A Martial Arts Oath of Loyalty to Teachers

Listener Tom Cozzolino takes us to a Korean martial arts academy to hear the opening oath taken to the dojang master. Cozzolino says it expresses an ideal of loyalty to our teachers.

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Today's listener sound clip comes to us from a different realm. At least that's how some people see it.

(Soundbite of martial arts training)

TOM COZZOLINO: My name's Tom Cozzolino. And I'm a management consultant living in (unintelligible) Pennsylvania.

(Soundbite of martial arts training)

COZZOLINO: We're just outside Philadelphia. And for the past 10 years or so, one of my passions has been the study of martial arts, specifically Korean martial arts.

(Soundbite of martial arts training)

COZZOLINO: And specifically on top of that, Tae Kwon Do, but also a couple of other arts you may not have heard of called Hapkido and something called Haidong Gumdo or the art of the Korean sword. Now, given my martial arts history, you might think that this sound I'm going to talk about is some kind of blood-curdling scream or something from a Hollywood movie. But in fact, it's really something quite different. The sound that's really compelling and special to me is something called the Code of Toma(ph).

TOMA is traditional oriental martial arts, and it's part of every single class we do here at our school or dojang, in Korea.

Now, when you walk into the dojang, the first thing you have to do is take your shoes of, which sounds, again, kind of strange, but it symbolizes leaving the world behind - the outside world that is - and really entering a whole different world. And it's an ordered world and incredibly peaceful, believe it or not. The tradition of values that we practice here - honor and respect for each other, for our elders, for the instructor - that was backed 1,000 of years. And sort of in today's disposable existence, there's really something pretty rich about that.

(Soundbite of martial arts training)

COZZOLINO: So at the beginning of each of our training sessions, we stand at attention, we pay respect to the American and Korean flags, and our instructor, and then we kneel for meditation. After clearing our minds and, kind of, relaxing and focusing on the moment, the instructor commands us to recite the, again, the Code of Toma, which is loyalty, courage, worthy and humble, and then we can begin our class.

(Soundbite of martial arts training)

COZZOLINO: And even, there are really most of us are far from the ideal that the words kind of espouse. Perhaps, just saying them and believing them fulfills just a little bit more of our human potential.

(Soundbite of martial arts training)

BLOCK: That's listener Tom Cozzolino and a sound clip from a Korean martial arts. Listen for and tell us about sounds that catch your attention. You can share them with us by going to npr.org, search for SoundClips.

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