1st Tang Soo Do Seoul Forum: Technology and Transparency in the Martial Arts

Tang Soo Do Seoul Forum 2012

I was asked to speak at the World Moo Duk Kwan General Federation’s 1st Tang Soo Do Seoul Forum in Korea. I was invited to attend the event as a journalist, thanks to my good friends Grandmaster Robert Kovaleski and Master Eric Kovaleski who are very supportive of my martial endeavors. Tang Soo Do Grandmasters and Masters from around the world attended this forum, gathering to support the World Moo Duk Kwan General Federation and Tang Soo Do.

Tang Soo Do was the first martial art I practiced, and it gave me my love for the martial arts. I am not a great martial artist, but I am a great lover of the martial arts. The study of Tang Soo Do made a difference in my life for many reasons, both physically and mentally. I am not an easy student to teach. I was born with handicaps and I was injured in a fall that made many of the normal things in life more difficult for me. It was my Tang Soo Do instructor, Mr. Harold Gross, who helped me to overcome many of these obstacles, and it is because of his professionalism and love of the martial arts, as well as the many other wonderful instructors I have worked with, that I continue to be involved in the martial arts.

I went to Korea to be part of the 1st Tang Soo Do Seoul Forum because I wanted to help the World Moo Duk Kwan General Federation to promote Tang Soo Do throughout the world. I believe that all of us must come together and use our individual skills to help promote the martial arts in the most effective ways possible because martial artists can truly make a difference in the world.

I believe that everyone should study the martial arts, not just for protection, but to build character and discipline and because, simply said, the study of martial arts helps us to become better people and better people make up a better world. I use my talents as a journalist and as a web and graphic designer to help educate and inform people about the martial arts. I own some of the world’s largest martial arts informational web sites as well as other sites that promote martial arts, martial arts schools, businesses and organizations. I am constantly learning as I further develop each of my sites, but the most important lesson I have learned and that I shared in Korea, and that I want to share with you in this article, is that we must be professional in all that we do. Professionalism includes not only the use of technology in a professional manner, but it also demands transparency from each one of us as we interact with those inside and outside of the martial arts entities we represent.

We all know that any credible martial arts entity must have a web site. A presence on the web shows people that we are seriously interested in serving them. It allows people from all over the world to have instant access to our information, 24 hours a day, and allows us to have a place to promote the arts. A web site allows the sharing of time sensitive materials about seminars, events, tournaments and more. It allows instant communication and gives the media immediate access to the information we want to share with them.

I’m sure we all agree that having a web site is imperative, but we must also understand that the site must be well administered and maintained. A poorly build and administered web site will severely damage the credibility of any entity. This means that a web site must keep up with technology and the information on the site must be up to date and easily accessible for everyone.

A web site is a must for any entity, but there are other technologies that can also be utilized for promotion. There are webinars and podcasts, as well as video streaming, which allow us to share events, seminars and more throughout the world in real time and to record for play back later. We also need to use social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Linkedin. Technology makes our ability to communicate about what we are doing much more exciting and ultimately easier, if we take the time to become familiar with the technology, or hire people who are already experts at using the technology.

The next part of our professionalism is even more imperative. It is professional transparency. It means we have to be completely honest about all that we do and say, because the internet has given us access to all types of information, and through research it is easy to prove that false information is false. Nothing will spread faster on the web and destroy individuals and entities quicker than dishonesty. In today’s technological world, our past, present and future is under scrutiny. There is no hiding anything, so the very first job for any martial arts entity or individual is to scrutinize all written documentation and make sure that all the information given to the public is truthful and historically sound. Sometimes this means uncovering information that has been hidden, or rewriting “history” so that it is based on reality, not on what we have been taught is the truth. This means that we must be willing to search our souls and to work together without the involvement of ego to make sure we are sharing with others, information that is correct and truthful. This means we do not compete against one another with untruths, but rather we work to become the people we want to be. Transparency makes us vulnerable to one another, which means that our priorities must be right or we can easily destroy one another. It means that we must often forgive one another as we grow in our ability to be transparent and as we consistently return to the path of truthfulness. It also means that we must leave behind the notion that the higher the rank we are, the more important we are. Instead we must understand that the higher the rank we are, the more responsibility we hold in setting the correct example for those following in our footsteps.

It is a new and exciting world we live in, and this quick access to information is one of the biggest benefits to society as a whole, and to each of us as individuals. This technology allows us to communicate with one another almost instantaneously, but it also means that we have to be on our toes at all times, making sure we communicate effectively.

How does a martial arts entity become and stay professional? It is simple, by having the correct people in the correct positions so that the work that needs to be done gets completed correctly and on time. We cannot have an entity that looks good on paper, but does not meet the needs of its members or clients. Many of you have worked very hard to earn the rank and grand titles you hold, but you must also have grand aspirations and a desire to work hard to achieve the goals you set forth for the entity you are involved with, whether it is a school, organization, event or business. Just as it takes hard work and determination to earn rank in the martial arts, it takes hard work and determination to build an entity that more than meets the needs of those involved. If we want to grow and influence the promotion of the arts throughout the world, then all involved must commit to serving this cause by dedicating the talents they have as individuals to the benefit of martial arts as a whole.

We cannot see a position in any entity as a stepping stone to building our own ego or individual status, but we must see ourselves as servants willing to give of our time and energy to the benefit of every member of the entity. Those who sit on boards or who have other positions of authority do so, not because they are better than those they serve, but because they have learned to live as positive role models for those they serve.

In a previous portion of this speech I said that “we must be willing to search our souls and to work together without the involvement of ego.” To me this is the most important aspect of working with any entity. As I said, to succeed, we must be willing to set aside our egos and become servants of one another. Furthermore we must never allow disrespect for one another and we must never gossip about one another. The quickest way to destroy an entity is from within its own walls. This does not mean that we are not responsible for confronting one another when necessary, because we must hold one another accountable to a higher standard with the goal of helping one another to grow. We need to be very careful about admonishing one another publicly, as this tends to harm martial arts as a whole and we do not often get the results we were hoping for. Our goal is never to harm martial arts, but to help one another put our best foot forward to better promote the arts.

In summary, martial artists are all warriors by nature and leaders by nurture, and it is not easy to set aside one’s own goals for the benefit of others, but this must be done if an entity is to maintain strength and the lead others in a positive direction. If we want to continue to spread martial arts throughout the world in a positive light, we must learn to use technology in a professional manner and we must be completely transparent in all that we do. We must be willing to serve one another and to use our rank to set an example for those who follow. We must teach by example and live by the principles that make martial artists different from the rest of mankind. This is possible if we work together toward a common goal, the betterment of the world through the promotion of martial arts.

If a man wishes to be a leader, he must first be a servant to those he leads, and then let his behavior be the example that others follow. ~ Dana L. Stamos