The Black Belt Hall of Famer explains why patience, speed, timing, power, balance, flexibility and posture are so important inside and outside the training hall.

Over the years, taekwondo pioneer and Black Belt Hall of Fame member Jhoon Rhee has taken a hard look at who succeeds in the martial arts community and who doesn’t, and he’s come up with a list of the seven qualities of a champion. As you study the attributes, you’ll find that they apply as much to life in general as they do to the martial arts.


1. Patience

It keeps you out of trouble, Jhoon Rhee says. “And it helps you maintain consistency in business and avoid overreacting to rumors and unsound ideas.”

“Patience is needed to persevere until you reach your goals,” he adds. As such, it’s vital for success in competition.

The patient fighter doesn’t just charge his opponent, attacking at random and exposing himself to a counter. Rather, he waits until his opponent makes a mistake and engages when victory can be ensured.

2. Speed

When your punches and kicks are fast, you’re more likely to score, Jhoon Rhee says. Speed also endows your techniques with more power, making it tough for your opponent to evade or block them. Mentally, speed refers to quick thinking for fast problem solving, which comes from reading books.

“You don’t solve most problems with one idea; you need three to four pieces of related information,” Rhee says.

Speed also facilitates the quick understanding of market changes, which martial arts professionals must always stay in tune with, he adds.

3. Timing

This is necessary to ensure success in most endeavors, Jhoon Rhee says. For example, when you spar, you must time your techniques so they’ll hit the target and take advantage of opportunities as soon as they present themselves. Similarly, competitors in musical forms must have good timing so their moves correspond to the music.

“Timing is also about being punctual when teaching your classes, showing up for your training sessions or delivering your products on time — all of which help you maintain a good reputation,” he explains. 

4. Power

“Power is knowledge,” Jhoon Rhee says. “If you have knowledge, you won’t make mistakes that can get you hit, like dropping your hands, getting distracted or allowing someone to lure you into a trap.”

Knowledge is what keeps you from overreacting and making ill-advised changes to a program that already works for you — changes that could cause stress to you and those around you, Rhee adds.

5. Balance

It’s crucial in all aspects of life, yet it’s an elusive quality for most people, Jhoon Rhee says. “To be a champion of life, you must cultivate basic values — knowledge in the mind, strength in the body and honesty in the heart — and strive to keep them in balance,” he advises.

“In the ring, you stay in balance by having a good offense and defense; and in business, always balance your financial statements.”

6. Flexibility 

It represents open-mindedness and adaptability, which allow you to take action when you must make a change in your life, Jhoon Rhee says. It also enables you to work well with a variety of people in different circumstances and resolve problems through compromise and negotiation.

Physically, a flexible body means you can turn your hands and feet into weapons while minimizing the risk of injury, he says.

7. Posture

Good posture helps you have a straight spine and enables you to build better muscle tone — both of which are keys to having a healthy body, Jhoon Rhee says.

The concept also works as a metaphor for a martial artist who flies straight into competition and competes within the rules, never allowing politics or peer pressure to lead him away from honesty and fairness. 

“Good posture is being straight and positive in character and developing business integrity where people can put their trust in you, knowing that they can always depend on you,” Rhee says.

About the author: Floyd Burk is senior adviser to Independent Karate Schools of America.

Black Belt Magazine has a storied history that dates back all the way to 1961, making 2021 the 60th Anniversary of the world's leading magazine of martial arts. To celebrate six decades of legendary martial arts coverage, take a trip down memory lane by scrolling through some of the most influential covers ever published. From the creators of martial art styles, to karate tournament heroes, to superstars on the silver screen, and everything in between, the iconic covers of Black Belt Magazine act as a time capsule for so many important moments and figures in martial arts history. Keep reading to view the full list of these classic issues.

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