An Interview with Dale Eagling
A Man With A Mission
Australiasian Taekwondo Interview 1993
DALE EAGLING is probably the least nationally written about Taekwondo Master, but right now he could modestly claim to be one of Taekwondo's most influential and successful leaders. Master Eagling has built his reputation nationally by word of mouth, and he has influenced instructors to rethink their martial art attitudes, and all who come under him would confirm, he has a motivational capacity which encourages instructors to strive for higher technical and ethical standards.
Dale Eagling is not backward to point out that most of the problems within Taekwondo today can be traced back to poor communication, and seniors too often have not set a correct model or example of Taekwondo etiquette for others to follow. Control of the human ego and to develop modesty, humility and correct control of one's actions with skill and focus is what develops a true martial artist. Most of the bad sportsmanship displayed when a competitor looses at a tournament or on the other hand, the absolute obsession to win and overlook correct manner destroys our dignity. Tournament competition and traditional martial values and development can exist in harmony, however there are many schools who neglect, basic drills of thrusting blocking in forward and back stances, kicking combination drills, the forms (Hyung's), one step, two step, three step exercises and practical self defence and substitute for tournament oriented training only. Also, he makes the point that if one does become a champion, what does this mean? it means one competitor has scored more points than the other within a set of rules. Take away the protective gear and the rules and you come back to our basic aim and what our art is about, to teach a practitioner to protect themselves against any type of attack without any rules. We cannot be paper tigers in this business. He is surprised at the huge numbers of Taekwondo players around this country who have no idea how to stop knife attacks or firmly gripped chokes, head and arm locks. There is more to good self defence than kicking and punching, each student should be taught how the whole system fits together. It is like building a house from the foundation to roof Many cut down bad foundations and wonder why the walls or roof falls down.
Master Eagling is a pioneer of Australian Taekwondo, certainly one of only two westerners who from the early 70s have been certified to 6th Dan by the Kukkiwon (World Taekwondo Headquarters) Technical Board in Korea, and certainly the only one to go on to develop a national following which at last count numbers over 800 black belts which he acts as Master Instructor to, and represented in all states except the Northern Territory. Those 800 black belts represent in excess of 8,200 students.
Master Eagling commenced studying martial arts in 1965 and also is a 5th Dan in Hapkido. He is proud to remind students he is an accepted Taekwondo Ji Do Kwan member and is respected by his peers within Australia and Korea. Mr Chong Woo Lee, 9th Dan who resides in Korea is Master Eagling's Grand Master and have a close relationship. Grand Master Chong Woo Lee is a Vice President of the W.T.F. and was head of Ji Do Kwan Taekwondo until his heavy involvement within W.T.F. development. In 1977 when Master Eagling resigned from the A.T.A., Mr Chong Woo Lee supported his actions and advised him to, "keep out of Taekwondo politics', within Australia, which he believes was a correct decision. He believes that the development of a unified W.T.F. Taekwondo body in Australia is being destroyed by politics and constant bad etiquette.
Through the 1970's and 80's Master Eagling has spent much time training in Korea under leading masters. It should be pointed out that also during that period he had a close relationship and still does with Master Sung Soo Lee 8th Dan Taekwondo, 8th Dan Hapkido from Sydney who he respects for his wisdom and guidance.
Master Eagling has also a close friendship with Master Yong Dai Cho 8th Dan Taekwondo from Melbourne. Dale Eagling remarked, "I guess it was Mr Sung Soo Lee and Mr. Yong Dai Cho both leading Ji Do Kwan Masters, who encouraged me to become a founding member of the fast growing and highly successful ATU. (Australian Taekwondo Union). The ATU. has as its base 6-8th Dan WIF. certified masters, and during the 90's will certainly strive through the WIF. in Korea and the A.O.F. (Aust. Olympic Federation) Aust. Sports Commission for the A.T.U. to be part of the WTF. Australian Official Body. It is Master Eagling's great ambition that all legal Taekwondo practitioners are united and can compete nationally together. All Taekwondo students should not have to endure the politics that are developed through egotism and greed, and until this problem is solved our art will not reach its full potential.
Master Eagling was asked his opinions on many Taekwondo matters:
QUESTION: What is the main reason for your Tasmanian and now national success as a leading Taekwondo Master?
ANSWER: Technically, I have produced a bound book, "Syllabus and Grading Requirements" and a separate bound booklet, "Taekwondo Etiquette". The syllabus book clearly explains requirements from white belt through to 4th Dan Black Belt the technical standards the requirements and development of the players attitude and discipline are clearly set out, as the student progresses from grade to grade. Regardless of what rank a player is, we are all on a learning path together. Most students and their instructors expect discipline and are quite willing to accept that they need to develop patience and good manners. To learn to judge correctly, to respect their seniors, and as they develop more skill and confidence that their egos are kept in line. When instructors communicate correctly with students and help these students to set clearly defined goals, then we have good models of what a true Taekwondo leader is all about.
Naturally the whole technical, ethical standard improves. I believe all instructors should understand and clearly communicate to lower ranks what the, "do" of Taekwondo means. It means a, "way of' in our case a way of foot and fist, but more importantly the do of Taekwondo means, "a way of life', a way of living. Correct exercise of mind and body, also a way of living with a modesty in your life not going to extreme one way or the other. Also "do" means "a way of morality" of good living, with good character development.
To show respect to ones elders, parents, and other people. To try to engender respect through your own actions. It is also important that "do'~ or "way of life" or "the way you live'~ is to set an example of restraint in your own actions and words you use so other people may see that you actually live the do, the way of, in a martial arts sense. I teach instructors to have a strict discipline, but they must learn to judge human nature within each student, and to have compassion in decision making. After all the main aim of Taekwondo is to make a better human being by developing a stronger mind and body. To become a complete martial arts expert, we all have to analyse our weaknesses and strengths, then work hard to improve on our weak areas, and instructors must have the foresight and at times the fortitude to confront players and let them know their weaknesses. Ask any senior black belt in this country that comes under me and I am sure all of them, have experienced lectures, and criticism from me.
This is a black belt's obligation to keep our art pure and on a path towards excellence. To motivate and get the best that a student can produce, often takes real patience and dedication but the pleasure you get seeing a person who lacks confidence become more positive. A student who is arrogant and boastful becomes more aware of their wrong attitude and become more tolerant and calm, these are the rewards which make our art so stimulating and satisfying. Although I have worked very hard over a long period without any breaks I never loose my enthusiasm, I train most days for up to 3 hours. Not counting my actual teaching time which is around 4 hours per night, I consider it a privilege to be an instructor.
QUESTION: What do you consider makes a good Master of Taekwondo?
ANSWER: The student is the final judge of who is the true master. The true master of any art form produces master-pieces, if he does not then it is very difficult to think of him as a master. A master should produce something of beauty and value. In our case as the master before us, something in their image, of the original masters of wisdom and technical excellence. If we are to be respected as true masters of our art, we should produce more master-pieces, meaning higher quality students and instructors. Also, before one can become a master, they must learn to master themselves, many masters as we know, have to date failed to do this.
QUESTION: Tell us about your success as a business leader and other sporting achievements.
ANSWER: I was a company accountant and management accountant until I resigned to teach Taekwondo full-time in 1975. As well as being a qualified accountant I completed a degree in Business Administration and in fact was still holding down a job and studying till I was 28 years of age, very difficult time.
As for other sports and activities, in the 1960's, I was a successful professional sprint runner, in fact had I remained an amateur my times would have assured me a place in the Olympic team as a sprinter in that era. I was recruited from school at 16 years of age to play Australian Rules Football with North Launceston here in Tasmania. At 16 years of age playing senior football I became very mentally tough, this was a big step for me, but it taught me early on how important discipline was. I have been a lecturer in Tasmania for the Australian Coaching Council, under "The National Coaching Accreditation Scheme," and have lectured to some 25 different sports at Level I and II. I had success as an Australian Rules football and athletics coach, but my only interest outside Taekwondo is walking in the mountains and spending time with my family. I should make clean, these days, 7 days a week, I eat, sleep and drink Taekwondo. I have just turned 50 years of age and now have 4 grandchildren. So along with my wife and 4 children any spare times I have we spend together.
QUESTION: You are a Taekwondo family, how does this work out in practice?
ANSWER: My wife Margaret is a 4th Dan, sons Hugh 4th Dan, Kim 3rd Dan. My daughter Jane 1st Dan and Grant are not presently involved in teaching, but have in the past. My wife Margaret and son Hugh teach in their own clubs and Kim who is 19 is contributing much between university studies. To be involved in Taekwondo as a family is something very special to me. My wife Margaret has been a great support and assistance to me especially when I travel to the mainland so much, she has a big responsibility but she is always supported by our large number of senior 3rd and 4th Dan instructors here in Hobart. Infact all my senior instructors here in Tasmania are really part of our Taekwondo family, I am indeed fortunate because there are a large number of my most experienced instructors have been with me since 1970 onwards.
QUESTION: Why are rules so important in Taekwondo? every school has them, and yet we see many students ignore them.
ANSWER: This is one area in martial arts which is most difficult to impress the importance of having rules. There is a saying, "Rules are made for the obedience of fools and the guidance of wise men". I guess "loyalty" is a similar problem for students to realise the importance of, in our art. It is partly to do with each student's personal integrity and respect for the instructor and the system. Also I guess that the intelligence of each person is to reason that rules are part of discipline and without correct discipline and respect then dignity is lost. I come back to loyalty, many students never wait long enough to learn a complete system, they move from one art or master to another without learning the system. These students usually lack correct respect and discipline and become a master of nothing, and usually I find those students often lack the discipline to see that rules are to guide them in their education of our martial art.
QUESTION: How does the standard of Taekwondo in Australia compare with Korea?
ANSWER: In the normal traditional class training in Korea they train longer than us. Usually average of3 times per week, minimum on average for 3-4 hour classes. At the universities, Taekwondo is most popular and where most world champions come from. You will find all players who have ambition to win Korean National Championships, and who are trying to make the A or B National Korean Teams each year, train 7 days per week, 4 hours each day, if selected in the A team which is the best, it can be up to 5 to 6 hours per day when moving towards world championships. In normal club training our best schools senior classes in Australia, certainly compared for the hours we spend. However, on tournament training nights at Korean schools, we are a long way behind both technically and physically. We will stay that way too in competition, until we update our training methods. I am sure any player who has trained in Korea particularly on the competition side will agree with me. We can certainly win medals in the future as we have in the past, but the Koreans and European countries have got a lead on us which will take some pegging back. In the ladies divisions we have more chance than in mens divisions because the technical standard is still developing.
I read in magazines that all students in Korea are only concerned with competition, this is just not true. On normal class training nights students spend long hours on forms (Hyung) training, one step exercises, self defence and free sparring (non competition).
We must realise that Taekwondo is the national sport in Korea. They spend more time at it so they should be technically better.