Tuesday, June 25, 2013

True Martial Spirit

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is an amazing martial arts movie.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi has exactly 00:00:00.00 of martial arts.

I will let you contemplate how those two sentences can both be true. Here's the preview:

For the martial artist, how many of these concepts sound familiar? Here is a man at the top of his field, seeking perfection in simplicity, yet feels he is not yet there. Through constant practice, he strives to achieve better results. There is no flash or pizazz. Yet, people make reservations months in advance and spend hundreds of dollars on a meal that may last 10 minutes.

Watch how he treats his apprentice chefs. Hard training, simple tasks repeated over and over again to earn trust and sound fundamentals in the basics.

I don't want to give much more away that this, for the surprise ending should inspire all instructors. If you have Netflix, it is on instant view. Go watch it.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Youtube Dojang

"When you learn new techniques, learn thoroughly the theory and philosophy as well."

-Attitude requirement number 12.

Just to make a tongue-in-cheek point...

Green Belts: Don't look or read any of this. Scroll down until you see the part where I say it's OK to start reading again.

I learn a lot from watching Youtube videos.

There are a lot of excellent instructors and practitioners who are sharing their theories and ideas with the entire world. For free, no obligations. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of material out there that is just terrible. Not just terribly done, but unsafe and dangerous as well. I am a little concerned that my students will try to search for something on Youtube and end up not being able to tell the difference between the good and the bad.

As a student of hyung, I greatly enjoy using Youtube to watch countless variations of hyung that I know. One of thing I like to do is search for "WTSDA hyungName." and see what comes back. Even within our own Association, there are subtle variations and trends in hyung performance that vary from dojang to dojang and Region to Region. As a student, I greatly appreciate seeing how different students and schools emphasize different portions of the form. I love it when I see someone doing the same things I do, and when I see something different, I try really hard to understand where they are coming from. They have to do it for a reason. Or, at least, their instructor teaches it that way for a reason. Or - and we're talking worst case scenario -- someone along the line changed it for a good reason!

After seeing what's out there I then check out how other Tang Soo Do groups approach the hyung, [sarcasm]and then I look down on them with contempt, for my way is obviously the best.[/sarcasm] (On a related note, the W3C really needs to settle on a sarcasm tag for HTML.)

From there, it is very fun to go further down the rabbit hole. Does Shotokan have a version of this hyung? Shito-ryu? Shorin-ryu? Isshin-ryu? Holy moly, how many different Seisan variations can there possibly be? The answer: a lot.

The challenge is trying to see the differences between styles, and not immediately dismissing them as being silly or inferior. Others may always be attracted to things that are different, and they need to be reminded that just because it is different, or from an "older" style does not make it automagically better, either.

One of my favorite jokes:

How many black belts does it take to change a light bulb?

15. One to change the bulb, and 14 more to tuck their thumbs into their belt and mutter "That's not how my instructor does it.

I am a strong proponent of the idea that once you know a hyung, you should strive to make it your own. To only stop with what you were taught is a terrible disservice to those who came before you. You can bet your butt they made changes, whether they are aware of it or not, everyone makes subtle changes. The best analogy anyone ever shared with me was that of a suit. Would you wear your instructor's suit? Chances are, it doesn't fit. Different heights, body types, etc. I'm guessing the hyung is performed with these same constraints in mind, so why would you strive to carbon copy your instructor. Yes, do it like your instructor for awhile. Make their version the goal, but from there, look to add your own emphasis to the hyung, and perhaps you will one day be fortunate enough to contribute to the greater knowledge of Tang Soo Do.

Green Belts: Feel free to continue reading from this point forward.

So remember, kids, YouTube is the devil. It will corrupt what your instructors are trying to teach you and fill your heads with rot. Stick to what your being taught and train hard.