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.