Dojahng Protocol and Ancient Lessons

This article was originally published in our June 2007 newsletter. 

Dojahng Protocol is confusing for many students and parents. Why? Simply put it is all foreign to them. The art we teach and all of what we do is related to Eastern philosophy. A person who has never studied these concepts will have a difficult time understanding them. Many who have studied Eastern philosophy still have a hard time with some of it. The fact is it takes years of study actually to get it. It is simply a different way of thought.

Here are a few examples of how a martial artist friend of mine made a fool of himself because he didn’t understand Eastern culture:

During my first trip to Japan in 1992, I ordered soda from a fast food joint. When I received my order, the cup was not entirely filled to the rim. I thought I was being ripped off and asked for it to be filled up. I was very adamant about it, border lining being rude. The locals would accommodate by filling it up. Later I found that it was tradition, stemming from the tea cup. The tea cup was never filled due to the heat of the cup as well as the nature of the tea ceremony. My actions were going against tradition.

Another time I was on a train and was being shoved back and forth and treated rudely according to American Standards. When I was about to lash out, my teacher said, this is common here. It is not entirely good manners but is an everyday occurrence. People don’t take offense to it as they do in the States. I immediately calmed down and found humor in it.

How do these stories relate to martial art training? If you think about it, the word “martial” means military. Military Art is what my students practice. The simple fact is this: it is not only about battle and fighting. What we learn are life-skills. The lessons learned in martial art reach deeply into all aspects of a student’s life. Martial art is adapted for use in many ordinary situations, much more so than other sports or activities that a person could be involved in.

Think about someone who has a hard time at work or school. If they know from Kuk Sool that resistance meeting resistance is a waste of energy, then they might understand that they need to flow and adapt. This can turn a bad day into a good one! Life is not as difficult when seen through “martial” eyes. I don’t think any other activity quite compares. I believe martial art will be beneficial to all students young and old.

My goal as a teacher or the Head Instructor of Kuk Sool Won™ of Muncie is to help each student maximize their potential whether they are young or old. Through the virtues of the martial arts, I am positive that my students will find benefits beyond their wildest dreams. The real lesson is to understand that your teacher (whether myself or any of our instructors, Kuk Sa Nim, or the masters) has a great deal to share with you. If you trust in them, then you should take the lessons to heart and adapt them to your life. Do not second guess them, trust them to help mold your future. Steven Seagal once said, “Take ten years to find the right sensei (teacher) and follow them till death, rather than finding a sensei and training with them for ten years and finding out they are not right for you.”

Since we are going to be seeing Kuk Sa Nim and other masters this month, I want to introduce some Protocol Lessons for you to integrate into your training. You might be surprised at some of them. Some of them might make you laugh, but remember that they are from a culture that is based on rules of conduct between people that was designed to reduce friction and increase harmony. We can take these lessons and, again, integrate them into our lives and become stronger and better able to handle challenging situations as they arise.

Protocol Lesson #1

Never call your instructor by their first name. Always call them by their title or Mr. or Miss. no matter where you are. Once you respect your instructor call them by their title now and forever.

Protocol Lesson #2

It is considered very impolite to touch your instructor unless asked to do so. This would include patting on the back, shaking hands or a high five. Now, I don’t have a problem with this behavior. It is very gratifying when my students come up and hug me after class (which happens surprisingly often.) But, unless Kuk Sa Nim reaches out for a handshake, a bow will suffice.

Protocol Lesson #3

Service is a part of your training. Just like doing community service for a charity, it is important to give back a bit above and beyond. You should engage in random acts of kindness that incorporate your dojahng. Help clean, paint, advertise, and refer new members. These are all parts of keeping the dojahng alive and well. Without it, the dojahng is non-existent.

Protocol Lesson #4

Don’t request promotion. Wait patiently. If you are discouraged, speak to your teacher, but do not pressure them. When the time is right, belts are awarded. Remember the promotion is an honor and privilege, not a right. There are many reasons a student may or may not receive a promotion. It is up to the instructor to decide on that individual’s time and merit.

Protocol Lesson #5

Always, show up to class prepared. Be up to date on all your gear. Have a complete uniform, cleaned and ready to go. Excuses are a sign of weakness. When you become a martial artist, it is time to step up and be responsible. As Uncle Ben said in the movie Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” You need to be responsible. By the way, parents can’t take the blame for a student not being prepared. This is not a good lesson to teach. I often hear parents say, “It is my fault he is not prepared.” Think about the lesson: try always to be prepared. Kids emulate what they see and hear.


These lessons are meant to enhance your appreciation for and enjoyment of the martial arts. I’m not some control freak that HAS to be called “Sir” for my day to be complete. My nature is to be fairly laid back and comfortable in my day-to-day interaction with people. But that’s not how we do things in Kuk Sool. We are fairly formal with each other. If you follow these rules (and even use them in your life outside the dojahng), you will enjoy your training more and get more benefit from it.

Agree? Disagree? Want more information? Let me know.