Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thud in the Mud.

In my last post, you'll recall I mentioned how dorm demos have a certain amount of peril to them, as the marketing is placed in the hands of the host. Last night, we had a rather unorganized host, and no one was really coming to the demo. After some frustration, I just started holding class right there in the hallway. Interestingly enough, if you get 10 people kihap-ing enough, it starts to generate some interest in the building as people slowly peek out of their rooms to see what the heck is going on.

Afterwards, I was on a roll, and since it was a surprisingly warm January night, I took the students for an outdoor class. It was in the 40s, but it was not exactly dry. In fact, it was downright muddy, and we made it more so.

Since two students were late lining up, we HAD to do crunches in the mud. And since someone forgot to say "Yes SIR" upon being told to get up, the entire exercise was invalid and HAD to be repeated.

After that, a few minutes of practicing arm bars and take downs. Gotta make sure we can control the person all the way to the ground, right?

It was pretty fun, even though I didn't get to do much. Well, I HAD to demonstrate the proper technique a few times.

The only tragedy was that there were no pictures.

It made me think that perhaps I'm missing out on a key marketing opportunity. Maybe each winter quarter, I should find a muddy evening to take everyone outdoors for class. We could call it "The Thud in the Mud."

At a school where hundreds of students jump into a lake in November, it might just work.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Class should be harder? I dunno.

Quick drive by post:

A few students are clamoring for a more physically intense class. They want to be dripping with sweat and trembling in their legs. I certainly value the hard workout, and there's nothing like a 1000 kick class to really make you not want to get out of bed the next morning.

Here's my question: is that truly the role of class? Obviously, Tang Soo Do is not an academic class with me at the lectern, espousing my theories while they take notes. Proficiency comes largely from repetition, especially at junior rank levels.

Part of me says "if you want a workout, that's what outside of class is for."

The other part of me understands this need for a physically challenging class, but feels conflicted because I feel there are so many mental aspects I want to share.

I suppose the truth is that there is plenty of time to learn those lessons, so why not spread them out over a physically demanding class?

What are your thoughts?


Originally uploaded by tommrkr

The last 2 weeks, we've taken our class out of the dojang and to the local university dormitories. Our original goal seemed on track: go out to our target audiences.

Here's the thing, we hold classes at the university rec center. But is that necessarily the crowd we want? A lot of people who are going to the rec center are going with a specific purpose in mind: lifting weights, using the cardio machines, playing hoops, etc. How do we pull in that person who maybe isn't into the gym, but really has an interest in the martial arts? Over the years, I've noticed that martial artists tend to be introverted by nature, and may be harder to lure in.

So this idea was born. Instead of holding demos at the RPAC, why not go where the students already are on a daily basis - the dorms -- and bring what we have to offer to them?

We've done a few demos so far. One was well attended. The other, not so much. Unfortunately, we're limited by the dorms who want to do the marketing, drum up interest, etc. So, depending on the dorm, we could have either a very enthusiastic representative, or one who just throws up a single flyer by the elevator.

In doing demos over the years, I've experimented with a variety of formats until settling on what I currently use. I stay away from the flashy uniforms, choreographed scenes, and elaborate breaking demonstrations because we simply don't train that way. Someone who sees that sort of demo will probably expect a very different training environment than what we'd give them.

First off, I try to keep the demo moving. I'm quick with the commands, and very sharply kihap to keep everyone moving at their best speed. Downtime in a demo is death.

Second, everyone is involved, not just my "superstars." When I engage the audience, I repeatedly point out that our club is for everyone, and that the people in our demo range from 3 months experience to 10 years. The point, I say, is that everyone comes together in the interest of helping each other improve. My white belts get to demonstrate a basic form, followed by intermediate students and black belts. Hopefully, the audiences can see this gradual increase in ability and skill.

Finally, I do very little in the demos. I refrain from making it the "Tom Marker" show where I single handedly fight all the students, break flaming bricks or kick an apple off my partner's head. Instead, I want them to see me for my teaching ability and how I bring a group together successfully. My ability to kick my student's butts should be secondary. I want them to see that I'm passing talent on to the students rather than having a class full of groupies.

As we continue to refine our demo, I hope I can update you more on our success. Right now, I'm not looking for a lot of students, I'm looking for students who buy in our teamwork approach to martial arts and can see the benefits.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Success Pyramid

I've been reading about collegiate coaches lately. Two coaches in particular stand out to me as true leaders who would have made excellent martial artists: Ohio State Football coach Woody Hayes, and UCLA Basketball coach John Wooden. Both are men who cared a great deal for their players and did used the lessons taught in their sport to teach them about real life.

Currently, I'm reading Wooden's book: Wooden on Leadership, and in it, he outlines his plan for success. I have to take a moment and point out that Wooden understands success, as this formula led him to 10 NCAA Basketball championships, 7 of which were consecutive. No one else even comes close to this achievement.

Over the years, Wooden has attempted to structure his elements of success into a easy to understand system so that all of his players understand how he expects them to contribute to the team environment:

It is the third tier: conditioning, skill, and enthusiasm that he considers the core of his success. In many ways, these 12 sets apply to the dojang. Especially if you're interested in running a school where everyone is vested in the improvement of all students rather than just themselves. Look over the 12 parts again. See how they can all easily apply to the dojang. I am especially struck by enthusiasm. Not only does the player/student put the needs of the whole group first, they do it eagerly. Everyone grows rather than the superstars.

There it is: the keys to success. Putting them on the poster is easy. Expecting and demanding that everyone, yourself included, stick to the pyramid is what separates Wooden from the rest.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I'm most likely going to really injure myself.

I got one of these for my birthday:

It's a rope dart. Somewhere along the lines of Chinese civilization, someone thought it would be a real hoot to tie a sharp, heavy metal object to a 15 foot section of rope and watch the fun ensue!

For a few years, I've been fascinated with the idea of learning to manipulate this weapon. Flow, angles and distancing all play very interesting roles with this weapon. What I've always found most interesting is how the rope is manipulated around the body with various wraps to maintain shorter distances and then rapidly releases to the full length and quickly brought back.

I'm not really approaching this from a traditional martial arts perspective. For me, this is really more of a "skill toy" such as poi or nunchaku. I get more out of the attributes that are built from using this weapon than being concerned with transmitting a historical or cultural preservation of the weapon. For me, this approach helps me more deeply appreciate planes of motion, linking movements, and performing techniques efficiently.

I'm going to stop this post now, before I go off on a tangent thinking about "traditionalism" and "practicality."

Friday, January 4, 2008

kicking drill

First off, this xkcd comic captures my approach to youtube. Whilst searching for bojutsu clips, I started following suggested links until I came across a few eku videos, from where I eventually was led to a few videos from Patrick McCarthy, whom you may know as a translator of the Bubishi. As it happened, I was thinking about kick drills and fell into this great drill by accident.

I dropped this drill on my students last night, and after minutes of agonized moaning, I think everyone benefited from the practice. Slow, static kicks are always a challenge for me (though at least I can get them above my waist now!) and this drill addresses a few key points, namely balance and proper chambering for kicks. The partner gives a little stability which is nice, and they also provide excellent targets for keeping the kicker honest. It's hard to deny that your "head high" kick is really closer to the ribs. :)

Once again, I am tooting the benefits of martial artists to get more involved with YouTube. Some excellent innovative material is out there (as well as a lot of, well, crud.)