Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Split Teaching Personalities

Over the last year, I've started teaching far more youth classes than in the past. As I've gotten a little more comfortable with the format and expectations of younger students, my attitude has relaxed significantly and I find myself far more at ease with the class.

Before this endeavor, I was teaching classes at the University level, almost exclusively to kids in their 20s. A far different experience as you might imagine. Physically, the college students are able to endure more, can be stretched physically and mentally, and provide a great deal of challenges for a teacher who continues to get older while students (seemingly) stay the same age.

A few months ago, at a demo for a Scout group, I brought a few of the University students to assist, and many of them felt as though I had a split personality. This joking, fun instructor who was setting kids at ease and sharing this art was very different from the person who would work them over for 2 hours.

The truth is, I enjoy teaching adults and children for different reasons. Both classes are very enjoyable for me, but they require far different skills, different goals and ambitions.

Kids classes, you spend a great deal of time keeping them from fidgeting, talking out of turn, handling restroom issues, etc.

Adults classes are... well, actually about the same in many ways. :)

Monday, October 12, 2009

So Rim Jang Kwon out in the wild?

So Rim Jang Kwon (Shaolin Long Fist) is an oft-referred to form in the history of Tang Soo Do. It's name is listed in many manuals as an advanced Dan form, and it is alluded to in Hwang Kee's Soo Bahk Do text.

So Rim Jang Kwon is a very generic name, and there are hundreds of forms out there that could be considered "long fist" forms. The question has always been... which one is it?

Recently, over at the Warrior-Scholar forum, this video was shared by John Hancock.

Obviously, this is very different from your mamma's Tang Soo Do! Looking back, I can see how it might not have been passed on, given it is so radically different from Pyung Ahn, Bassai, Naihanchi, etc. Over the years, we've been exposed to some of the newer material such as Chil Sung, Yuk Ro, and learned about the Tan Tui connection as well as So Ho Yun. From that angle, this form makes a lot more sense.

The remaining question is: Is this THE So Rim Jang Kwon as practiced in TSD/SBD/MDK? All we have to go by are some Korean notes in Soo Bahk Do Dae Gham which has been translated by other folks thusly:

(1) This military exercise is a same overflow as "Naianghi" form. but it's movements starts more from the middle than "Naianghi" form and moves toward left and upward.

(2) The ready stance is in triangle position and relaxed.

(3) Facing front, raise elbows in horizontal position.

(4) This form starts with the extension of the right hand.

(5) the left hand hits the right hand at the point and then the hands cross each other move hands toward the right center.

(6) Make one step to the right, face front, make a same position as #3

(7) The body and eyes face the same direction. Turn left and lift the right leg to left side take 1 step and face front of form...both hands will be raised

( Keep the left side same step to a horse stance with the left hands in fighting stance.

(9) The right foot will stay the same. The left foot will face left side. Turn toward the front. The body will face front.

(10) Facing left, the left foot will stay in place. Make right foot attack (type of kick not clear) and land in defensive stance.

(11) In the same stance, the left arm will extend toward the right side, the right fist will turn downward

(12) The right foot will steps to right side and bends at the knee (probably front stance). The front side of your body will face the front of form and your eyes will be looking to the left side. The left foot will be extended. The right hand will block upward. The left hand will block upward (probably reverse high block).

(13) The left foot will face left. The body and eyes will face towards the back of the form and repeat the motions in #8

(14) Same motions as #9.

(15) The left foot stays the same. The right foot comes together towards the left foot. Your head turns towards the back of the form and make a high punch.

(16) Lift left foot and raise body upward.

(17) The right foot will stay on floor and pivot and the left foot will face the right side with the head turned to the right. Same action as #7.

(18) Twist to a reverse front stance facing left side of form. Head turned to the right side and prepare for attack (defensive stance). Execute a left punch and backfist.

(19) The right foot will make a front kick to the front land in front stance

(20) Facing the right side the left foot will stay right side and the right foot will step once and make front kick.

(21) Same as #20 except reverse left and right.

(22) Same as #21 except reverse left and right.

(23) Turn toward left, the left foot will be make a fighting stance and execute a middle punch.

(24) The right fist will punch the left side

(25) Same as #24 except reverse left and right

(26) Same as #25 except reverse left and right. Open the left hand and push forward

(27) The left foot will lift to the right side. The right side will be centered and lift the left foot, and make a right hand high block and a simultaneous left arm low block.

(28) With both hands push forward. Then make a right hand low block. The head and body will face the left side of the form.

(29) The left foot will stay the same. the left hand will open and push forward

(30) The right foot will turn towards the back of the form and bend at the knee

(31) Step forward one step

(32) Kick with left foot. The right hand will be open and hold the left hand.

(33) The right foot will execute a front kick before the left foot touches the ground.

(34) Facing the back of the form, put the feet together. the arme will make a middle block (probably an inside to outside block).

(35) Turning hips to the left, the body will face the right side of the form. The left foot steps one step, both hands will be the same as #34.

(36) The right foot moves forward, the left hand will punch forward. the right hand will punch to the right side.

(37) The left foot will step forward

(38) the right foot will step forward, jump in the air and turn to the left side of the form. The face and body will continue to face the front. Stay in the horse stance. The left hand will face downward.

(39) The right foot stays the same. The left foot moves to the right bringing both feet together. The left hand makes a middle block and the right hand extends forward.

(40) Same as #7

(41) Same as #8

(42) Turn left, attack the middle...same as #20

(43) Same as #42, except reverse the left and right

(44) Same as #42, the opposite of #43

(45) Turn left, the head and body will face the right side of the form. The right foot will stay on the ground. The left foot will lift and the execute a right high block.

(46) At the time the left foot touches the ground. The body will be facing the rear of the form. The upper body will turn towards the back of the form and both hands will stretch forward.

(47) Same as #46, the right foot will step forward. the left foot will be facing the right side of the form. Execute a right punch.

(48) Before the left foot lands, the right foot will make a front kick

(49) Both feet land together, twist hips to the rear, head and body will front of the form. Make a left middle block and a simultaneous right punch. Repeat #s 46, 47, 48, and 49.

(50) Right foot moves forward, the body and head will face the left side of the form

(51) Step with the right foot, the body and head will face the rear of the form

(52) Raise the right foot and make a high block with the right hand while making a left hand low block

(53) Both hands will come together, keep the right foot raised and reverse the hands

(54) Bend the right knee and stomp with the left foot and repeat the moves from #s 52, 53, 54

(55) The right foot stays the same. The left foot will step forward one step to the right side of the form. The head and body will turn to the right side of the form.

(56) The left foot will make a front kick and the right hand will be chambered and ready for an attack.

(57) The same motion as #55 and #56 except reverse the left and the right

(58) The same motion as #57 except reverse the left and the right

(59) The left foot will face front, make a right low block to the front of the form

(60) Same as #11, except the body and head will be in different direction'

(61) Same motion as #12 except the direction

(62) Facing the front of the form, the body turns to the left side, the right foot will come together with the left foot.

(63) Bend the knees and extend both arms, the right fist will punch upward.

(64) Jump and turn to the left. The body and head turn to the rear of the form. Land in a horse stance

(65) The left hand makes a block to the front and the right fist makes a low block

(66) The left foot will come to the right foot, the body and head will be facing the rear of the form. the left fist makes a low block and the right fist will execute a punch.

(67) The left foot will face the right side and you will take one step. the left foot will be in a fighting stance. The body and head will face the right side of the form.

(68) Facing East, the right foot will move one step. Make a left then right punch.

(69) Same motion as #41.

(70) Same motion as #66 except the direction and the body and head will face the front

(71) Same motion as #70 except the left foot will raise to the right knee.

(72) Same motion as #7

(73) Same motion as #7

(74) Same motion as #9

(75) Same motion as #20

(76) Same motion as #21 Reverse of #75

(77) Same motion as #76, Reverse the direction

(78) Same motion as #77, Reverse the direction

(79) Same motion as #78, Reverse the direction

(80) The face and head will face the rear, same motion as #55.

(81) Turning towards the right side, same motion as #56

(82) As the left foot touches the ground land in a fighting stance with your head facing the left side of the form. Make a left punch and chamber the right fist.

(83) Same motion as #82. Except the reverse the left and the right.

(84) Same motion as #3

(85) Same motion as #2

Makes perfect sense to me... Actually, from what little I can parse, it doesn't seem to be quite the same, but these notes are cryptic at best. No surprise that it was never officially translated.

At this point, I'm not sure if it is the form, but it does look fun!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Cub Scouts: Masters of Arms in Disguise

I recently read, with some dismay, that there was talk of taking away pocket knives from Scouts in the UK. I will avoid getting on my soapbox except to say I earned my "Totin' Chip" when I was a Boy Scout and never felt compelled to stab anyone just because a knife was available.

What is interesting, however, is that in the not-so-distant past, Scouts could get a merit badge as a Master-At-Arms. Here is a link to the article. That's right, we used to teach quarterstaff techniques to our youth!

Here is the entire text, a free download at Lulu. In addition to quarterstaff, the badge covered boxing, jujitsu, fencing, wrestling and more. Obviously, at 39 pages, it is a very brief overview of the arts, but a neat idea nonetheless.

In retrospect, it was probably a good idea to restrict these teachings. Those kids are hard enough to turn away for popcorn sales and Unicef donations. Can you imagine if they had a hickory staff in one hand, too?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bringing the dojang online attracts parents.

Facebook has been a great tool for use within my school at the Y, even though I've spent a significant amount of time creating a website. Facebook, along with other social media have managed to clear a lot of hurdles for users who were intimidated by the Internet in the past, and given them a fairly simple and fun way to interact with friends and family. These are the users who would probably NOT seek out your website, much less check it constantly for updates, and would not email you. Facebook opens these lines of communication.

In the past, when Facebook was solely for college students, we used it at OSU for fun, and almost everyone in the club who has an account is friends with everyone else as well. Many club alumni are still connected to us this way, and it serves as a nice way to keep up with their lives and (hopefully) training.

At the Y, most of students are too young for Facebook, but the parents are taking it by force. A lot of the parents chat with each other before and after class, and now these conversations are continuing online, and building a strong parent base for the club. Here are just a few ways that a studio Facebook page can make your parents feel more involved:

  • Parents become "Fans" of your page, and receive any updates you make to the page. If you cancel class, the parents who read Facebook will find out almost immediately.
  • You can also make use of updates by announcing special classes, tournaments, paperwork deadlines, parties, etc.
  • Beyond announcements, consider creating Events and inviting parents. FB allows your fans to RSVP to an event, add comments, ask questions, and more.
  • Your parents will share photos from testings, demos and tournaments. They will start to tag other kids as well! Same for videos. Encourage your parents to share their photos and videos on your Facebook page, and they will create that content for you.
  • Use Facebook to announce additions to your website. Think of your website as the home of more permanent content, and Facebook as a method of quick communication.

I've only touched on parents in this article, but you may be asking "what about the students?" Here's what I do:

Under NO circumstances whatsoever, do I accept friend requests from students who are under the age of 18. It's not worth the mental anguish and stress of constantly checking my own stream of thought for appropriateness, etc. I simply ignore the request, and when I see the student again in class, I privately inform them of my policy and make sure they understand that it is in no way personal. So far, it's never been a problem.

Instead of being MY friend, they are more than welcome to be fans of the studio page!

I hope this motivates you to create a studio page in Facebook. If the thought of Facebook makes YOU uncomfortable, this would be an outstanding project for one of your black belts or office staff. These people, in all honesty, are probably already using Facebook, and will love to be able to use it officially. Whoever makes your Facebook page needs to come back repeatedly, at least weekly, and make updates to the page. Keep the content fresh, and people will keep coming back.

Here are a few examples:

Columbus Tang Soo Do Academy Facebook Page

United States Karate Academy

Eagle Academy of Martial Arts

Friday, March 6, 2009

Black Belt Magazine

When I was a kid, long before I had the opportunity to study the martial arts, I loved Black Belt magazine. The pictures seemed like such a wealth of information, and look at all the cool stuff that was for sale back in the day. With the help of this magazine, I was quite convinced that I could become a ninja. Ehh, I was 12, what do you expect?

Entirely by accident, I discovered this week that the Google Books project has started making old magazines available. Including Black Belt Magazine. All the way back to it's infancy in the early 1960s.

Not only are they available through google, but they are - of course -- fully indexed and you can search for those old articles and sweet fashions. Wow. Highkick Casuals look absolutely nothing like dobohks! :) And just for my generation: behold.

Novelty aside, BB magazine gives an interesting perspective into the martial arts as they were perceived in the US. You can see how it went from a modest cottage industry hobby and exploded into a very big business. You can watch as Judo, Karate, Kungfu, Tang Soo Do, Tae Kwon Do, Jujitsu, Brazilian Jujitsu, UFC, and Filipino arts all briefly were in the limelight. You can see how people in the 1970s were absolutely obsessed with the nunchaku, thanks to Bruce.

There's also some good snippets of history, for those of us who didn't get to experience it:

As I think back to middle school, I remember how our school library actually subscribed to BB. In retrospect, I'm completely bowled over by this, and have amazing respect for what must have been an amazingly progressive school librarian. These days, I can't imagine that is still possible.

But I digress. At the time, the school library was my source for BB magazine. It was stolen or hidden a lot, and we were usually lucky to have one or two editions hanging around. If 12 year old me was able to have every volume of BB at his fingertips, his head may have exploded from the sheer awesomeness of the prospect.

Good stuff. Try not to get lost in the history! :)

Note to Google: now, go get Kick Illustrated, Tae Kwon Do Times, Kungfu Magazine and Journal of Asian Martial Arts! :)

Friday, February 13, 2009


Originally uploaded by tommrkr
It's been one of my goal's for the year to improve my flexibility, and this pic gives me hope. From what I understand, he didn't achieve the full split until his late 30s. I've still got some time to get there!

Tang Soo, Master J!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Ki Gong 2.0

Some of you who are interested in Ki Gong may find Master Dan Segarra's blog to be of interest.

Master Segarra has been online, sharing his knowledge with the Korean martial arts community for many years. Recently, he has gotten on the Youtube bandwagon and is also blogging.

What I'd really like to point out is his introductions to ki gong and meditation that he is sharing online. Very no-nonsense, and very much in line with what I've been exposed to. I especially enjoyed the lesson visualizing the lemon as Grandmaster Shin shared this same lesson with us at a black belt class years back.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

cookbooks versus cooking books.

What is the difference? A cookbook teaches you recipes, but doesn't necessarily give you the background, how to match the food with a proper wine or other dishes, or explain certain terms.

A cooking book, however should be about the art of cooking. How boiling versus braising changes the flavor of the meat, how certain flavors compliment and enhance each other, and more. Once you know how to cook, a recipe may serve as a roadmap, but you may change things around or mix recipes to get your desired result.

You may try this with a recipe, but without the proper background, your results may range from ineffective to disastrous.

I feel the same way about books and videos on martial arts. Too many materials claim to be cooking books, but are nothing more than recipes!

Are you following my metaphor?

Many videos claim to teach an art, but are really just giving you a taste of the flavor. Usually this is delivered in a set of one-steps or a form. I already need to keep track of 90 one-steps and I have committed over 30 forms to memory. I'm not sure I can handle many more.

Every once in awhile, I find a video which does this for me. The best example I can think of are the Comtech knife fighting videos. They give you the essence and help you incorporate the concepts into your current skill set.

I recently purchased a video on Jang bong (long staff) fundamentals by a certain famous TKD master. Perhaps that was my first mistake as TKD is not necessarily renowned for bongsul. What I got was a tape showing several very unimaginative exercises, one steps and a couple fancy forms. Needless to say, I'm disappointed.

In a final comparison, I've always found the cookbooks with super sexy pictures of food to be the least useful. Same with MA videos: the higher the production values, the more fluff. The best videos seem to be of someone who is in their studio and mounts a camera in the corner.

In that respect, I really enjoy YouTube, because people are sharing their passions and the videos tend to be far better information that what is for sale out there. Incidentally, as more and more bloggers are sharing their recipes online, I no longer feel compelled to buy bad cookbooks either.

(On a side note, if someone knows of a good video showing examples of staff partner work that breaks the mold of the same ol stationary tapping drills, I'd greatly appreciate it.)

(On another side note, I hope my Shotokan friends do not take my use of the Best Karate text as inflammatory. The Best Karate series are some of the best cookbooks on the market, but that is all they are: a guide to the JKA standard. They don't teach you a darn thing about the essence of Shotokan, but they weren't intending to either.)

I am the world's best orange belt

One of the results of teaching your own classes is that if you are doing your job to attract new students, it means that you are constantly teaching introductory material. This means spending a LOT of time on the basics.

A unique challenge I've been working on is balancing the needs of my junior and senior rank students. I think the top end of the class may often feel neglected by a class, and in fact most black belts must make some degree of personal sacrifice in class to work with junior rank. The reward is usually that their understanding of the basics increases and they can apply those same lessons to their current material.

For me, every time I teach something, it is brand new again. I get to look at the material I am presenting, tailor it to my crowd, appeal to different learning styles, ages, cultures and I walk away from the lesson with a better understanding than when I began. That is a great feeling!

All of this is great, but you must still find a time to cover more "advanced" material as appropriate for other ranks. While white belts are learning spinning back kick for example, green belts can be doing hook kick, brown belts can do wheel kick, red belts can do jumping variations of these techniques, etc. Or multiple kicks.

In my opinion, this is a very difficult challenge for most instructors: running several curriculum at once in your head and making sure everyone's needs are met.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reading and Thinking

I haven't posted much lately because I've been, well, reading and thinking. As I work on updating the website for my studio, I started putting together some of my thoughts on the school logo.

I've always felt strongly about my logo, and about the message my logo presents. There are some immediate influences and obvious symbols, but my students can also tell you about other subtle interpretations that are meaningful to me and to them.

I am a big fan of how geometry is used in the martial arts, especially in terms of symbolism. The martial arts often look to triangles, circles, and 8 pointed stars to encode their knowledge. My instructor developed his logo (with later changes made by me)with these same thoughts. The strength and stability of the pyramid, the choice of a right triangle, all of these parts were intentionally chosen to convey meaning. Some meanings are "secret" while others resonate universally. In a way, the logo explains our specific ryu pa of Tang Soo Do very clearly.

What has been interesting to me is that my logo shares some parallels with other martial arts themes: some intentional, and some by pure coincidence.

The 8 circles are set to point in the compass directions. Similar things are seen in the use of the compass in Western martial arts and the use of the bagua in Eastern arts.

What I wasn't expecting to see were the similarities between Pennsylvania Dutch Barn Art, or in Ed Parker's Universal Kenpo Pattern.

I'm glad to know that my thought processes are shared by other smart folks.

One of the big features of my logo is that the 8 circle rosette, linked by a central circle represents planes of motion such a figure 8s, florettes, etc. Geometry of movement is expressed in my logo and could give a student a lot to think about. Now, as I was researching martial arts, movement, and geometry, I stumbled into this gentleman:

I've contacted Sifu Moses to see if he will share some more information on his inspiration and path. I'm really interested to learn more about what he is doing with similar material. It is certainly different, but he's not the only one out there on that sort of martial fringe.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Nice Quote

Charles Goodin at the Karate Thoughts Blog had a very nice recent entry to celebrate the new year.

Karate is not one style or system. Karate is all of us. Whether we practice Goju-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu, Kenpo, or Shotokan, we are all carrying on the art of Karate. From the youngest child to the oldest Sensei, each and every one of us is a thread in the great fabric of the art.

Karate does not exist in books or photographs. It only lives when we practice it. It is something to "do," not just think, talk, or read about.

Now log off, and go hit a heavy bag, practice a form, or something. :)