Looking Bad

“Show me a guy who’s afraid to look bad, and I’ll show you a guy you can beat every time.”

– Lou Brock

This could be the person who isn’t willing to make the effort. It may be the person with too much ego. Either case the results aren’t good.

How many times have you heard someone say “I can’t do that.” Probably too many to count, right? Maybe you’ve even said it a few times. I’m sure that I have along the way. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It might just be a statement of fact, such as letting others know that you don’t have the knowledge or the skill to perform the specific task. All too often, though, it comes being afraid of looking bad when trying to figure how to make something work (i.e. fail).

The martial arts gets lost in the Hollywood presentation of what it is – all flash, no principles. In most cases, the martial arts techniques are just a means to an end as the antagonist travels through the plot. This leaves the development of courage to real martial arts schools. This means the work that doesn’t include medals and trophies. It takes a good bit of work to get past the embarrassment of failing in front of people. Whether in private or in public failure happens, so people NEED to accept that failure is part of learning and growing, so they also NEED to have the courage to continue when they do fail.

The thought of public performance is one of the biggest fears that people have. The stress of being challenged in public to do something that can make you look bad takes courage to overcome. A bunch of heckling from peers doesn’t help, though, either. Until looking bad has no bearing on whether or not you do something, you will always be at a disadvantage.

Master F.’s Rules

Recently a student commented that she like the rules that I offered as part of training. Well, they’re more guidelines that I offer to students to help develop their technique. I use them so often that students can recite them back to me when asked. Something that needs to be kept in mind is that I don’t tell students anything that I don’t think is valuable. No drill or movement or tweek is given because it has no purpose. If the student doesn’t understand why they’re doing the drill, then they should train more.

This post came about because someone…Tanya…made a reference to NCIS and Gibbs’ Rules. Hopefully this makes sense to someone other than me and will be found beneficial to some of you, too.

Maybe the “Gibbs’s slap” will need to become part of my teaching technique. I suppose that will only happen if my students stop making things like quoting Master Jeong Woo Kim and Senior Chief Master Marshall Parnell part of their drinking games. Yes, I have smart ass students!

(in no particular order)

1) Keep the sword between you and the bad guy.

Rule 1

This one is kinda simple and basic. The whole point of using a weapon is to have a “force multiplier”. If you don’t know that term, then you should check with the work that Kasey Keckeisen and Randy King do. When the weapon is NOT directed toward the bad guy/opponent, then it is pointed in the wrong direction.

The concept is that once your sword gets behind you, the time and effort needed to get it back to an effective position takes too long.

What I tell students is that the sword should not go past your center line (the seam on each side of your uniform). This is to keep the sword from getting “behind” you. If the sword is too far behind you, it will be difficult to recover for the counter attack after a missed attack.


2) All cuts go forward. (see rule 6 picture)

True cuts don’t go down, up or across! They move forward into the target (until human anatomy makes the sword come back to the body). This is most often seen when students drop their hands through bent elbows and “flipping” the sword tip forward at the end of the cut.


3) All techniques start from your hips.

As with all martial arts, all sword cuts start in the hips. These cuts are either vertical, horizontal or spiral (start high and end low, or the opposite). Techniques tend to spiral up or down based on the torque created by “twitching” the hips. Just as every other martial art, your whole body does the technique. None are done with just arms or legs making things work..


Rule 4

4) No kinky wrist.

Seseon Neri Begi (big angle downward cuts) should not end with kinky wrists (see image at left – figure 2 is bad). This tends to happen more in both Right cross cuts and downward cuts.

The main reason this occurs is trying to copy someone else’s technique. The whole end point for these cuts is dependent upon where YOUR shoulders stop! No one should try to make their sword travel as far as another. Do NOT try to copy others!

If you check out the image to the left, you’ll see what I tell students to work toward (in figure 1) and what not to do (figure 2).


5) Small steps for faster spinning (Thank you, Senior Chief Master Parnell)

Yes, this rule has been adopted from lectures and teaching from U.S.A. Haidong Gumdo Senior Chief Master Marshall Parnell. His words added to the concept that I had learned from my first Taekwondo teacher, Master Tom Sullivan. When learning the Dollio Chagi/Dwi Chagi (Round kick/Spin Side kick) combination from Chung Bong Sam Bon, he taught “step-in-the-bucket” at the completion of the Round kick to help lead into the turn and pivot for the spin side kick.

I have done this in Taekwondo for almost 37 years. When Chief Master Parnell used the comment “small steps help you spin faster”, I realized that’s another aspect of “step in the bucket”. If stepping in the bucket is close to the other foot, then spinning happens quickly. The farther away that you set down the foot, the more difficult it is to regain balance and spin well.

The Haidong Gumdo portion of this just requires that the next step be long enough to stop the spin and allow the extension (step) to end in a proper stance. This helps ensure that the movement promotes the proper cutting movement.

Rule 6


6) The tip before the hands.

This is one that takes a while to make sense. Students tend to think that swords are sharp, so they’ll cut. They many have used axes, which uses power sent down into a target to work. It takes a while to figure out how to generate the sword tip speed needed to successfully cut a target.

We have used the analogy of casting a “fishing line” as the way to get the sword tip to move quickly enough through the cut. Part of this cut development is the “whoosh” sound that comes as the cut is made. The goal is to make the sound happen above your head (early in the cut) to ensure the tip speed of the sword. If the sound happens at chest level the speed of the sword hasn’t reached its peak until after it has hit the target. This usually results in a failed cut.


7) Turn your torso, not change your stance.

As previously mentioned, all techniques start in your hips. This means that each motion, cut or block, causes either an opening of the torso (a whip-like motion that moves front to back) or a spiraling motion that leads the cutting motion downward or upward, even across. The key point here being that the hip position may “twitch” but always comes back to neutral (belt knot forward). This helps generate the necessary tip speed to cut targets. This motion also helps create the “rounded corners” at the end of cuts that maintain the flow and speed into the next cut.

Something that I tell my students, though, is that their lead shoulder should point at the target when setting for a cut AND their trailing shoulder should point at the target when finishing the cut. This shouldn’t affect the stance in any manner, though, or balance and speed will be compromised.


Rule 8-1

8) Pommel points toward target. (see the pictures across from this rule – both sides)

Rule 8-2

Well, this has been found to be limited to the upward cuts (left) and cross cuts (right). So, too bad, I still use it.

It is very common to set for an upward cut or a crosscut with the sword tip wrapped behind like winding up to do the cut. This tendency is makes the cut take too long and is ineffective.


9) Keep your arms long.

This one started as “all downward cuts MUST start above your head” but there were too many that bent their elbows doing the cut and thus ruined their target (mat) cutting. While the arms don’t need to be straight, they do need to make sure they get above your head. This version that I’ve started using is that “once the left hand (bottom hand) is out of view (when looking at your target), then the cut can truly start. 


10) Don’t follow your sword tip.

This one is kind of simple but difficult to apply. There is enough talk about watching your target that a student shouldn’t need to continue watching the tip go past the target. A baseball/softball player doesn’t watch their bat after the ball is hit. They watched the ball from the pitcher to the bat, then into the field. A golfer watches the ball as they swing the club and continue to watch it after they hit the ball but never the club head. Where are your eyes when you finish your cut?


11) Rule of 45.

A goal in cutting is to have a clean 45 degree cut. This simulates a shoulder to hip cut. In fact, scoring cutting competitions follows the same rule. I’ve also applied this to cutting drills as a guide for knowing if your cut is proper.

I ask students to work at making sure the whole cut moves trough a 45 degree line. The end point of the cut is reviewed on both downward and upward cuts. What I have them check is if sword is 45 degrees to either side of their center and 45 degrees above or below horizontal.


12) Don’t copy other students…completely.

Copying fellow students is a normal thing to do as you figure out the way techniques and movements happen. The opportunity to senior students doing the technique gives you some visual clues and details on how to do their version better.

The problem happens when you try to make your technique match the versions that you see when classmates do them. This is a problem  because you are trying to do a version of the technique that isn’t yours! You haven’t figured out the details yet but mimic movement. I’ve used the analogy of cheating off your classmate’s test. All the parts that they get wrong, you get wrong. Don’t be that person! YOU need to make YOUR technique work for YOU.

The illustrations here also follow the limitations of the student. I don’t move nearly as well as my teen and 20-something students, so I need to make sure my techniques work for me. The basics will be the same but the parts may look slightly different. This is a point that some of my…older…students need to keep in mind, too. Don’t try to copy classmates who are 20-30 years younger than you are! Wisdom is supposed to come with age, so we need to work smarter not harder…but still work as hard as you can.

13) All cuts move through Chocheonsae

While the cuts done from Jayunse are hard to see fitting in this rule, they still do. Basicall, if you haven’t moved big enough to pass through the Chocheonse postion, then your cut isn’t big enough. The amount that Sodose and Beomse must travel to end in the proper position, they must move through the long dadose sstance and the high ready cut position that is Chocheonse

14) Speed in a form is the time between techniques (not sure who said this first)

You can only do your technique so fast. That’s it! The thing that you can do is start the next technique sooner BUT that can cause you to not finish the technique that you are currently doing. This is why forms look back – the technique is not being completed, yet the next one is starting. You can see this in Ssangsu Gumbub Il bon as done by a 10th Gup White belt or as done by a 1st Gup Red belt. The words to explain it is like this –

10th Gup White belt version – (after the draw) side straight cut, one thousand- one, one thousand- two, slide straight cut, one thousand- one, one thousand- two, slide straight cut.

1st Gup Red version – (after the draw) side straight cut, one thousand, slide straight cut, one thousand, slide straight cut.

This does follow the tactic of “Slow is Smooth and Smooth is Fast” because you need to go slow enough to do every technique completely, which allows you to move to the next technique quickly

15) Dadosae + Sodosae + Beomsae + Gimajasae = Your Head Stays at the Same Height

This is why Rule #13 is there. So, if you’re in any of the stances listed here, then when you move to the next one (listed here) your head shouldn’t rise and fall through the movement. The only time the your head rises is when moving into a Jayeonse (Walking stance).

Arrogance and Fear

One of the fun quotes from Dr. Strange:

The Ancient One: You wonder what I see in your future?
Dr. Stephen Strange: No. Yes.
The Ancient One: I never saw your future, only its possibilities. You have such a capacity for goodness. You’ve always excelled, but not because you crave success but because of your fear of failure.
Dr. Stephen Strange: It’s what made me a great doctor.
The Ancient One: It’s precisely what’s kept you from greatness. Arrogance and fear still keep you from learning the simplest and most significant lesson of all.
Dr. Stephen Strange: Which is?

I had a conversation with another Taekwondo teacher that fit this thought. As we chatted, the thought came up about what Yellow Belts are like. It seems that about 3-6 months into training, students KNOW everything there is to know about Taekwondo and they’re ready to teach it.

The arrogance of youth? As they continue through the colored belt ranks, this can continue because of the natural athleticism. Young students have the ability to pick things up quickly but can miss some of the real learning that is deeper in the material. This can create a false sense of success. If things are too easy, nothing is really learned. Things done too easily can cause the student to get bored and more arrogant, which leads to even less effort being applied to learning.

The fear of youth can also affect the student’s learning. How often have they already heard that they can’t do something? How often have they tried but failed and were not encouraged to keep trying until they achieved the goal? Their whole life is filled with a variety of support and criticism that begins to mold them even  before they start training in a martial art. Every so often I overhear before class starts something along the line of “Oh, I can’t do [blank], so why should I even try.” It becomes a fine line between encouraging a student and pushing too hard.

Arrogance or Fear or both may be found in children. This can be worked on to challenge the child to develop respect and courage. Their development is a major goal of teaching children. Finding these traits in an adult is even more sad. Many years of behavior reinforcing these characteristics make it very difficult to redirect them toward respect and courage..

Why martial arts classes?

There has been a post that has gone through Facebook a bunch of times about the what parents are really paying for when putting their children in martial arts classes. If you haven’t seen it or don’t remember all that was written in it, you can follow this link to review it – From A Parent

Well, this post isn’t really about what the benefits are. It is a rant about how those benefits are actually gained. One key factor here is that these benefits need to be practiced outside of class as well.

The development of working well with others and be part of a team is enhanced further through training at seminars and participating in organization level events such as testing. Students get the opportunity to support rank peers and those their age while learning more about themselves and future challenges. If your class is exciting and fun,
then joining with students from sister schools will make it even more exciting.

An example of this can be found in the sparring that we do. When you spar with the same classmates over and over, you begin to learn their tricks. This is valuable but it also slows the learning curve. When you already know how someone will fight you, then you’re already prepared. This is where attending workshops and seminars will help.

When you attend a sparring workshop, you get to spar with a good number of students that you have seen very little of or not seen before at all. Their tricks and strategies will differ from those you spar with regularly. That means you will have to learn quickly to be successful.

Another example is testing outside of your school. Promotion tests are challenges and chances to support fellow students. Participating in bigger tests provides a bigger challenge and a bigger chance to support fellow students. With larger groups testing, the amount of support and energy also increases to encourage everyone.

Pine Tree Taekwondo Testing

This extra participation introduces you to other students, both peers and seniors, and other teachers. It shows respect for those who helped to build the class that you are in and those who built other classes. It helps to acknowledge those seniors who started everything. This is important as those who have come before are martial arts family! You honor your blood family by spending time with them, so do the same with your martial arts family.

Even Superheroes Train

I finally got the chance to watch the movie Dr. Strange. I liked it and found this piece of dialog interesting.

Dr. Stephen Strange: How do I get from here to there?
The Ancient One: How did you get to reattach severed nerves and put a human spine back together bone by bone?
Dr. Stephen Strange: Study and practice. Years of it.

It is really easy to forget the work necessary to achieve great things when you see it on the news or in a movie. Neither of these sources provide the “real” story behind the achievement. The two minute feel good news story may use words to mention all the work but the video never matches it. A movie has SO much “skip to the end” in order to play out the story, that it provides little, if any, acknowledgement of previous learning and training.

The incredible amount of time it would actually take to achieve the capabilities to become the superhero. You can read about what Batman’s training routine would be like. Keep in mind this was only his physical training. There isn’t any mention of all the academics that he has done.

The constant challenges. The never-ending training. The required discipline and focus. The self doubt and questioning. The frustration and plateaus. By the way, have you noticed that Superheros are the ones who get the recognition for their efforts? All those regular people who put themselves in the middle of danger to help others seem to get protested more than praised. Which makes all the work to get past your ego and insecurity even more difficult! Can anyone become a Superhero?

No, no one can become a Superhero. This is because they are fiction! I do think anyone willing to do all the work necessary will become a Hero, though. real life Heroes are more important than fictional ones. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time with real Heroes. Those who make lives better trough their knowledge and support. Some are mentors and some have become true friends. They are real heroes as they have all worked hard and sacrificed to gain knowledge and serve others. You can never practice and study…and train enough, if you plan to be a hero!

No Other Way

Many of you know my “liking” of NCIS. Yeah, I would LOVE to be Gibbs and have everything written for me! That’s beside the point, though, as enough happens within the show that sets examples for how role models should act.

That said, I’d like to show you an example of my world in Gibbs methodology.

No matter has happened, I wouldn’t want it any other way! I’ve worked for a long time on my martial arts journey. The directions have changed a couple times. I started with Taekwondo, which took me 10 years to start asking the right questions about what I was practicing, then I found Aikido. This was a place where my brain and body really worked together. It helped me understand what martial arts was truly about. My students have heard several times that, if I had found Aikido first, I may have never done Taekwondo. Yes, arts fit the personalities of those training in them. Well, I guess that it’s good that I found Taekwondo first because Aikido became a bit awkward after having both hips replaced…and finding Haidong Gumdo.

I’ve struggled through keeping a Taekwondo program growing as Aikido seemed to be difficult to “sell”. The big change came from finding Haidong Gumdo because who doesn’t like swords! The sword class grew quickly. The Aikido class was tough to grow with a floor without mats. Taekwondo leveled off to let me keep learning about it’s history and lineage of where it came from. Well, then there were swords again! That was easier to “sell”.

This is where I’m truly fortunate that my students understand the way that I use the word “sell”. All of the Taekwondo and Haidong Gumdo students recognize the work I do and the work I am still doing. There is nothing that they don’t see nor anything that they can’t replace me in. All of my students have already surpassed me and I’m proud of that. I’m the face of this yet only because I’m too stubborn to be done.

No, I wouldn’t have it any other way! Thank you ALL for the work you do and the growth that you’ve had!

7th Dan and more!

My 7th Dan Test panel =

8th Dan Grand Master James S. Cahn (Cleveland Taekwondo Martial Arts),  8th Dan Grand Master Roy Bushman, 10th Dan Supreme Grand Master Joon Pyo Choi (Columbus OMAC & World Song Moo Kwan United leader), 9th Dan Grand Master Young Pyo Choi (OMAC Indiana); 8th Dan Grand Master Kwang Ho Kim (OMAC Columbus), 9th Dan Grand Master Ron Coleman.

Having a true 10th Dan and 2 9th Dans plus 3 8th Dans as my promotion board is makes the test even more memorable!

Thank you! It was a wonderful weekend with the 42nd Battle of Columbus and the first World Song Moo Kwan United Summit! A lot of work done and a lot of history learned!

Delusion (guest blog post: Bill Hedrick)

Guest Blogger, Bill Hedick

Why delusion can be a good thing!

If you’re a fan of Westerns, you may remember Clint Eastwood saying, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” This is true! But how do you find your limitations? Most people live lives of quiet mediocrity, avoiding pain because it hurts! Yes, it does, that’s the main attribute of pain. But why do you have pain? Obviously there are many contributing factors, age, disease, injury, come to mind. But for many, if not all people, pain occurs when you do something unexpectedly difficult. “I hurt where I didn’t know I had muscles!” What does this have to do with delusion? I’m coming to that.

We have a picture in our head of who we are. I like to say you can either look in the mirror and see faults with your body which may or may not be there, or ignore your love handles and say, “Hey! Still got it!” The truth is our self image is rarely accurate, especially as we get older. A former athlete who has become sedentary is a danger to himself, he’ll attempt things he used to do easily and pull or tear something. A young person who could easily do a flip or a cartwheel might whine and say, that’s too hard. Neither of them truly understand who they are and what they are capable of.

I recently said to a student, don’t try to be Russell (a 20 year old, extremely athletic 4th Dan)! it’s hard for Russell to be Russell. We can only find our limits when we push to our failing point. And then as we keep pushing, that point moves. Russell works hard to push that point to an amazing place. So does Austin, a Septuagenarian martial artist who obviously can’t move like a 20 year old anymore. He is a great help to me personally as he shares his tricks and moves he’s developed to accomplish things his body won’t let him do.

OK delusion? Yes, delusion, I know in my head I am 65, not 25, but I have this delusion that if I work hard enough I will be capable of what a 25 year old does. Objectively I know this is false, but by feeding this delusion, I push myself past what I might imagine I can do and surprise myself. I will never perform like a 25 year old again, but dang it, I gotta keep trying.

Having TOO much fun at seminar!

This is what happens when you tell a bunch of students to “put in the bad guys for [blank] gumbub!” I guess they didn’t have enough direction. **Note: each group had 30 minutes to prepare the gumbub prior to performing it.


Ssangsu Gumbub Sa bon (group 1)

Ssangsu Gumbub Sa bon (group 2)

Ssangsu Gumbub O bon (group 1)

Ssangsu Gumbub O bon (group 2)

Ssangsu Gumbub Yuk bon (group 1)

Ssangsu Gumbub Yuk bon (group 2)

Ssangsu Gumbub Chil bon (group 1)

Ssangsu Gumbub Chil bon (group 2)

Ssangsu Gumbub Pal bon (group 1)

Ssangsu Gumbub Pal bon (group 2)

Ssangsu Gumbub Koo bon (group 1)

Ssangsu Gumbub Koo bon (group 2)