Thursday, March 27, 2008

push content to your students

A lot of martial arts schools are using web pages to stay in contact with their students or student parents. College clubs or adult classes are great for this, since you can easily foster 2 way communication if you want (I don't suggest emailing back and forth with minor students.)

The only problem with this model is that is relies on the students to actively seek out your webpage, visit it regularly, and see what you wanted them to see! Too often, I hear people say with frustration "Well, I put it up on the web page!"

If you don't update your web page on a regular interval, you can't really expect your students to constantly check the page. Especially if they can go for months without seeing new info.

That's where an RSS feed can really help you out.

A lot of content management systems, such as wordpress or drupal will handle this for you. If you're really brave, you could also create your own xml file and manually update it as you change the site.

Currently, I am using RSS to push out calendar dates to my students. I use 30boxes to organize our studio's calendar, then I can push that content either directly to the website, or my students can subscribe to the feed, and always be aware when I add a special class or a new event comes up.

There are of course many other ways you could use this to push content to your viewers. I'm just giving you a taste :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Have a sense of humor about what you do.

4 nights a week, I dress up in pajamas, walk around barefoot in a rec center, and punch at the air and scream with a group of similarly clad individuals who not only do this activity with me, but see me as their leader. We seriously state the 7 tenets of training and 5 codes of Tang Soo Do in a serious opening and closing ceremony. We then spend two hours butchering the Korean language and generally flailing about in some sort of imitation of what we've seen in the movies and TV.

How is this not the funniest thing in the world?

Recently, I was directed to a clip for an upcoming movie entitled "The Foot Fist Way." It's a low budget satire about the martial arts, specifically about a fictional Tae Kwon Do school.

Here's a "commercial" for their school as part of their viral marketing (quasi NSFW):

To be completely honest, I laughed myself silly the first time I watched this and the trailer. But I can sense that a LOT of people are going to be really upset with this movie, especially commercial studio owners who may be a little insecure about themselves.

A lot of things in that clip hit really close to home for a LOT of people. I know sometimes I feel like a hypocrite for being lazy and out of shape while teaching a class that revolves around mental and physical endurance and spirit. There's a little bit of this school in all of our schools (and if you don't see it, you're probably not going to like this movie anyway.) That's what makes good satire though. I know other movies in the past (Shaolin Soccer, Kentucky Fried Movie) have made fun of martial arts training, but this one could approach the Spinal Tap treatment for martial arts.

Honestly, you should be able to laugh a little bit at what you're doing, lest you take yourself too seriously. It gives a little perspective, and doesn't take away from the fact that you are indeed doing something positive for yourself and your students.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Pocket Stick Class

Over the last 6 years, I've collected a lot of information on the pocket stick. This stick is known by a lot of names: chizikunbo, yawara stick, koppo stick, kubotan, dan bong, and many more. For the most part, these sticks are approximately 6-8 inches and easily fit into the palm of the hand. Many groups emphasize the striking of nerve clusters or using the stick to enhance joint locks. Generally, a good striking curriculum can be supplemented by the pocket stick, whether you are a strict karate person, or use FMA/JKD concepts.

Last night, I decided to take some time to teach the material to my class for the first time. Only problem, I didn't think ahead to bring enough pocket sticks! Cue the panic!

Luckily, we keep a box of pens in our locker, so I just had everyone fetch a pen. Oddly enough, I was expecting some disappointed looks. Usually when I send them back to get a weapon, I tell them to grab a staff, sword, knife, nunchaku, or something more menacing than a pen. (Better than learning to fight against a banana, I suppose)

But instead, a few of the students had an almost evil look on their face. They knew we were going to do some nasty and fun stuff, they just had no idea what direction I was going to take them.

I think the chizikunbo/yawara/koppo is an awesome concealed weapon that is still quite valid in today's society. Unfortunately, in it's pure form it tends to be immediately recognized by those "in the know" as a weapon. For me, that's where the pen can take over. A good, solid pen works just as well as the traditional weapon, but with none of the evil eyes that come along with one of the ninja keychains from the back of a Century catalog. No one needs to explain a pen, especially if you have a nice little notebook to go along with it. Walking around with a pen in your hand is certainly less menacing than a knife.

My students had a great time with the material. Instinctively, they all formed a good fist around the pen, with two ends sticking out on either side. Rather than jump right in, I gave them a chance to brainstorm some techniques they thought would adapt to the pen and how to perform them. Obviously, just about any strike or blocking technique had a version that could be performed with the pen.

We ended the class by going over a flow drill for practicing the main strikes (straight thrust, ridgehand, axe hand, hammerfist, upward hammerfist) followed by some experimentation with our already existing one-step defenses.

It was important to me that while teaching, I didn't just load them with a whole new set of techniques which could only be categorized as pen strikes. I tried to link it very closely with our empty hand curriculum as well as the knife work we've done in the past. By the end of the night, I could see people adding their own flare and style to the techniques, and taking ownership of the methods.

It was awesome.

PS, obviously none of this is new or groundbreaking. I've been lucky enough to learn some material from two people I recognize as experts in the area: Don Rearic and Mickey Yurco. Mr. Yurco is a knifemaker and martial artist in the northeastern Ohio area, and over the years he has made several wonderful knives and impact weapon toys for me. He doesn't have a website, but try to catch him at a knife show if you can. He specializes in making tiny little knives. Oh, and he also makes great pens. :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More on E Sip Sa Bo

I own the entire series of Best Karate. Written by Nakayama Masatoshi, who to me embodies the essence JKA Shototan ryupa, these books outline each of the canon forms in painstaking detail.

The bunkai, however, always left something to be desired. I've always found applications to be more like visual analogies for teaching rather than anything substantive. For that reason, I always wrote them off as benign.

That is, until I read the following tidbit about Nijushiho:

"Clapping your hands together above your head can cause your assailant to launch a sudden and uncoordinated kicking attack."




ok... I'm just not sure what else to say.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Thanks to Heather for this link!

The E Sip Sa Bo challenge.

This morning, I dropped a gauntlet on my black belt students. This is a challenge that I've been toying with for about a year now, and I recently pulled off the backburner thanks to a post by John.

Basically, I wanted to take a form that is not mainstream in Tang Soo Do, have my students study other versions of the form and make their own interpretation of the hyung. So what starts out as a typical Shotokan kata becomes "tang soo do-ified" based on the knowledge and style of the martial artist doing it.

The form I've decided to take on is E Sip Sa Bo, better known to my Shotokan pals as the transliterated title of Nijushiho.

That is the legendary, Asai sensei by the way.

I chose the Asai version for a very special reason. Asai Sensei was a true innovator in Shotokan, and wasn't afraid of altering forms to suit people, creating new forms to deal with advances in kicking, as well as wheelchair bound folks. As a Tang Soo Do stylist, I'm really impressed by his kicking ability.

My black belts have a month to read and research the form, make their version and be ready to present it at the next gup testing. And the only info they get from me is that I told them that E Sip Sa Bo=Nijushiho. The rest is up to them and their ability to use a search engine or card catalog. (we'll see how many of them read my blog!)

I'm really curious to see the results. With 9 students participating, I hope to see about.... 9 different iterations and interpretations! Maybe if they are agreeable, I will post a few online.

Monday, March 3, 2008

WTSDA Schools in Ohio.... Unite!

Currently, there are 4 WTSDA affiliated schools in Ohio: BTSD, CTSDA, Lifetime and Lexus-Nexus TSD. Of those, the former 3 are all within Columbus. All of us are roughly within an hour of each other, which makes it easy and enjoyable to get together and train as a group.

The instructor over at Lifetime has worked out a deal with his host that will allow us to meet once a month for a combined training session. We'll get a whole basketball court for 2 hours, and other club members will not be charged for entrance. They get a little free marketing for their member services, and we get a good opportunity for our students to train with different people, ranks, body types, etc.

I'm very excited to see how this will work out, and I'm positively thrilled that we have gotten to a point where our schools have enough students to make such a thing feasible.

Here's to continued growth!