The Five Codes and Me
Updated: Aug 25, 2021
Tang Soo Do has been a really big part of my life for a very long time. I’ve been training in this particular style of martial art since I was four and a half. Which means that I’ve spent over three quarters of my life training in Tang Soo Do! I’ve learned many different things while training in Tang Soo Do. I’ve learned about the history of our martial art, the Korean culture and a bit of the language. Tang Soo Do has also taught me a lot about myself. I’ve learned ways to become stronger; not just physically, but menatally and in my words and actions. The Five Codes of Tang Soo Do have played a major part in helping me to grow and become stronger.
The five codes of Tang Soo Do were written by a monk named Wong Kwang approximately 1800 years ago when war was very prevalent. The codes were written for the warriors of that time to live and work by. Even though the codes were written a very long time ago, they are still relevant to our society and play an important role in the World Tang Soo Do Association today. Each one of these codes has helped me to become stronger in my daily life as well as in my training.
As a Little Dragon one of the best things my instructor did to help us learn the five codes was to make us recite them at the end of every class. This helped me to memorize them, but at the time I still didn’t really understand what they meant, I just knew they were “The Five Codes of Tang Soo Do” and I had to know them and they were important. At the time I didn't know how important they would become to me. Now, as I’m getting older and more advanced in my training I’ve learned and am still learning what the codes truly mean and how to live them.
The Five Codes of Tang Soo Do are loyalty to country, obedience to parents, honor friendship, no retreat in battle, and in fighting choose with sense and honor. Although we learn the codes in the dojang they are just as important if not more so outside of the dojang. They give us ways to better ourselves as a whole. They can be a guide for me when I’m troubled or in doubt. I’ve used them to stay true; true to myself, true to those around me, and true to my training.
The first code, “Loyalty to Country”, means a lot to me for a couple of reasons. My family has a rich history of serving in the military. My grandfather, both of my great grandfathers, and some of my uncles have served our country. My great grandfathers were both in World War II and my one Uncle was in Iraq. My grandfather served in the United States Marine Corps for 20 years and he told me a few stories about how his friends had to go to war and fight for our country, some of them giving the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. But loyalty to country doesn’t just have to mean going to war for your country, or joining the military, it can be as simple as flying the flag, standing for the National Anthem, or picking up trash and putting it in either the trash can or recycle bin all can show your loyalty to your country. (Can you imagine how clean our country would be if we all helped in this small way?) I have the opportunity to show loyalty to my country every day.
In the dojang I/we show loyalty to our country by saluting the flag before we bow into class. By doing this we are showing our respect for our country, what the flag stands for, and the people who fought for it. Outside of the dojang I show my loyalty by standing up and saluting the flag while we sing our national anthem or pledge of allegiance to the flag. I try to remember every day that we are lucky to live in a country that affords us such freedoms as we have in this great country.
The second code of Tang Soo Do is “Obedience to Parents”. This means that I should always listen to my mother and father. If my parents tell me to do something, I should do it. If my mom tells me to go out and get the mail, I shouldn’t say “no”, instead I should say “yes ma’am” or “sure”. This is one of the hardest codes for any of us; young or old. This code wants us to obey but also to understand why we obey, and not just do it blindly. Our parents are there to teach and guide us, to help make us into a better person, to show us right from wrong, and to keep us safe. Over the past year or so I have become much more familiar with this code because of the amount of time I spent at home.
In March of 2020 everything changed. I was home all the time. My in-person learning was changed to homeschooling and all of my sports and martial arts training stopped due to COVID-19. I was forced to find a new way to learn and keep up with all of my school work and training. My mother gave me instructions to help me become more organized so that I would be prepared for all of my Google Meets and the rest of my school work and training. At first I didn't follow her suggestions, but I came to realize that most of what she said would really help me. So I listened to her, but I tweaked her suggestions a little and was able to have a successful school year. Some of those same suggestions enabled me to keep training in Tang Soo Do even though I wasn’t in the dojang. At first it was hard to train at home by myself but I followed the schedule my mother gave me and it became a routine. Because I obeyed my parents I didn’t lose much during the quarantine.
The third code of Tang Soo Do is “Honor Friendship”. I really like this one because it is so important in life. When you have a friend you should never take their friendship for granted. You should always cherish it because in the end it means a lot to you and to that person. When you are with your friends and people in general you should treat them with kindness. If you treat a person poorly they will never want to be around you and will always stay away from you. If you treat them nicely, it makes them feel good and they will treat you the same. It is important that you and your friends treat each other with the same respect and kindness.
When I’m training in the dojang I try to make friends with the people I train with no matter what age or belt rank they are. I try to treat everybody with the same respect and kindness that was shown to me. If a new student comes into the dojang I try to say hi and help them in class. In school or out of school if a friend needs help with their homework or class work I’m always willing to help. Doing this lets my friends know that I will help them when I can, which makes them feel good.
The fourth code of Tang Soo Do is “No retreat in battle”. The word battle in this code means much more than physical battles. It also means personal or mental battles that you have to get through. When it says “no retreat in battle” it is saying that we should not just run away and hide from our problems, it is saying that we should confront them head-on instead. This can mean a lot especially if you are going through something difficult or painful. Though it may be hard you have to push through it because when it’s over you will be stronger for having gone through it.
I use this code all the time in my school work and other difficult things I have to do. It means that even when I’m tired or don’t understand something I need to try my hardest and keep going and finish what I’m working on. I should not just give up or I will never succeed at what I’m doing and it will just make me upset and frustrated. If I really want to do something and I put my mind to it, I know that I can achieve many great things in my life.
When I’m in a game or at practice or working on something difficult, I use this code to motivate me to finish. Like when I’m in a soccer game and we’re losing 5-0 in the second half I call on this code to keep me playing like it was the start of the game. In my Tang Soo Do training I call on this code often during sparring matches. I use it to keep me focused so that I can keep pushing until the last point is called.
The fifth code of Tang Soo Do is “In fighting, choosing with sense and honor”. To me this is one of the most important codes because it is not only talking about a physical fight, or hand to hand combat, but it is referring to hurting somebody’s mind or spirit as well. This code wants you to remember to “take the high road”. If you are in a physical fight, you should only hurt somebody if it is in self defense. Do not strike out of anger or hate, but strike because it is needed to defend yourself or another. This applies to hurting another person’s spirit or feelings as well. Again, “take the high road”, and do not speak out of anger or hate, because once you say something you cannot take it back and people’s minds and feelings are fragile.
In the physical fighting sense, I try to remember this code during sparring as I'm careful to not hurt anyone and keep both myself and my sparring partner safe and uninjured. This is very important to me as I don’t want to hurt the person I’m working with because they may never want to be my partner again. Or if they are a newer student they may not want to spar again. Outside of the dojang I use this code to help me get through difficult daily problems such as school, chores, sports, or anything like that. This code allows me to get through those things by reminding me that I should think before I do or say something that may hurt another person or make the situation worse. It reminds me to think about the consequences before I do anything because I will have to live with them, whether they’re good or bad.
These are the Five Codes of Tang Soo Do and they’re very important to me because they give me different ways to better myself physically, mentally, and spiritually. They offer me a guideline to live my life in an honorable way both in my martials studies and in my daily life. When I start my day I try to remember these codes and live by them for the entire day. They’re a reminder each day of the person I am and the person I want to be. As a Cho Dan it is important for me to be an example to the lower belts. They should see me living The Five Codes of Tang Soo Do not just in the dojang but outside of it as well. I never would have thought that taking Tang Soo Do would help to prepare me to become a “good” person, a good friend, a good student, and a good son but that is what it has done and is doing.