Sometimes we reach plateaus in our training that confound and frustrate us because we don't seem to improve the way we've experienced at other times. What we must avoid is the strong desire to give up or lose heart; to quit. Instead we should challenge ourselves to train with the same vigor and intensity, the same heart that rewarded us with past success. Tang Soo Do training starts out as a very physical process. You learn new techniques, the basics of blocking, kicking, and punching, and must delve into the tough physical workouts. As you progress through the belt levels, and especially after finally achieving a Cho Dan, you are left to start reflecting on the training and accomplishments that have accompanied your training. You should recall the joy you felt that first day or from a big success and use it to commit yourself to our training. The lesson you learn from this commitment will serve you well in all facets of your daily life, be it at school, at work, at play and even in relationships with others.
Consider the progression from belt to belt. Once the belt is tied around your waist, the road to the next belt is an incline. You learn new techniques and your capacity to perform at a higher level is challenged. Once you are prepared for the next belt test, a leveling off of the incline happens and you should reflect on what you’ve been taught and finally put it all together for the belt test. It is very likely that each plateau you reach becomes longer and longer, with fewer extreme inclines. When I first started Tang Soo Do it felt as if I learned a great deal very quickly; that it was a very severe incline to the first plateau. But with each belt level comes seemingly fewer new techniques, and once a Cho Dan is achieved, the time between each belt level increases dramatically. And so the inclines between each plateau become less severe, and the amount of time on each plateau increases with each rank.
So when does one reach the "next plateau" in Tang Soo Do training? It depends largely on each individual. Some people train and train and train without ever really reaching another plateau simply because they are just going through the motions, never reflecting on the techniques they perform and how they can do better. You could argue that once a student reaches an epiphany, a moment of enlightenment and clarification about what they are doing, they have reached a plateau. For example the moment it clicked in your head why it's important to always frame before you block, or why your bend front leg at a 90 angle in a front stance. Once these realizations occur, it is time to move on to the next incline (and your instructor won’t continue to insist that you bend that knee).
And of course, just like everything in Tang Soo Do, this plateau theory can be related to life outside the dojang. Just about everything you do can fit this model. School, jobs, relationships, can all be seen as having inclines (learning and hardships) and plateaus (reflection and understanding).
At the heart of much of far-eastern philosophy is the law of opposites (yin/yang). Consider the plateaus in your Tang Soo Do training simply as the natural occurrence of tranquility and use the time to reflect on your training. Eventually training will become active again and you will need to meet it with the same passionate effort exerted in the past. Most of all enjoy the process for that is what ultimately will make your heart stronger. Years from now when you look back on your continued practice of Tang Soo Do you will be happy that you let your heart linger.
Larry Gilliland, Sa Bom