Kunja

The word "KUNJA" is considered to be a very high class word in the Korean language. According to the Korean-English dictionary, Kunja is "a man of virtue, a true gentleman; a wise man." Kunja is a person who is a model of virtue, a person with wisdom, courage, and understanding of natural laws with a deep appreciation of humanity.

As martial artists we must strive to uphold the ideals of humanity, such as, justice, courtesy, wisdom, trust, goodness, virtue, loyalty, and courage as well as endeavor to incorporate these ideals into our daily lives in order to attain perfection of character. For example, we must strive to make courage mean more than simply never retreating in the face of the enemy. Courage not only pertains to fighting, but also to our jobs, our homework, or the way we conduct our personal, and professional lives, and relationships. It is action, when action must be taken.

The study of the martial arts is much more than just learning to punch and kick, joint lock and throw, or the physical study of self defense. We have all heard that the martial arts are "a way of life." While many martial artists pay lip service to this concept it is rarely explained in real-life practical applications. Rather it is discussed in vague, mystical terms. It is often thought that, somehow, as a student progresses in the martial arts, they will simply understand how this all fits together when they become a black belt. We can not leave such an important phase of the martial arts to providence.

So, how do the martial arts improve your character and make you a "better" person? In the West, we tend to explain ideas in straightforward and linear terms. While in the East, the approach to the teaching of concepts is more indirect. A lesson apparently designed to teach one specific task actually has broader implications. We should realize that the basic lessons learned from the martial arts have meaning beyond that of the physical realm. We use the physical lessons and concepts such as balance, focus, flow, and control as a vehicle for teaching skills for living. Employing these concepts into one's life allows us to mature and grow physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

The concept of Kunja is very important to martial artists. As disciples of the martial arts we should all aspire to become Kunja. We should strive to become persons who are models of virtue. We must always endeavor to demonstrate wisdom through intelligent decision. We must strive to overcome our selfishness and partiality as well as shed our egos.

It is said that the ultimate goal of the martial arts is the perfection of ones character. However, perfection is a relative term. It is a goal constantly strived for but never really reached. Indeed it is the constant "striving" for perfection which is the key to becoming "Kunja", not perfection's attainment.

Prof Donald J. Burns, circa 1977
Prof Donald J. Burns, circa 1977

We all must take the time to emphasize the ideals and virtues of Kunja. We must learn to uphold and employ these ideals and acquire virtues through our actions, and example. Our main concern should not be only how hard we can punch or kick, or how many boards we can break, but rather, we should be proud of the way we conduct our lives.

by Professor Don Burns

Some questions to think about: KUNJA: What does it mean? How does it, or should it apply to your daily life and training? How should it affect your relationships with others? Your parents? Your classmates? Your friends? Your enemies? Your students? Your teachers? What responsibilities do you have as a black belt? Why is the concept of "Kunja" important to your development as an individual, and as a martial artist?

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