When we were taking care of our daughter’s kids for a few days, one of the things we had to do was to take our grandson to Taekwondo practice.
I’ve been to a near-infinite number of practices — swim, dance, track, piano, and all manner of sports utilizing a ball — but I’d never been to Taekwondo.
I was amazed at the quiet patience of the saboms — the teachers — in wrangling a bunch of hyperactive 6- to 8-year-olds.
Whether it was wielding nunchucks without taking out teeth or side-kicking without landing on the floor, the kids repeated selected moves over and over under watchful eyes.
The “dō” in taekwondo means the way or the discipline. Taekwondo translates the Way of Foot (tae) and Fist (kwon.)
We see this in other martial arts like Judo, the Gentle Way, as an unarmed martial art, or Kyudo, the Way of Archery.
There is something else about the “dō” in martial arts. While each discipline has its own philosophy and teachings, they are all primarily performative. It is the practice of the Way that counts.
That’s why particular skills and moves are repeatedly practiced. The goal is a seamless second nature in which the student instinctively exercises them.
I don’t understand all the synapses and sidesteps of my mind, but this got me thinking about another Way, the one we talk about. You know, “I am the Way ..., ”as Jesus declares in John’s gospel.
Sometimes we forget that the early Church referred to itself as followers of the Way.
The first reference to this is in the Acts of the Apostles, where we find the pre-Paul Saul requesting letters to the synagogues in Damascus, “so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem,” (Acts 9:2).
This Way was performative, too. It wasn’t just gathering for a ritual meal but practicing the “dō” of the One they followed.
The specific actions of this “dō” are laid out in the parables of Jesus and in his sermons on blessings and judgment.
He taught us to live in mercy: feeding the hungry, serving the poor, visiting the sick, comforting the suffering, bearing wrongs in humble patience and actively forgiving others.
We use the term “practicing our faith,” but I see my grandson much better at his practice than I am at mine.
I need to put a lot more doing in my “dō.”