Aretha Franklin sang about it. To honor retiring Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, a hashtag popped up on Twitter – #R2SPECT. We show it to people, places, and flags. But what exactly is respect?
Simply put, respect is admiring something or someone deeply, deeply enough to demonstrate that feeling through words and deeds. Respect is one of the core Black Belt attributes of Songahm taekwondo and is taught at all levels, from Tiny Tigers to adults.
One way taekwondo students show respect is in how the line up for large events, such as class or rank testing. Students don’t go to any old place; there is an order, “rank order,” that is followed. The highest-ranked student is first, and all other belt levels are placed, in descending order, after that. It means that white belts, the newest students of taekwondo are last. But that’s okay, because this rank order gives spectators, and students, a visible way to measure progress. As you learn more, and earn a higher rank, your spot in the line goes up, leaving you to be a leader and show a good example for newer students.
But lining up in rank order isn’t the only way taekwondo students show respect. When a class, or a testing, begins, students bow to the flags as a sign of respect for America (our home) and Korea (the birthplace of taekwondo). We bow before we enter or leave the training floor as another show of respect, for our training and the flags?
And after we’ve bowed to leave the floor? The respect shouldn’t stop there. We may be in a hurry to get home to dinner, or soccer practice, or to do homework. But that hurry shouldn’t stop us from showing respect to other people. We don’t have to bow to every person. However, taekwondo bags full of sparring gear are heavy. Families often have older relatives or small children at class or at testing. In the rush to leave class, show respect by not running people over or hitting them with a bag. A simple, “excuse me” goes a long way toward letting someone know you’ve seen them and respect them enough not to knock them over.
Bowing doesn’t just apply to flags either. It’s customary to show respect to those of higher rank, especially Black Belts, by bowing. At the end of class, and the end of testing, everyone bows to the highest-ranked student.
That bowing before sparring and self-defenses? That’s a sign of respect to – we respect our partners. The bow tells them that, and it says, “I respect you as a person, so I promised to try not to hurt you” (yes, accidents happen, but we try). Likewise, when we line up or are listening, we stand quietly at attention, “like a Black Belt,” to show others we respect them as people and what they are trying to say to us.
The uniform is another sign of respect. Police officers, fire fighters, and soldiers – they all wear uniforms as a sign of their profession and that sign, the uniform, demands respect. A police officer’s uniform should always be clean, well ironed, the patches and pins in the proper place, with shoes shined and any other metal pieces gleaming. Our taekwondo uniforms should also be cared for. That means washing them on a regular basis, so they don’t get dirty (taekwondo can be a very physical sport). The uniform should be free of rips and tears. Patches are sewn neatly in the proper locations. The belt is also part of the uniform, and since it is also a mark of rank, it should be treated with respect. We’ve all been at testings and told not to play with old belts. You don’t throw a belt on the floor. You’ve earned that belt. By showing the uniform and the belt respect, you are not only respecting taekwondo, but yourself and your achievements. You are saying, by a neat and correct appearance, “I’m proud and respectful of myself and what I have achieved.”
Those are actions: what about words. Listening carefully shows respect. And when a higher ranked student or an instructor gives a command, a loud, firm “yes, sir” or “yes, ma’am” not only lets the person know he or she has been heard, but that the audience is paying attention, which is a great way to show respect.
That’s great for taekwondo, but what about at home? The skills learned at taekwondo often apply to home life, and respect is one of them. There are several ways parents can encourage and teach respectful behavior at home:
- Learn how to properly greet someone, especially for the first time. When you meet a new person, saying “hey there” isn’t the best option. Teach kids how to introduce themselves in a friendly, confident, respectful manner. “Hi, my name is Tommy. What’s your name?”
- Take your kids out where they can practice being respectful. You can’t learn to respect others if you never meet other people at places outside the home. School events (such as sports games or class parties), visits to friends’ houses, or eating at restaurants are great places where kids can practice their newfound respect skills.
- Make sure your rules are respect-based. What kind of behavior is expected in different situations? Is there a different way to act if kids are around friends or adults? Don’t forget to address online rules. The Internet is a very anonymous environment, and it’s easy to say disrespectful things because “no one knows it’s you.” Remember, if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, you shouldn’t say it online either.
- Remember that a thing such as parties or computer-interaction time is a privilege, not a right. As part of that privilege, set clear expectations for actions, including how you expect other people to be treated. Giving kids clear guidelines and expectations not only sets a good framework, it provides a measuring system so you know they are ready for more responsibility and choices.
Aretha was right. Respect is a powerful thing. And everybody needs a little of it. Take the time to learn what respect means to you, and you’ll be sure to find yourself getting some in return.
Oakmont Martial Arts licensed by the American Taekwondo Association, the premier North American organization dedicated to the martial arts discipline of taekwondo. They offer training for young children (Tiny Tigers), youth (6-13), teens and adults, as well as adult fitness classes. Visit www.OakmontMartialArts.com or their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/ataOakmont) for more information, or call 412-826-8004 to schedule an introductory lesson.
A software technical writer by day, Mary Sutton is the mother of two teens and has been making her living with words for over ten years. She is the author of the Hero’s Sword middle-grade fantasy series, writing as M.E. Sutton, and The Laurel Highlands Mysteries police-procedural series, writing as Liz Milliron. Visit her online at www.marysuttonauthor.com.