My son has been taking taekwondo lessons since he was 5. He’s 9 now and through all those years, I’ve been watching him rise through the ranks from the sidelines. The interesting thing about taekwondo — and this surprised me when he first took it up — is that it’s as much about mental and physical development as it is about self defense.
For example, before each lesson begins, the senior student leads the class in reciting the 10 tenets of taekwondo: honor, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self control, courage, community, strength, humility, knowledge. If you think about it for a minute, these tenets also can be applied to NASA racing.
Honor: As racers, we’re entrusted to follow class rules and those in the CCR. It’s expected of us to race honestly. A sense of honor keeps us from breaking rules established for everyone’s benefit.
Courtesy: When a racecar, pedestrian and HPDE car arrive at an intersection in the paddock, almost invariably the pedestrian or HPDE driver in the paddock will stop and let a racecar go through first. They know a racecar driver has a harder time getting around in the paddock due to all the safety gear he or she has to wear and because of a grabby clutch, and as a courtesy, they let him through first.
Integrity: This can be as simple as making sure all the appropriate decals are placed on your car so that you can apply for contingencies, or just following through on something you said you would do.
Perseverance: You see this a lot in endurance races, particularly the 25 Hours of Thunderhill. Drivers and crew push through mechanical failures and do what it takes to win a race. You also see it in drivers themselves, whether they’re in an enduro or a sprint race, they’ll make a mistake and fall back, but they keep bringing the fight to the guy in front of them.
Self control: Whether it’s to keep from retaliating against the guy who punted you unintentionally, or to button your lip when you really want to lay into someone, self control is essential to racing.
Courage: Sometimes it means getting back in the car after a bad crash. Sometimes it means pushing yourself harder to lop those next few tenths off your lap time. As much as we love it, racing takes an abundance of courage.
Community: This is one my favorite aspects of racing, and yet it’s one outsiders might not recognize at first. Community means loaning a competitor a part or a tool just so you can race together. Community means lending a hand on someone’s enduro team — without being asked. It also means toasting everyone’s successes afterward in the paddock.
Strength: Whether mental or physical, strength is a must in racing. It could be getting in better shape or becoming more disciplined in your car prep regimen. Strength is what it takes to get you through difficult periods.
Humility: This tenet takes root in HPDE. We’re humbled when our first instructor does not tell us we’re the next Michael Schumacher. That’s fine because only the humble man learns. It continues — at least it should — into our racing endeavors, where humility is important to learning and being gracious, win or lose.
Knowledge: Once the racing bug bites, we thirst for more knowledge. We buy books, study video, learn data translation, all in pursuit of getting better.
One tenet lacking from this list is wisdom. Maybe the taekwondo masters left it off the list because they knew it would result from following the other tenets. I hope that holds true for my son as he progresses through the belt ranks, and for all NASA members in their racing careers.