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From ATA World Volume 20, Number 1 – Spring 2013

What do you do at Taekwondo when your instructor isn’t watching? Do you keep performing your best form, and with your best effort? How about at school when your class has a substitute teacher? Do you continue to work your hardest in your classroom and show respect to the teacher?

If you do, no matter what, that’s self-respect. Your actions when no one is looking show how much you care about yourself.

This self-respect is important because it is the first step in respecting others. When we know how to hold ourselves in high value, we can treat others with those same values. We become powerful warriors against the negative forces in our lives when we know what we want in the actions of others because we expect those actions in ourselves.

From the very beginning of his grand mastership, Grand Master In Ho Lee has encouraged all ATA students to “change yourself first.” Why? “If you first respect yourself, you will do the right thing – even when no one is watching,” he says. It builds a strong foundation from which we can respect all the other people in our lives – from our families to our leadership to those in our communities who depend on us, and whom you depend on too.

How can you gain self-respect? With your words, your thoughts, and your actions.

Through Self-Talk

Sometimes the hardest person to respect is ourselves, but telling yourself a positive story about who you are and where you are going, even when things are hard, is an important step to self-respect. Darin Prazer, owner and Chief Instructor (with his wife, Gena Prazer) at ATA Martial Arts in Evans, Ga., is a 5th Degree Black Belt. When he began Taekwondo at age 13, he began to develop self-respect. “I grew up poor, abused, abandoned, unsupervised, and my parents divorced. I did not respect myself, or others, until I trained in Taekwondo.”

How did he develop self-respect? “When I got bullied as a young teenager, I would block it with positive self-talk. When someone called me a name about being short, I would think, ‘Yeah but I can jump real high’ or ‘I made the honor roll!’” Prazer learned to not let the bad stuff stick and to accept the nice things people said to him rather than put himself down.

“The parents [of students] would tell me that I was good with their kids, that their kids really look up to me,” Prazer says. “I got the appreciation... from other children’s parents that I didn’t receive much of as a young teenager.”

Through Skill in Action

Chief Master Dan Thor at the Taos Taekwondo Academy in New Mexico has taught Taekwondo for more than 38 years. As an 8th Degree Black Belt he knows about developing respect as a life skill in himself and in others. “Respect, as an ATA life skill, is an action word. It is not just something we ‘have’ for someone else, but rather it is something we ‘show’ toward others. Showing respect to others also leads directly to developing self-respect that leads to increased self-esteem, self-discipline, and courage.”

In other words, when you show respect to others, you teach them how to behave toward you (which generates respect). And you teach yourself how you want to be treated. That helps you stand up to those who don’t treat you with respect.

Fifteen-year-old Nathan Koontz, one of Prazer’s students, says, “I feel those that get in trouble are disrespecting themselves because they are not living up to their full potential. My ATA training has taught me to look at a situation before I go in and act on it.”

Do you appear to respect yourself in your physical actions – by how you dress, talk to others, and work in school and toward your Taekwondo goals?

Through Giving and Gratefulness

Chief Master Wan Joo Choi, who began studying Taekwondo at the age of 7 in his native Korea, believes that the simplest way to practice respect is to value it enough to give it away. “I find it very rewarding when students and instructors, some of whom I haven’t seen or taught in years, still bow to me when they see me on the street,” he says. “When people recognize the value in me and thank me for what I was able to do for them, I feel most respected.” He has self-respect because he accepts the respect others give him.

It’s a choice everyone can make – this gratefulness for others and for self. Says Grand Master In Ho Lee, “Choosing to live by such a high standard requires great discipline, but the resulting rewards and fulfillment are limitless.”

In other words: Self-respect leads to respect for others, which will come back to you even when the work is hard, or when you face adversity.

And in the end, that’s the great benefit of self-respect: Even when things are hard, it’s right there – in you. ATA



Positive Self-Talk: Lift yourself up; do not put yourself down.

Mindful Attire: Have a clean, neat appearance that does not hide yourself from the world, nor gain unwanted or unhealthy attention.

Mindful Body: Take care of your body through exercise and paying attention to proper nutrition.

Good Company: Surround yourself with positive people who appreciate you for you.

Self-Protection: Stay away from drugs and excessive alcohol and anything that pollutes your body or mind.

Watch What You Watch: Choose carefully what you watch on TV or the Internet. What you put in your mind is just as important as what you put in your mouth.

Accept Kindness and Respect from Others: Accept a compliment when it is given to you.

Stand Tall: Body language says a lot about respect for yourself. Lowered eyes, mumbling responses, and a hunched back don’t show selfrespect.

Stand Together: Tell others what you admire about them. In addition, stand up for others who are being bullied or teased.

Be “Mind Full”: Take care of your mind by always striving to learn more.