As strange as it may seem to claim that there are politics in Taekwondo (a Korean martial art), but it is true. When I use to study Taekwondo it took me a while before I realised that politics can really influence what happens in the dojang (the training hall). In fact, I only really began noticing the politics involved when I became a second degree (or Dan) black belt. When you attain a certain senior level within an association, and this might vary from association to association, naturally it is expected that you will take on a greater responsibility. Within Taekwondo this is from when you earn the black belt.
However, not everyone who reaches black belt status is able to take on the greater responsibility that the senior grades would like them to. For many this means opening up their own club, or indeed clubs. But for some people their area might already be saturated with other Taekwondo clubs. Or it might be that they are not able to make the commitment to running the club for their own personal or professional reasons. If you open a club there are a lot of people relying on you – your students. You cannot let them down. You must be there every week to teach and to train them. For some people this is not a problem. For other people their work, or maybe personal lives, makes that quite a difficult commitment to make.
Being an assistant instructor at someone else’s club is a much more realistic target for many. This means that they are able to assist and train, but if there are weeks they cannot make then the students will not suffer as their main instructor will be present. The black belt grading systems are structured in such a way that if you want to progress beyond third degree (or Dan) black belt you will find it quite difficult if you do not run your own club. You need to accomplish a number of things to qualify for the third degree (or Dan) belt and it is that much harder for people who are not instructors of their own club to do so.
So rather than encouraging the talented black belts, it can create a resentment factor. It is all because there has been an introduction of politics within Taekwondo. Whilst I agree with the encouragement of people to give back to their Taekwondo community, I do not believe in making it very difficult for those who are not able to open up their own clubs. I believe this does not generate a good energy or feeling within the Taekwondo associations. There are politics involved, but they should not be to such an extent that they prevent or stunt any given student’s Taekwondo career.