Everyone can experience improvement!

Written by on April 14, 2020

And in 1st place, Mary Wilcox!”  the judge shouts to all the crowd assembled.

We’ve all heard these words many times before, at all sorts of competitions, but certainly at ATA tournaments.   And we all strive and hope to receive that award, or perhaps a state, a district, or even a world championship someday.  Heck, most of us would be happy just to be listed in the WORLD top ten someday!

Goals build discipline…

These goals are very important.  Goals give us direction.  They help us make choices.  If you have said, “I want to be state champ in form,”  then when you are faced with the choice of playing video games  or practicing your form, you know you should choose practicing your form.

Goals also help us develop discipline.     You gradually learn what it means to “do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.”   So when you practice that form regularly, and then go to an event and win, you see the value of sacrificing some leisure for working hard toward a goal.

Yes, goals are very important.   The error only occurs when you pursue the goal at all costs and when you see nothing else happening except reaching that goal.  I can’t spend lots of time explaining this error, so please go watch the movie, COOL RUNNINGS.  John Candy explains it all in this beautiful family movie.  Let’s get back to competition and a great concept called “personal victory.”

A lesson from Tiny Tigers….

We introduce TINY TIGERS (our youngest students, ages 3-7) to competition in a very special way.  In fact, it is not even a competition.  We simply introduce them to the event itself which is held in a really big room, full of lots of strange people, in a new and different place, with instructors / judges they have never met.  TINY TIGERS all receive the same award.  There are NO 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place awards.  What a novel —-and EFFECTIVE—concept!!!  After they do this for a couple of years, they can then be encouraged to pursue 1st place.  Now the instructors and parents begin to teach “personal victory.”

PERSONAL VICTORY simply means that you achieved something you have never done before, regardless if that results in a 1st , 2nd, or 3rd place.  

For example, an adult 4th degree black belt recently said to his center judge, all giddy with excitement, “I got a 7 from you today on my form.  That’s the highest score you have ever given me.   Heck, as far as I’m concerned, I WON today.”    That’s personal victory.

The more commonly used is “doing your best.”  And that is fine.  For example, parents can say, “Did you do your best today?  That’s all I ask for you.  I don’t care so much about the trophies.  When you do your best, I am really proud of you.”


Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee

I prefer to use the term “personal victory” because I want to acknowledge Eternal Grand Master H.U. Lee who coined the term.  I also want you to start looking at your competitions in “very small parts,”—and EVERYTHING you do in your Taekwondo training— just like that 4th degree I mentioned.   Here are some examples of personal victory:




  • I competed in an event for the first time ever.
  • I got a higher score in forms than last time.
  • I got a higher score on my “hands” in forms.
  • I got a higher score on my “kicks” in forms.
  • I got a higher score from the center judge.
  • I won ONE sparring match (a big deal if you have never done it before)!
  • I scored ONE point in sparring (a big deal if you have never done it before)!
  • I beat _________ whom I have lost to three times!!!!!
  • I beat a state / district / world champ in sparring / form / weapon / combat.
  • I took ____ classes this week / this month / this year (compared to my last record)
  • I practiced my form SIX times this week (first time I ever set a goal to practice on my own).
  • I did ____ pushups, situps, sidekicks, front kicks, round kicks today / this week / this month / this year.
  • I did a taekwondo “show n tell” with my instructor for my school classroom.
  • I did a taekwondo act for the school talent show.
  • I led the stretch today.
  • I helped a classmate with his form.
  • I joined leadership
  • I attended _____  leadership classes this month.

Now there’s a list!

Here’s one more item to add to your success kit:


All instructors track attendance.   Why don’t you track your own attendance?   And while you are at it, start a notebook—or in today’s digital world—an EXCEL FILE to track your kicks, calisthenics, jogging, classes, and any other things related to your taekwondo training.    These charts help you celebrate little victories.  They help you develop a sense of accomplishment.  You look at them and say, “Wow!  I took ___ classes.   I did ______ kicks.  I went to _____ tournaments.” 

And these little celebrations help you keep those 1st place trophies in perspective.   They show you that you indeed are experiencing improvement and achievement.  And that’s what Songahm Taekwondo is all about!


For speaking engagements and consultation, contact Chief Master Babin at 602.692.3723.



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