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Champions ATA Martial Arts

Respect: The Ultimate Bond of Any Relationship - A Mastership Thesis by Master Travis Dillow

Posted: August 28, 2017



            I believe that respect can sometimes be one of the life skills that is most easily forgotten and not used. In the Spirit of Taekwondo it says it best, “Respect for my juniors and seniors sir.” I believe this was put towards the end of the spirit of Taekwondo because in order for all the life skills to work you must have respect. Respect can be one of the most challenging life skills because as humans, we are constantly dealing with relationships in all areas of life, such as home, work, training, and entertainment. We, as leaders in a great organization, have to walk with respect—not just some of the time—all the time, in all these areas. We will be constantly tested by others of our level of respect because people naturally want to find something they can judge about you and judge your character. Here are some points of respect that I believe as a leader we need to understand and follow. Once again, I relate how these points are used by the ATA and how I use them in my own life and organization.

            RESPECT MUST BE EARNED: As leaders we must be careful not to just demand respect because of a title or level of status. When respect is demanded because of a title or level of status, it will later be resented as a person grows in skill and knowledge of what they are following their leader in. For example, at first a student begins to learn from an instructor their skill of martial arts, and then that student begins to excel and even become better than their instructor at that skill. The instructor becomes doubtful in himself and his ability to continue to teach new material and starts to demand respect because he only holds a higher level of rank. This is when the student will begin to doubt their instructor as a leader and seek leadership from another source.  This can be very challenging for both the student and instructor but can be avoided. It is the job of the instructor to always help the student to continue to grow in the ability or skillset they have come to that instructor to learn. When the student has reached the level of skill as their instructor it is the responsibility for that instructor to find new methods to help the student attain their level of skill and grow in that skill. The instructor can do this by reaching out to other leaders that have the ability to teach more to the student than the instructor is able to, however it is the instructor’s job to continue to hold the student accountable to their training and be encouraging in their growth. A true example of this is when watching the gymnastic Olympics last year; I would see coaches of the amazing Olympians that probably couldn’t actually perform one-tenth of the skills the actual Olympians could themselves. However, the coaches have studied the skills and have put together training routines and schedules that help the Olympians maintain and even grow at their skill in order to be the best in the world, and you truly see the level of respect these athletes have for their coaches during the competitions.

            RESPECT MUST BE DEMONSTRATED: In order for respect to be earned it must be demonstrated. As leaders, our respect will constantly be tested. I once was standing to the side as I watched my uncle’s respect be tested with his wife. It was after construction was finished on an addition to his house he was having done for my aunt that the worker was requesting to be paid. Upon that request he made a comment, “man it cost a lot to keep our women happy,” to which my uncle replied without missing a beat, “it is certainly worth it for what they do for us.” The construction man argued, “Yea, but it gets expensive for all these things they need,” and again my uncle replied, “for the amount of time they give us it’s worth every penny.” The construction man tried a few more time to get my uncle to crack, but he would not let his guard down and show a single ounce of disrespect for his wife. Now I’m sure he might have agreed deep down inside with the construction man a little bit, but he knew it was his responsibility to always maintain that level of respect for the one he made a vow to for the rest of his life. He may have been doing it too, knowing I was standing by and listening to teach me a life lesson, and for that I am grateful.

            RESPECT MUST BE CONSISTANT: It is easy to become too comfortable with the small things and then begin to forget to demonstrate the small examples of respect. We have to hold our juniors accountable, but also continue to demonstrate the small acts of respect constantly ourselves. When the small acts of respect become unimportant they will lead to the acts of respect that are most important. Respect is like a muscle and must constantly be used to grow.

            RESPECT MUST BE BALANCED: It is common that leaders have to follow such a strict level of respect in their profession that they forget to use the proper amount of respect where it is most important. I have had mentors in my life that demonstrate and amazing amount of respect in their profession and then come home to their wives and talk down, belittle, and just flat out disrespect the one whom they should respect the most. We sometimes demand our children to treat each other and their peers with respect but do not show that respect ourselves. There is a saying that says, “What you do speaks so loudly that the words you say I cannot hear.” Bottom line is that we must show and demonstrate respect in all areas of our life if we expect our juniors and students to do the same.




            RESPECT MUST BE EARNED: The ATA is led by amazing leaders who definitely earn the respect of their juniors. Eternal Grand Master Lee is definitely know to be one of the best Martial Artist of all times. His level of training and skill level at Taekwondo was difficult for any student to match. However, he knew that his students excelled in different areas of training, and he knew there could be more taught and offered in the organization if he were to organize the responsibility for these students to share their specialized skills.  He put together different departments of teaching such as Protech, Instruction, Self-Defense, Fitness, and Business. In doing this, he never lost the respect of his juniors because his vision for the ATA to grow and still hold the amount of structure for the tradition of Songahm to stay in place was never lost. He always required his highest level of students to maintain a strict and high level of training and continue to always improve themselves.

Our seniors of this organization have given their lives to this organization. Eternal Grandmaster never hesitated to be there for any student at any time if he was needed. The stories are remarkable! During events such as tournaments, Eternal Grandmaster Lee would fast (refrain from eating or drinking for a period of time beforehand) so he wouldn’t be distracted from constant trips to the restroom or having to take a lunch break so he could give every minute to his students. I’ll never forget the last World Championships before his passing. He was foregoing extreme levels of treatment for cancer and was advised to not participate in the ceremonies that were take place. There wouldn’t have been a single student that would have been disappointed in Eternal Grandmaster Lee for not participating and would have completely understood. However, he was there for the entire ceremony. The amount of respect he earned for that act of leadership is like none other and is still talked about to this day and will be talked about for many years to come.

RESPECT MUST BE DEMONSTRATED: Our leaders do an amazing job at demonstrating the respect for one another, especially at major events. The master’s council have set up a chain of command that is followed and understood at all times. I’m sure that behind the scenes there are disputes and disagreements, but they are never talked about or shown to the public’s eye. I once heard Mr. Wolff while teaching about respect say, “When you get sick, you throw up, you don’t throw down.  It is very important when there are disputes and disagreements that the leaders of an organization keep it at the top and don’t share it with others of the organization if it does not involve them, for this will cause gossip and confusion amongst the organization.

 The leaders of organization have been together for over 40 years now and have definitely known each other at all different levels but treat each other with a high level of professionalism when around their juniors. Have been with members of the Master’s Council a number of times and have seen them put in a position by others to talk about their disagreements and indifferences about the Master Council members and not once have I ever seen them give in and talk bad about one another. The ATA’s leaders truly “got each other’s back!”

RESPECT MUST BE CONSISTANT: We have a number of ways that we follow tradition in showing respect in our organization.  We do things such as saying yes sir/ma’am, referring to each other by title and last name, bowing to a senior when walking by, lining up by rank, bowing when walking in a training area, and stopping a class to acknowledge a senior rank that has come in the room. These are all small acts of respect that mean a lot. Not only are they acts of respect, but by practicing these acts of respect they help with structure of the organization. It is common when an ATA instructor who has been involved for such a long time to occasionally slip in these areas. The instructor must know that when he slips in these areas, his juniors will justify that is also ok to not acknowledge these small acts of respect. When this begins to happen, structure is lost and confusion will set in, which becomes a virus within the organization. I have seen time after time Grand Master Soon Ho Lee teach the leaders of our organization to not forget these small acts of respect. It was at my last master nominee’s workout that Grand Master took the time before a line-up that when the seniors walked in to bow-in that everything was done with the most structured level of respect. In doing this, it took over half an hour just to begin the workout. After creating that mood and tone for the workout, every master nominee was sure to follow every small act of respect for the next 3 days.

RESPECT MUST BE BALANCED: Occasionally I have had the opportunity to have a chance to visit some of the top leaders of our organization during family settings. Even at home or in public they refer to each other by title while around their students and juniors and respond by sir or ma’am. You can tell that the leaders of our organization definitely practice what they teach.




RESPECT MUST BE EARNED: The most important principle I believe for an instructor to earn respect from his juniors is to train.  My instructor, Master Brandon, has been the best example of this to me. He has never allowed himself to be training less than any of his students. We hold each other accountable nonstop with our training. Even if we aren’t training in the same area, we still discuss with each other the training we are doing. We are also changing our training to keep it interesting and fun. It is also important to meet each other 3-4 times a week for training because this allows us the time to also discuss business matters and other important issues with our studios. In all the times my personal life or business life has become a struggle, Master Brandon will respond by asking me how much I’m training and what am I doing for personal growth. He will also make it a point to get together as soon as possible to train. It is from this point, after training first, that we will then discuss the other matters. I have lived by this example for my students. If I am the product that I am passing knowledge of life skills and Taekwondo training to students, I believe I need to be living it myself. It’s much more encouraging for a student to take tough, constructive criticism when they know you are doing the training yourself. I hear stories of instructors getting burned out all the time and just losing motivation to want to teach, and it always ends up that they’re not training themselves, so bottom line is that if you want to be a successful instructor, then you must be willing to train.

RESPECT MUST BE DEMONSTRATED: Demonstrating respect is not always the easiest thing to do. I find myself constantly having to stay aware of this matter. In my own school, I am constantly reminded by my wife to follow the small acts of respect, such as bowing when walking on and off the training mats. She is a great example of constantly demonstrating the important acts of respect. She, being a lower rank than me, but also being my wife, is constantly a great leader of showing me the respect of rank. She never misses a yes sir, bow, or referring to me as the senior in our studio. I, on the other hand, miss those little acts of respect all the time, so I am very thankful of having such a great example around me to demonstrate respect.

We must also be cautious of the ways we respond with the words we say or our body language.  I have been Regional Chief of Tournaments for over 7 years, and am constantly aware of how I deal with matters at the tournaments and try to make the tournaments the best experience possible for all students, seniors, and judges. I think, ultimately, to show all who involved the proper respect, I have to constantly put myself in their shoes and relate to them the feelings they must feel in that moment, and no matter how insignificant they may seem to me, they may be very important to them. When I am faced with these situations I constantly use the FEEL, FELT, FOUND method. For example, if a student doesn’t feel the judges were fair then I would respond by saying, “Sir, I know how you FEEL, I have FELT the same way, and what I have FOUND out is that being a judge myself there are a lot of factors involved with judging and I’m sure they’re doing their best.” I would then begin to analyze why they felt that judge wasn’t fair, and prepare the best way to help the student feel better about the situation.

RESPECT MUST BE CONSISTANT: I have known my instructor for 18 years and have not only come to work with him as a business partner, and my instructor, but we have also become great friends. However, I am always aware of giving him the respect he deserves as my instructor, especially around students or other instructors. Friendship and respect with the students and instructor is a fine line to walk. I see instructors all the time struggle with becoming too friendly with their students and allow them to act or talk to them just like another buddy and then they later wonder why they have a hard time having their students respect them. We teach life skills and the discipline and structure we use in a very military-like style. On a military base, you are always aware of the chain-of-command, and reminded of the level of respect for different levels of officials you are to give. Our seniors in the organization are great examples of this. This is why I’m very reluctant to involve myself too personally with my juniors and students. I don’t want to put myself or them in a position where there may be confusion about the level of respect that is to be given. Our instructors have strict guidelines to follow about having personal gatherings with the students and families in our studio. This eliminates the poison that can hurt a studio more than anything else, and that poison is GOSSIP! Our instructors also know to always watch each other’s backs and stick up for one another. Even if the situation may involve another instructor being wrong they are to stick up for each other and then report matters with a senior instructor. This issue will also be covered extensively in my Loyaly report.

RESPECT MUST BE BALANCED: Having your family all involved in the Taekwondo program can sometimes be very difficult to be consistent with respect. I have two daughters that I absolutely love and adore and am so proud of. They have had to learn to respond to me as their instructor and not just their father, which can be very difficult. While teaching them it can sometimes be difficult for them to not take constructive criticism personally. On the other hand, I find it sometimes difficult to not be too hard on them because I don’t want others to ever thank that I am favoring them or giving them special treatment because they’re my children. I have to constantly remind myself that they are students like everyone else and have to be treated with the same respect. I also came up in the ranks with my immediate family and earned a black belt with my brother, father, and sister. My father and sister don’t train anymore but whenever they are around other students and instructors, they show the appropriate level of respect to my brother and myself for being seniors in the organization. I also out-rank my older brother now, and he does an amazing job of showing the proper level of respect when needed, and I am truly thankful for that.  In return, he knows his juniors will see this level of respect demonstrated and learn from it, and hopefully show the same level of respect for him. Eternal Grand Master Lee and all the Lee brothers have always been the best example of this level of respect.