreme conditions to realize that the choice is ours – to live or to die, to be living or to be dying.

Hopefully, we do not need to be in such extreme conditions to realize that the choice is ours – to live or to die, to be living or to be dying.

Death is inevitable and tomorrow may never come. To live life by allowing fear to force our hopes and dreams into hiding, never realizing our full potential, is slavery epitomized. We must look deep within and bring to the surface our innermost fears, confronting them face to face as we do our opponents, sparring until imminent victory. The fear you suppress most that lurks in the dark crevices of your mind is what enslaves you and it’s that enemy that we must overcome in order to truly live life with freedom. I hope to continue gettin’ busy living with all of you for many more years to come.

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With gratitude to death in making our lives more fulfilling,

Taejoon Lee

Grandmaster/WHRDA VP