by Stuart Anslow III
by Stuart Anslow III
A few years ago I left the Taekwon-do Association I was under. I've never much talked about the reasons with anyone & the only reason I mention it now is because it emplifies pretty well what Eui-Ri is all about.

To cut a long story short, I was under this association for over a decade. I supported everything it did; I paid to enter all its competition (losing a days pay each time, as I had to always pay someone to cover me at work). Attended all its courses, refereed at every competition (again actually paying someone so I could help referee at these events), sometimes for up to 12 hours with only a twenty minute break for lunch, paid grading fee's etc. When I competed outside of it, I proudly represented the association at every opportunity & I did all this without question, asking, like many, for nothing in return. To me it was just the norm, like I suspect it is for many Taekwon-do practitioners.

Then the day came when I was going to open a school & proudly represent the association even further & of course my students would also invest in the association as I had done, both physically & financially.

For many years I harboured the dream of opening up my own school. Unfortunately for just as many years it was not viable, then one day a golden opportunity came along & I followed up & Rayners Lane Taekwon-do Academy was born.

Before I opened up the Academy I did my groundwork, checked it was a proper distance from other clubs etc. Based on what I was told, it was. I spoke to my instructor about it & he backed me & couldn't foresee any problems & so it was put to the Chief Instructor.

All was okay except one instructor had some objections. In reality they were minimal & I couldn't really understand what the problems were (what I mean is that they weren't really major problems at all, but rather petty really). However, and this is where the Eui-Ri comes in, he had a reasonable size club, compared to me: a new instructor with no students, therefore no cash income for the association (or whoever gets the dividends at the end of the day). The instructor had already left associations before so there was a threat (not made by that particular instructor, just a general trail of thought) of losing that income if things weren't decided in his favour (or so it was perceived).

To me it shouldn't have been about money. It should have been recognised what I have put in over the years, but it wasn't. When push came to shove as they say, they went for the guaranteed income, rather than supporting someone who had shown them unprecedented support for over a decade. When I argued the case, the goal posts were moved to accommodate their decision (at every turn). That's life & politics I guess!

I had a choice (according to them), either do not run the school or leave. I choose to leave. For a honourable person it wasn't really a choice. It was a matter of Eui-Ri.

To Explain Eui-Ri
Eui-Ri is a concept, that falls in line with ideals like the tenets of Taekwon-do, that of courtesy, integrity etc. There is no direct translation of Eui-Ri in the English language.

In Korean the closest meaning would be mutual honour or mutual
respect, or honour among brotherhood. The Japanese term for Eui-Ri is Giri. The Chinese characters originally mean: Principle of meaningful spirit among men.
i.e. honour.

The closest description I can think of to describe an English version is the Code of the Underworld, honour amongst thieves etc. Not a great example I grant you, but a similar concept never the less. A concept that everyone should apply to their lives.

Basically Eui-Ri  means Obligation. It means that if someone has done something for you, then you are obligated to do something, when needed, in return. This doesn't necessarily mean a tangible thing, like lending you a fiver, therefore you must lend one back when your friend is skint (although you should really), but often it is the things we can't see, like in the true story above. It should have been recognised what I had put in over the years, all I asked for in return was that they supported me (they should have felt obligated to, not in money, but in spirit); but by going for the money side of things, they didn't, therefore they showed no integrity or felt no sense of Eui-Ri.

It also doesn't necessarily dictate that you should be obligated to do absolutely anything, whether good or bad. For example, if a friend helped you out a few years ago & you feel obligated to return that help one day, that friend may ask you to beat someone up because you are a martial artist, but that doesn't mean that even though you feel obligated that you should do something so clearly wrong. In fact, your obligation should really be to show that friend the correct path.

Eui-Ri is best explained by examples, because as I said there is no direct translation & to simply state it's an `Obligation` isn't totally correct. Therefore, I shall try to explain it further in a few short stories.

A good example is that of an instructor. Many people feel that a student should be loyal to an instructor no matter what. And they should be, to a degree, as long as they are both recognising (either consciously or unconsciously) the code of Eui-Ri; or have a sense of it. An instructor who just takes doesn't follow this code, neither does the student who simply sees the instructor as just a commodity.

I had a friend who trained with a Master. For years he was loyal & felt obligated to the Master. His learning's became further & further apart, which I know is the case at black belt level as mastering is the main focus here, but it came to the point where he would learn nothing at all. In fact he was so obligated to this Master, his Eui-Ri was very strong, but the Master abused this fact. It left my friend taking the classes on a weekly basis, with no credit & no pay, with the Master turning up for 5 minutes before the class started, collecting training fee's, then disappearing. In the end my friend had enough, we talked about it, discussing how far an obligation should go & he finally decided that enough was enough & left. Unfortunately, the Master had lost his best & most committed student.

On the other hand you have the student who simply feels that they have paid for a service & that's it. Even though you pay towards training, you can't buy the knowledge a good instructor will give you. That of his personal insights, experience, & a deeper understanding of the art & its many avenues. The average instructor will simply teach what is needed for the student to pass a grading, but most good instructors don't go just a little, but a lot further than simply teaching what is required to pass a grading. Unfortunately some students fail to recognise this & simply think this is what they pay for.

As an instructor myself, I teach a whole lot more than is on the standard syllabus (which is quite a lot, check the web site for details). Not only that, I also appraise each student personally, working on their strengths & weaknesses to make them better & more rounded. What I don't do is not try to mould them into a copy of me, or a clone of a typical Taekwon-do person (if there is one), but help them to make Taekwon-do effective for their own being. In return I expect them to train with effort & support any endeavours that the Academy undertakes, for example demonstrations, training days, competitions etc. That's not to say that I expect all students to participate in everything. Some just don't like competitions or demonstrations, but I recognised that fact. What I don't like is the student who simply feels he can't be bothered to support the Academy or put back into the school.

A quote that I heard the other day sums up any students journey through my Academy quite well: A belt belt is MORE than something you wear, it is MORE than something you earn, a black belt is something you BECOME!. Students at my Academy must be ready to become a black belt, not just know the syllabus, but really ready. True martial artists will know exactly what I'm saying here.

It is often said that you get out what you put in & so it is normally the same with the student/instructor relationship. A student who puts in, will get far more attention from the instructor, above the norm, than the student who doesn't. Some may feel this is wrong, but it is generally the case whether it is processed consciously or not. It is simply a matter of Eui-Ri working in the back ground, unnoticed.

Eui-Ri effects many areas of life, typically marriage. A husband/wife who only takes, with no consideration of their spouse, will eventually lose that partner, but a husband & wife who support each others endeavours remain strong through that support, even though they don't always believe totally or agree with their partners objectives or reasons, they feel & are indeed obligated to support them, no matter what.

Another good example of Eui-Ri is the parent/child relationship. A parent almost always will support his/her child, in some way, no matter what they have done or are doing in life, no matter what the outcome may be. Children often fail to recognise this fact until much later on in life, but eventually they do. The bond is there, so is Eui-Ri.

There's to many takers in this world & not enough givers. If everybody followed the code of Eui-Ri, I guarantee this world would be a much nicer place to live.