Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sign of the Times?

Was looking through the latest Century catalog and found this. My thoughts on XMA notwithstanding, a unique selling point stuck out in the description to me:

"The traditional jacket even includes an integrated pocket perfect to hold MP3 players!"

Now, I should point out that I hide any number of things in my dobohk from time to time: pen and paper, knife, mouthpiece and even occasionally my iPod. I should also point out that I don't have all of these in my dobohk at once. ;) One of my students actually took to sewing a small pouch in his dobohk for his mouthpiece. If only he'd patented that, he'd be sitting on a goldmine!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Setting Goals

The transition from one year to another is a completely arbitrary point in time, yet here we are at the end of December and preparing to enter the New Year. At this time, all of us make resolutions to improve and do better. Sometimes, when we are truly brave, we look back on our past resolutions and goals and sigh.

The new year in a way for me is a New Year, as I was born in very early January. From a training perspective, I've always tried to reflect on the past year and look for improvements when I can. Sometimes I pick a small detail to focus on, or have a larger goal. On year, I decided I was going to lose 20 pounds, and I did it. Unfortunately, I've packed it all back on, so it's back on my list.

What I found successful was to write it all down. It's an extra commitment. For me, putting my pen to paper and writing my goals is a true irrefutable statement. Notice how I used the terms "pen" and "paper" rather than blogging, tweeting, or starting a Word OpenOffice document I'll never open again.

Some of my training goals are very physically oriented, as you can imagine. For example, I've made it a goal this year to be able to do the splits. This has no other purpose than be able to finally say I can do it again (Not since I was 17.) Others are simply a continuation of a longer quest. In this case, it is my goal to create a comprehensive curriculum surrounding the staff that culminates in free sparring. Not necessarily full contact in the style of the Dog Brothers, but to build a curriculum that builds to sparring, similar to our empty hand curriculum.

So how does this relate to technology? As it turns out, there are some great tools out there for making and keeping to your goals this year.

Trying to lose some weight? Weight Watchers has an online-only (no meetings with old ladies complaining about how guys don't have to work hard to lose weight) version of their program that lets you track everything you eat, as well as exercise, forums and recipes. From there, maybe you'll want to share your successes and missteps with the world by posting to your blog using skinnyr. I've even done this on my site, as you can see.

Maybe you just want to set some goals. 8Goals has a nifty online interface for adding goals and keeping track of progress. You may also enjoy FitDay if your goals are more fitness oriented. Other ideas can be found here.

Good Luck!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hi Speed Photography

Holy Moly.

I just finished wrapping up a few hours of watching Time Warp on the Discovery Channel. All I can say is I wish I had access to a high speed camera so I could watch something as mundane as a low block in super slow motion. :)

Nifty. What a cool (and almost completely unnecessary) way to break down a technique! :)

and just for giggles:


The Last Class Tradition

Like a few other schools, BTSD has a special tradition for students who are leaving. Everyone who comes to class that evening has the opportunity to spar that person for one last time as a way to bid them farewell.

Did I mention this is how we handle people who leave on good terms?

Now, before someone gets the wrong idea, I should point out that this is not meant to be a hazing or any sort of brutal method of scaring people into staying. The point is NOT to have to carry the person out of the room and set them on the curb. Still, it boils down to having to spar 20 of your closest pals consecutively. We line up from junior to senior and spar in that order. By the time you get to the old folks black belts, you're pretty much moving on instinct and sheer willpower.

It is a test of willpower and endurance, allowing you to see how much you've gained in your tenure. It is a test of your physical abilities and mental perseverance. But most importantly, it is a time to say goodbye.

Each person brings their own special attitude and method to Dae Ryun. Patient, methodical fighters who wait for you to trip up and feed you your mistakes; Crazy furious "kitchen sink" fighters who bring everything they can; Wrestlers, grapplers and more. Every time you work with them, they influence your outlook on dae ryun and you take something from that match. It becomes part of your portfolio either as something to incorporate, or something to watch out for.

That final match is your way of saying "You will never find someone else who spars like me. I am giving you my very best to take with you as a gift."

It's a hell of lot easier than being sad and missing how that person influenced your dojang. Part of the problem with running a college club is that the time it takes to get a black belt is roughly the same as the average undergraduate career. Just when the student gets interesting, gets to the "good stuff" in training, you have to say goodbye and hope you've given them the tools to continue on their path.

So while I wish Mr. Petrasek the best of luck with his future schooling and career, I am confident that our paths will cross again, and I know that he has been given the tools to truly "make it his own."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Sword Profile
Originally uploaded by weddings{by}robert
Have you given much thought to your kihap lately? I've heard some bad ones in my days. Some seem to have the wrong goal (in my less than humble opinion) while others just don't seem to be sure why they are doing it at all.

Iain Abernethy's site has an interesting article written by Jamie Clubb on the subject of Kiai. One of the more interesting things I took from the article was the idea of 3 different kiais: pre-fight, during the fight, and post-fight.

In some way, this makes sense... the Kihap is meant to intimidate, gain a psychological advantage, give an extra kick to your technique, catharsis, all of these things. The parallels to Geoff Thompson's work on modern fighting make a certain level of sense.

Kihap is a pivotal motivator in class. A strong snappy kihap inspires action in your students. Likewise, your boredom or lack of excitement can also come out. I'm sure all of us can name an instructor whose very tone inspires you to do better, either from the strong energy and confidence or the sheer terror of disappointing them.

Sometimes, you can even tell a person's lineage by their kihap. Every instructor has a student who tried to emulate their kihap. Just like any other aspect of their martial art, we try what we know to be successful first. Mine doesn't sound much like my instructor's anymore, but it is definetely LOUD, just like my instructor. Sometimes I have 2 different kihap in class, depending on what I want, once again, something I stole from emulation and made mine.

Now, go out there, yell, and find your kihap!

Meanwhile, I'm going to ponder how odd the written word "kihap" looks...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Good Black Belt Class

This weekend, we had our monthly Black belt class on Saturday morning. We took the opportunity to review and discuss fundamentals of staff or bong. To be honest, I wasn't sure what direction I wanted to take with the class, since my perspective on bong has been changing a lot lately. I've given a great deal of thought about working our dexterity drills and techniques together in a more cohesive fashion and then progressing into hyung and application.

What happened next was a nice surprise. The class became less about me teaching, and more of a discussion. As it turns out, everyone had some insight to share on the topic. Even the questions - which tend to be pretty simple technical questions -- turned into a pleasant discussion. We experimented with some different feelings, different planes of motion and I found that everyone was able to visualize and express what they were doing. Along the road, we came across a few surprises and I think everyone -- myself included - learned something about bong.

Instead of feeling like the teacher, transmitting a rigid lesson, I was the discussion facilitator. It was an excellent feeling to know that our black belts are progressing and making their own sense out of what they are doing, rather than just parroting back what I have to say.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

WTDSA on YouTube

Whenever I find a great movie on YouTube showing the WTSDA, I love to share it with people. Here's a great share from a recent Region 20 competition:

Kids, being cute:

I love to see how my friends in South America are practicing. I'm not going to have many chances to make it in person, so I really enjoy YouTube for this reason:

And a nifty group hyung demonstration of Jion:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I love Front Kick.

When it comes to kick techniques, they don't get much more basic than front kick. Aside from being the first kick we teach, it's probably the least complicated kick from a mechanical standpoint. Most new students can imitate a front kick pretty quickly, compared to a diagonal kick or something more exotic.

Yet, such a simple kick can present itself in many different ways. Just off the top of my head, I can produce this list of different types of front kicks: instep snap kick, ball of foot front kick, push kick, bottom of the heel front kick, toe kick, lead leg, rear leg, stepping front kick, jump front kick, scissor jump front kick.

With all of these varieties, it should be easy to keep your students from getting bored with front kick. Once you've introduced your students to the 400 garden varieties of front kick, you can really explore their options. It's not enough to just know that there are a million different front kicks, but each kick is a facet which must be studied, practiced and mastered. Each of those 48.7 kicks has a different attitude, direction, application, and more. How do they change when you pair them up? Pair a lead leg snap kick with a push kick and a jump front kick, and watch the students play with the distance and timing of this versatile kick.

Speaking of versatility, all ages of students can excel at front kick. Some of your older students may relish having a fast, strong kick that they can aim right into the shin or thigh of some of the younger, more limber students.

Instructors beware that the high kick of a 6 year old is roughly your groin level.

It's a valuable skill to be able to take a relatively simple technique, and use it to create physical and mental challenges for students of all ranks. Front kick is a great tool for this, but with some work and enthusiasm, you can use almost any technique to suit your purposes.