The sun was just beginning to rise above the trees. It was cold as the
morning wind sent chills throughout my body. I could feel the snow on my
bare feet as I stood motionless in my stance. I lifted my right leg and
drove a side kick into the tree which stood before me. The branches shook
slightly. "Not good enough" I said to myself. Again I slammed my foot against the tree.
Again and again until
I could feel the tree beginning to rock back and forth. As I continued to
kick the tree, I remembered a word my master had said to me many years
Even after class had ended I would stay practicing my kicks and punches
until I could hardly lift my legs and arms. The master would look in
and say "suk-dal", a word I did not know, then he would go back
to whatever he was doing.
One day the master called me to the front of the class and shouted a
command at me, "Pon Tay Chirigee". I quickly dropped into a front
stance and snapped out a reverse punch with all the power I could muster.
As I stood there I started mentally analyzing my punch. I began to go
over all the things I believed I had done wrong. I stood like a
statue waiting to see what he wanted me to do next.
Suddenly I felt a sharp pain shoot up my rear leg. The master had struck
me with the stick he often carried during class, and screamed "nha".
I didn't move. Again, pain, this time across my back as that one word
echoed throughout the training hall as the master yelled to the whole class,
"nha". Again, again, and again, pain and that word, "nha" each time, which
There was a momentary lapse, then everything was quiet. The students were
in shock. The master now stood in front of me, and a strange look came
over his face. He grabbed my punching arm, firmly yet gently and said
quietly, "suk-dal" as he looked at the rest of the class. He pointed
to my head, looked at the class and said, "suk-dal". Finally he
pointed to my chest, looked directly into my eyes and said,
When the class was over all the black belts were stunned and quite
confused. Several of them approached the Master and asked, "Master,
what did you mean?" He replied. "The stance, yes, perfect. The punch,
yes, perfect. But these are simply physical things. I touched his
arm because he gives all of his body to his training simply for the
love of the Art. This is suk-dal, perfection. I pointed to his
head because he devotes this mind and thoughts to learning everything
he can about the Art. This is suk-dal, perfection. I pointed to
his chest because he loves the Art from deep in his heart and it shall
be part of him all of his life. This is suk-dal, perfection."
The black belts asked, "How can it be perfection if true perfection can
never be achieved?" The master replied, "Because he believes he will
never be able to perfect his techniques, but he keeps trying to better
himself. The perfection is in the "doing", for suk-dal is not
an end, it is in the practice of and love for the Art."
A voice gently said, "Time for breakfast dear." It was my wife looking
up at me with a warm smile.
I don't know how long I stood there kicking that tree and remembering.
"Not good enough yet" I thought to myself. Then that word came to me as
it had so many years ago, suk-dal. I walked back to the house
with my wife without saying a word, but she knew what I was thinking.
She smiled and softly whispered, "suk-dal", and gently squeezed
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