Protocol, Taekwon-do

Protocol: Its Importance and Limitations

Protocol is an important aspect of the first principle: Courtesy.

Courtesy – Education – Protocol

What's the difference?

Among the elements of Courtesy described by our Founder General Choi Hong Hi in the

Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do are the following: being kind among us, distinguishing instructors from students, older than fewer graduates, young people of the elderly, behaving with education.

These three elements relate to appropriate education and protocol, and General Choi made it clear that both were very important in Taekwon-Do.

Education defines how one should act to show respect for others, and the rituals and traditions of an organization or culture.

A high level of education should be observed by students, both inside and outside the training site (do jang). This should apply from minor graders to older students while training, from more advanced students to older students outside dojang, and by all students when visiting another dojang. In all cases, greater emphasis should be placed on a correct and appropriate greeting.

It is a way of respect and courtesy in both the West and Eastern societies.

General Choi Hong Hi, Founder of ITF Taekwon-Do

The Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do (vol. 1, p. 66)

The Protocol refers to formal rules which state that it is correct and appropriate in an official exchange. Each type of social structure has its protocol rules – governments of all kinds, militia, religions, business, sports, etc. – whether written in an official document or simply be an oral part of the tradition.

The following examples were chosen to illustrate that no matter where you live or to which organization you belong, you will always be required to follow some type of protocol:

When we think about it, we realize that even families have protocol rules.

Of course it would be unusual to have your family's protocol rules written down, so we'll call them "expectations" instead of rules. Are family members expected to attend family gatherings, serve elaborate meals, or deliver cute gifts on special occasions? Each family has its own rules based on its culture, religion, social status, and family traditions. Those rules are actually an informal code of protocol.

At another end, that of the international diplomatic world must all follow complex rules of protocol, particularly on ceremonial occasions. When you see two heads of state get together on TV, you never wondered: are you really happy to see each other? They're being nice but are smiles and friendly handshakes genuine or just

"are they going on with the current"?

In Taekwon-Do, protocol begins by being polite, but that's just the beginning. We must take it further, always applying the rules of protocol in a spirit of respect, as marked by the tradition of martial arts. There should never be any doubt that our protocol gestures are genuine!

Regardless of the circumstances, following an appropriate protocol is considered. The Origins of the Protocol

The Martial Arts Protocol began many centuries ago in the East, originating as practical gestures designed to cultivate good relations with others. Over time, these practical gestures evolved into formal protocol rules.

Confucian thought was the greatest influence on the development of the Taekwon-Do philosophy. General Choi taught his students that through self-improvement they would be helping to build a better world. As you know, that thought is expressed in the Student Oath.

The Courtesy (Ye Ui), defined by General Choi, is the first of five principles of Taekwon-Do. It's also one of the Five

Virtues identified by Confucius. Li refers to good manners, kindness, correct behavior, rituals and ceremonies; to summarize, Li refers to protocol. The other Virtues are Ren (benevolence), Xin (integrity), Yi (righteousness), and Zhi (knowledge).

It is interesting to note that Confucius believed that traditional music and dance were in perfect harmony with the world and the heavens. He taught his students that through understanding and proper interpretation of music and dance they could achieve harmony with the universe.

For example, in ancient times, Chinese mandarins used very long robes, with wide sleeves. When a Mandarin raised his sleeves, which was a practical gesture – because it was difficult to use his hands if he didn't – it was a way of pointing out that he was open and honest. Perhaps from there comes the expression "not hiding anything up your sleeves" referring to the word that there is nothing to hide.

Currently, in Taekwon-Do when holding the right arm with your left hand to greet, protocol is being followed and even if it is not always consented, you are telling the other person that they are trusting. Using a hand to hold the arm is a sign of total respect.

It is a custom known in the West to hit the glasses when someone proposes a toast. There are several theories about the origin of this custom, but it seems that it began as a practical gesture. It is believed that to prove that the drink was not poisoned the host poured a small amount of his guests' drink into his own drink and took it. Some believe this custom originated in the Middle Ages in Europe, while others say it began with the ancient Greeks.

No matter how the practice of ringing glasses originated when it is provided, it has survived as a custom in many cultures.

In Taekwon-Do the appropriate protocol concerning toasts refers to the glass being held with the right hand, and the left hand holding the right arm. To show proper respect to the elderly, the lower graduation one should be careful not to raise their glass higher than the larger glass.

Regardless of the origins of protocol rules, when we follow the proper rules we are demonstrating respect for others and traditions. Why is the Protocol Important?

The protocol exists because all societies need rules. We use the rules to create structure and order, because without rules there would be anarchy. In a democratic society, the government generates laws and rules that say what a citizen should or should not do, but those laws also protect citizens. The freedom of individuals is always tied to respect for the freedom of others in a democratic society.

Protocol is an integral part of martial arts, and the ITF protocol has a positive influence on all involved. In fact, we cannot fully benefit from the

Taekwon-Do unless we respect protocol.

Many years ago when I moved from Vietnam to Canada to attend college, I continued to teach Taekwon-Do at the Laval University club, but I was disappointed when I discovered that there were no other Taekwon-Do instructors in the Quebec City area.

There were a number of schools offering a different style of martial arts, but when I took my students to participate in open tournaments where there were many martial arts notice a huge difference between them and ITF Taekwon-Do: in the ITF we learned the philosophy of martial arts and followed a protocol, while in the other schools they taught only techniques. So they were really teaching combat sports and not true martial art.

Over the years I continue to study the philosophy of Taekwon-Do and various philosophies

Eastern on which it is based. I teach the C and Taekwon-Do protocol to my students, because I want to help them become true martial artists.

The Benefits of the Protocol

It is in bad taste that a black belt snubs a beginner white belt which can very well be greater to the instructor in both age and level. When students visit another dojang, whether Taekwon-Do or other martial art, they must provide proper respect, be modest, and courteous at all times.

General Choi Hong Hi, Founder of ITF Taekwon-Do

The Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do (vol. 1, p. 66)

In my professional career, I have a responsibility to develop internationally for my company.

I have participated in numerous business missions in Eastern countries and others. In preparation for these missions, I have taken courses designed to help business people understand other cultures.

By learning and applying the protocol rules of the different countries you visit, respect for their culture and traditions can be demonstrated. Avoiding behaviors that can become insulting to hosts (or talking embarrassing to you). Always consider that the information provided in these courses is essential to succeed in our missions.

In Taekwon-Do, as in business and other aspects of life, adapting to protocol rules according to various circumstances, you can:

  • show respect for individuals and organizations,
  • create a good learning environment,
  • prove that you are committed to Taekwon-Do training,
  • recognize that he must remain modest and humble

Let's take a closer look at these points: You can show respect to individuals and organizations

Acting on the ITF Taekwon-Do protocol, you show respect for our martial art, for the ITF, and for your fellow practitioners. There are also benefits that come from protocol in other aspects of your life, such as education, business, and sports.

One of the rules I learned in business courses is that in Asia you should always present the business card with a bow and offering it with both hands. Also, when you receive a business card from someone else, you must bow and accept the card with both hands, taking the time to read it before storing it. From their reactions, it was clear that our Asian hosts noticed our efforts to continue their customs and appreciated it very much.

During a mission to Japan, a businessman from

The West in our group remembered taking off his shoes before entering the home of another Japanese businessman, with whom he hoped to do some business. But when our host served sushi, the man from the West pulled him away with an expression of displeasure in his face, mumbmulating something about "raw fish."

He had learned the importance of complying with certain local customs – he remembered to remove his shoes before entering – but his actions showed that he had not fully understood the principles of respect for others which lead us to fulfill these customs.

As you can imagine, the West man's inappropriate reaction to sushi destroyed the first good impression he gave by taking off his shoes. Our Japanese host continued to be friendly, but the businessman lost his contact.

I'm not saying the western businessman should have forced him to eat sushi. He might have refused, but politely. The problem was his attitude, not sushi. This example helps us see that being a true martial artist does not mean following protocol only in the martial art environment. To be a true martial artist means to be guided in everything we do by the principles that are the foundations of our protocol.

You can create a good learning environment

Instructors know that students always learn best when in comfortable environments with few distractions, but they also need to be in the right mental framework to learn. Going to the dojang, putting on the dobok, and making the appropriate protocol gestures help us achieve this.

Many years ago I was coaching a team and our workouts were very early in the morning. People would get to training like they were fresh out of bed, not completely awake.

I also noticed that they didn't care about their appearance that they were careless in greeting their peers and me.

That changed after I told them about the importance of following protocol rules. There was a noticeable improvement in the atmosphere, and everyone benefited much more from the workouts. You can prove that you are engaged about your Taekwon-Do training

The following experience demonstrates how we can do this:

In the '80s he was the coach of the Canadian Taekwon-Do team preparing to compete at the ITF World Championships in Athens(Greece). A psychologist who specialized in helping athletes mentally prepare was assigned to work with my team. (You should point out that although it is now considered normal, at that time mental preparation for athletes was a new concept)

To make the best use of his time and reduce expenses, it was decided that the psychologist would also train the local synchronized swimming team.

After working with the two teams for a period of time, the psychologist noticed that the members of both teams worked hard and really wanted to win.

He was impressed that ITF Taekwon-Do offered physical and mental training, but what really impressed him was the discipline of the Taekwon-Do people and their respectful attitude. He could realize that our team members did not perform protocol gestures mechanically (reverence, etc.). They really understood that by performing these gestures they were proving to be mentally prepared, ready to train, and test so they took their training very seriously. Protocol helped them focus on their training.

The psychologist called this "une boucle fermée de formation" in French, which could literally translate as "a complete learning circuit". I've never thought of it that way before, but I understood that in dojang our students find themselves in a kind of "training bubble", an environment in which we provide them with the necessary conditions to progress and be successful. The Taekwon-Do protocol is an essential element of that environment.

  • You may be aware that you must remain modest and humble

Whatever level of Taekwon-Do we reach, we need to remember that there is always more to learn. Following protocol rules with respect serves to remember that we are all students. It will help us to be humble and modest (not bluffing).

Apply the Protocol with a Respectful Spirit

  • I'd like to start this section with a couple of examples:

Thirty years ago, elementary and secondary teachers in Quebec, Canada, wanted to have a friendly relationship with their students, so they insisted that they be called by their first name instead of Teacher, Sta. or Teacher/r. These titles have recently been reused.

What happened? Teachers eventually realized that the problem was that respect had been lost for misuse of it. When students called their teachers by their first name, they felt they were on the same level as them, so students felt free to criticize and challenge them in their decisions.

I recently read that professors at some universities in Vietnam asked their students to call them by their first name. In this case, the goal is not to become "best friends" but to encourage them to feel comfortable when expressed in class. Apparently students were so accustomed to the traditional way they taught – the teacher speaks and the students listen – that they were afraid to express their opinions. As a result, teachers found it very difficult to assess how much students actually understood. • Can we learn from these stories?

Like the teachers in Quebec and the University of Vietnam professors mentioned above, our instructors must find the right balance. I mean the right balance between:

  • the authority of the instructor and the mutual respect that must be between instructor and student;
  • the desire to perform well and the requirements to follow our protocol,
  • the technical and mental aspects of Taekwon-Do,
  • the traditions of martial arts and the life of the twenty-first century,
  • East and West; and I'm sure you can add other aspects to this list.

One more example:

At the end of April I went to the ITF European Championship in Benidorm (Spain). I was very happy to see that all competitors followed protocol rules during competitions. However, I also noticed that members of some teams did not show proper respect for their elders during those times when they were not participating in the ringers. It was obvious to me that some teams had not been taught to apply protocol rules with respect and understanding; they were fulfilling them only because they were required in the competition. But following protocol is not optional in Taekwon-Do, and the requirement to bow to a major does not apply only during competitions.

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage coaches to ensure that their competitors are consenting to the meaning of protocol gestures and the importance of performing them in a spirit of respect.

The Scope of Protocol Application

In the martial arts tradition, protocol is very important. In fact, protocol is critical to practicing martial arts. Having a formal Protocol Code for the ITF will ensure that the same rules are followed everywhere, and this standardization will make the ITF a more cohesive organization.

As noted above, itF protocol rules are based on principles of martial arts respect. This means that the scope of the protocol is broader than just specific actions described in the Protocol Code. If a specific situation is not mentioned in the Code, we should ask ourselves how the principle of respect relates to and act on the situation.

For example, a protocol principle is that higher-level ones must be recognized first and then in descending order according to their category. I'm sure this should be done naturally in the dojang. Anyway, what should I do when attending a social event with TaekwonDo people?

You should act on the principle. You should first look for and greet the highest- graduation.

A second example: Included in the Protocol Code of the ITF will give a definition of the appropriate costumes to train and compete. By doing the right way to dress you will show respect for the ITF, its instructors, your peers, and your opponents in the competitions. In addition, through proper clothing and proper grooming, you will be expanding the principle of respect for your life outside the

Taekwon-Do and will show respect for the genta you know.

I realized that how you eat or dress can be in isolation insignificant details, but all added up become important. Appearance is an important factor for a good first impression, if it's not good, you may not get a second chance.

Another benefit of dressing properly is that it will help us feel more comfortable on social occasions.

In a job interview, inappropriate clothing or lack of grooming might prevent you from being given the opportunity to showcase your skills and skills. Why wouldn't he dress appropriately for such an occasion? Have you ever wondered what to put yourself in a social event where you will attend older? Maybe he's been invited to an older man's house. How will he decide what to wear? To start the lowest graduation will follow the line of the elders, so decide according to the major. If you need help, simply ask what would be appropriate for the occasion. As a general rule, it is always better to be dressed in others than to be more casual than everyone else.

The scope of our protocol also extends to the importance of good manners when eating with others. Although these instructions on good table manners will not be included in the Protocol Code, we should always know what is considered acceptable conduct depending on the circumstances and act on them. This is another way to show respect to others.

Complying with protocol rules will help us progress in Taekwon-Do, and also to have positive benefits in other aspects of our lives.

An Ethics Code or a Protocol Code?

Why does the ITF need an Ethical Code and a Protocol Code?

While ethics and protocol are intimately linked, it is important to understand the differences:

You won't steal money from your instructor, because that would be morally incorrect and a violation of the Code of Ethics. (It would also be illegal). However, since the Protocol Code is unlikely to include a rule that specifically prohibits stealing, it is certainly not violating written protocol rules. However, it would be violating the principle of respect for others which is the basis of the


ITF students show respect to their instructors through obeisances as required by Taekwon-Do protocol. Not reverence your instructor would be a clear demonstration of immaturity and poor attitude, as well as a lack of respect for it. I'm sure that's not what he wants.

But what would you do in the rare case if an older man asks you to do something that you think is unethical? A basic principle of protocol is that minor graduations must show respect for their elders. However, protocol rules do not call for blind obedience. A student can express their opinion or refuse to do something that goes against their conscience, but there is never a good reason to violate protocol rules by being disrespectful to our elders. It is very important that you do not make the situation worse for losing your temper or complaining to others. If you are in such a situation, you could ask to speak to the eldest privately, and then calmly and kindly explain your concerns.

The ITF does not approve of abuse of authority in the organization. We have a Discipline and Ethics Committee and a policy that underscores the steps that need to be taken to resolve these situations. So, if the situation can't be resolved by a talk with your eldest, you could ask for help at higher levels.

From these examples you can see that the ITF needs both the Code of Ethics and a Protocol Code, and I am proud to be able to say that we are making progress in both projects.

An Ethical Code for ITF Instructors

Master Evan Davidson of the NEW Zealand ITF, Head of the ITF Discipline and Ethics Committee, has proposed a draft Code of Ethics for ITF instructors, and I am proud to announce that it was adopted by the ITF Board of Directors at its last meeting in Benidorm, Spain, in late April.

They will be hearing more about the implementation of the Code of Ethics in the near future.

A Code of Ethics is a moral guide.

It sets the good apart from the bad.

A Protocol Code establishes formal rules that define the appropriate and correct in an organization.

Describes how to act. A Protocol Code for the ITF

The ITF leadership team has always recognized the value of a Protocol Code for our organization.

In fact, a few years ago we sent a well-known international protocol expert to generate a manual for the ITF. He attended the 2005 World Championships in Germany to see how the protocol applied in our competitions. He told me that although the movements of the competitors were violent he could see that they respected each other, they respected their coaches and the judges and referees.

Unfortunately, he had serious health problems and the project for the time being was discontinued.

As part of preparations for the World Championships in Quebec City, Canada, during 2007, the Organizing Committee in collaboration with Mr. Kurt Ottesen, a member of the Tournament Committee,

Judges and Arbitrators, generated a Protocol Guide specifically for that competition. Each coach who participated in the World Championships was given a copy of that guide. We received a very positive response and many requests for additional copies of the guide.

More recently, Master Pierre Laquerre, one of my students who was recently promoted to Black Belt VIII Dan, made a document emphasizing the protocol rules, This document will be used to ensure that all schools in the province of Quebec follow the same protocol.

I try to invite some of our oldest teachers to make a working group and produce the official ITF Protocol Code, using as a starting point the protocol guide of the Championship

World Cup 2007 and the document produced by Master Laquerre. Obviously, the collaboration of two of the CURRENT COMMITTEES of the ITF is essential to the success of this work: the Committee of Tournaments, Judges and Arbitrators, led by Master Alberto Katz, and the Technical and InstructionAl Committee, led by Grand Master Hector Marano.

To ensure that the proposed rules are accepted by most of our Grandmasters and

Teachers, we will also be making inquiries on the subject.

When this process is completed, the first section of the proposed code will be submitted to the Commission

ITF directive, at its next meeting during the World Championships in Argentina during

November, for approval, the first section of the ITF Protocol Code will deal with various situations that we may most frequently encounter in Taekwon-Do. Our goal is to have this first section ready for 2010. At this point Level 1 of the C course will be available to all ITF members from red belt onwards, and that course will include a segment about Code-based protocol.


The Protocol is not optional; is an essential element of Taekwon-Do. You can't comply with the protocol only when you feel like it. It must become an integral part of your life in Taekwon-Do.

I am very pleased that the ITF will soon have a Protocol Code, and the protocol rules will be the same for all ITF Taekwon-Do practitioners in the world. Once the Code is published, the protocol rules must be followed by all ITF officers. Our ITF instructors and teachers will teach protocol rules to their students and must ensure that they comply with them.

Very often it is said that respect must be achieved. To achieve the respect of your students, an ITF instructor must:

  • provide good quality of instruction;
  • understand and teach the C;
  • ensure that your students understand the importance of protocol rules and set a good example by following them.

Our ITF instructors need to create an enabling environment to encourage learning and understanding, while at the same time ensuring that their students comply with protocol rules.

In conclusion, I will ask you to remember that although protocol is extremely important, it is only one element of the Courtesy, and the Courtesy is only the first of the five principles of Taekwon-Do.

To become a true martial artist and live the way of life of Taekwon-Do, we must study, understand, and implement all the elements of the five principles:

Courtesy, Integrity, Self-Control, Perseverance, and Indomitable Spirit

Only there can we contribute to the development of a better society, promote peace, justice and freedom.

GrandMaster Tr'n Triu Qu'n, MBA, President of the ITF period 2003 – 2010

ndMaster Tran Trieu Quan was the itF president from his democratic election at the ITF Congress in Poland from 2003 until his tragic death in Haiti in January 2010.


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