PIL SUNG: Embodiment of the Tenets of Tae Kwon-Do

by Lt. Gwen F. Hall U.S.N. April 1976, first published Fall 1976

Author with General Choi, 1981 Chicago, IL. U.S.A.

Author with General Choi, 1981 Chicago, IL. U.S.A.


The phrase and philosophy of “Pil Sung” was introduced to TaeKwon-Do by Mr. Eun, Sang Ki.  Similar concepts are taught by many instructors.  However, the unique embodiment within this phrase as a driving force for personal growth and martial art achievement was first taught by Mr. Eun and has since become introduced in many schools.  Its whole meaning, however, and total importance to the complete development of the individual has not always been fully understood.

Hangul (Korean) for "Pil Sung"

Hangul (Korean) for “Pil Sung”

Pil Sung” translates as “I am confident of certain victory.”  It is not a phrase expressing violence, but rather a statement of personal  dedication and challenge issued by an individual to his maximum effort such that it be expended to the limits of his abilities towards his own personal mental growth, spiritual development, physical healther other any other goal to which he may asipre.

To fully grasp this concept, one must realize that it is an embodiment of the five tenets of TaeKwon-Do as taught by the President of the International TaeKwon-Do Federation, General Choi, Hong Hi – Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control and Indomitable Spirit. Each tenet followed by itself and separated from the others somewhat aids an individual in some aspects of life; but, learned and practiced together, they make an entire way of living.  And so it is with “Pil Sung.”

Courtesy or thoughtfulness and respect for others, their needs and rights is as bread cast upon the waters.  It floats out only to wash ashore to feed us one day in the future.  we sow it; we reap it.  The ability to pause for a moment and reflect upon the effects of a spoken word, a glance or an action and to graciously concede to the inner need of another  is man’s source for inner strength..  It is courage at its greatest.  Thoughtfulness and respect for another is society’s only guarantee for protection of individual rights, property and life.  The formation of civil/criminal law is the standardization of courtesy to be exercised when selfishness, greed and spiritual deprivation would prevail.

Integrity or the ability to live each day so as not to hide from our face in the mirror each morning is the inner voice of conscience that guides men to defend and speak out for that unseen spirit of what is right and just.  It was this element that made the signers of the American Declaration of Independence put their names and lives “on the line.”  They knew that honest, sound moral judgement and equitable governing policies were required of a national government.  Recognizing that these principles were lacking under the Crown of England, their own moral character required their total commitment to the formation of freedom and justice in a new governing system.  it is a similar completeness of conscience and mind that we must perceive and strive to attain if we are to serve Tae Kwon Do and the human future.

 Perseverance is that part of stubbornness in the human spirit that makes a man continue his efforts until he either wins or is beaten.  It is endurance when there appears to be nowhere to turn and nothing from which to feed.  The capacity to steadily persist in a course of action directed towards a goal in spite of difficulty must be developed if a man is  to improve society’s errors, or if a student is to master himself.

Self Control is that function of the intellect which channels the powerful emotions of anger, hatred, love and disappointment into productive energy to create and build or to analyze a situation and consequence of action before heated efforts produce tragedy or loss beyond repair.  Uncontrolled energy destroys, whether it be physical as nuclear fission or economical, mental and spiritual distortion as that which unleashed World War II.  Self Control is so needed in today’s hectic, violent world.

Indomitable Spirit is that aspect of human soul which goes beyond endurance into eternity.  A stallion fighting to defend his mare must have perseverance to win.  However, if he is killed, which horse steps into the place of combat inspired by his leader’s dying effort?  Indomitable Spirit is the silent impetus rising from within courage that has produced genius out of failure and cities out of ashes.  It is the pride and will of a people or an individual that will not allow itself to be subdued.  This difference, this ability to see beyond the present and inspire others and ourselves from inner pride to heroic efforts enables man’s fighting spirit to exceed the present into eternity.

This, then,  is the meaning of “Pil Sung” – Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control

Tenets of Tae Kwon-Do

Tenets of Tae Kwon-Do

and Indomitable Spirit.  In order to attain “Victory” in TaeKwon-Do one must persevere, must persist in physical training and mental development.  Even when faced with difficulties of technique, personalities, inadequate facilities or any other obstacle, the student must endure if he is to be victorious.  Without respect for and courtesy towards his instructor, fellow students, the world and himself, the student will fail.

Courtesy is flexibility that allows giving and understanding.  Such flexibility is born of true “confidence.”  If one is blind to the needs of others, he is blind also to his own, and “victory” is not possible in mental and spiritual darkness.  Lack of self control hampers success.  A frenzied expulsion of temper blocks the mind’s ability to comprehend and learn, and feverishly paralyzes the brain’s messages to the muscles so that energy is totally wasted.

Personal integrity is the best foundation for “certainty.”  Nothing positive will develop in oneself or a people if good moral character and honesty of purpose is neglected or missing.  Corrupt motives will not stand to scrutiny and failure is their reward.  ”I am confident” epitomizes Indomitable spirit.  The whisper of silent determination from within the soul ensures completion of the person and survival of the art,  a people.

Amalgamation, then, of these tenets is “Pil Sung.”  ” I am confident of certain victory.”  And like the five tenets, to take one or two portions from the phrase undermines its total meaning and inspiring effect.  To delete the personal first person declaration of “I am confident” from the phrase stripes its entire meaning just as it would to delete ”of”, “certain” or “victory.”  the words separated are only terms in a language system; but taken as a whole, they inspire that inner driving force  needed to accomplished not only martial arts but individual maturity as well.

This complete meaning of the concept must be embodied if it is used, and all tenets of TaeKwon-Do must be consistently practiced and taught if on is to be successful in the martial arts ‘ if on is to be successful in living.  Understanding them, and thus also Pil Sung, allows for their use in the daily atmosphere and provides for the TaeKwon-Do tenets dissemination into the community.  Vigorous application of Pil Sung will assist the complete development of the individual and thereby, the betterment of society.  I am confident of certain victory. “Pil Sung.”

About the author:  Gwen F. Hall is a retired U.S. Naval officer who started the martial arts in 1963 and started Taekwon-Do in 1967 and was and still is one of the highest ranking females and even males in the I.T.F.   Her last I.T.F. black belt certificate is A-5-36 in 15 January 1989.  And holds the I.T.F. plaque number 130.  Mrs. Hall also introduced Taekwon-Do to the country of Panama in 1983