Category Archives: White Tiger Ramblings

Ramblings about the martial arts, training, life and other subjects. That’s why its called “rambling”.

Stay in the Moment!

Forms…stay in the moment!

“Forms are memorized. Don’t let the next memorized move take your attention away from your current move. Always watch your target. Watch the kicks! Watch the cuts! This goes along with don’t practice dying. Unless your current threat is eliminated, you can not know the next threat. If life was a form, we would all know what is next and be prepared to deal with it. Unfortunately, that is not reality. We need to have high speed problem solving skills.”

So says Tanya…during the November 21st WTMA East Central dojang Taekwondo and Haidong Gumdo classes. She had the class doing hyung and gumbub (forms) and noticed that many were doing the patterns only by rote. That doesn’t help develop the combat…problem solving…aspect of the martial arts as we present them.

This enforces our teaching that each technique should be correctly completed before moving to the next one. Included in this is retaining the intent of the technique to completion also. The greater benefits include the development of strategies that can be adapted to work in daily life.

The Journey So Far

I had never planned to be a martial artist, let alone a teacher! I am only an average athlete, so a physical endeavor was not part of my future. That said, my enjoyment of the Green Hornet and Kung Fu television shows caused to join a class. This was January 1981.

A couple years later, the martial arts training proved its value as I began to struggle with academics. The point where I realized that learning a form in a single class directly related to getting all the homework done for ALL of my academic classes allowed me to graduate.

Along the way I started to teach in order to keep my own training going. It was a purely selfish thing. I was not able to get to classes due to the three hour drive to the nearest class. After getting permission, I started a little class as a 4th gup. I only planned to develop a couple training partners because I knew the responsibility would develop the discipline to train.

That was a long time ago. I’m just now seeing everything. It was also a long time of searching for information about the lineage that I came from. That happened to start when I asked my first teacher, Master Tom Sullivan, about the first and characters in our Karate North logo.

That search lead me to find that I came from a Song Moo Kwan Taekwondo line of awesome martial artists. Did I say that out loud? Sorry. That discovery lead me on a long journey to find the history of where my Taekwondo came from. I do feel fortunate that I’ve come to know Supreme Grand Master Joon Pyo Choi and a source to the history.

I have never been one searching for the accolades of tournament success. I participated out of respect to my teacher and mentor, Master Sullivan, but after learning the meaning of the fist and Song Moo characters, I was on another journey. Yes, one that I had never planned to be on. It took me the better part of 10 years to figure out the basics of Song Moo Kwan history. Where  will this take me? I have no idea. I’m just starting to get history lessons from Supreme Grand Master Choi.

Lessons Learned From The Hero Round Table

Lessons learned from The Hero Round Table talk attempt are pretty obvious (once you see the video). I am very grateful to Matt Langdon for the opportunity. He let me have my first speaking chance. This was an outstanding experience and education. All of the speakers were welcoming and supportive from a wide range of backgrounds. They also ranged in age from 12 years old to me at 55 years old (I think I was the oldest one speaking). The talks covered segments of heroism.

So, what did I learn?

1) Speaking is hard!
There is a big difference between talking in class or demonstrations and speaking on a topic. I get teased about talking too much during classes, so I’m not really shy about it. I’ve been known to talk a great deal at seminar dinners or demonstrations. It was shocking how difficult it turned out to just talk without prompts of questions and seeing the audience reactions.

2) Preparing the presentation isn’t the same as knowing the information
I had planned to use Powerpoint slides to help keep me on track, which failed horribly. The nerves got the better of me and I out talked my slides. Talking too fast caused me to talk through all the slides before I got to them…and left me without any guides to finish the talk. It really sucked being that there was still five minutes left!

3) Didn’t understand the subject well enough – heroic action vs morally heroic
I was REALLY surprised to learn about the variety of viewpoints taken and the education levels of the speakers. One area included building sustainable economies in other countries, while another area was on serving families/groups. These stretched my definition of hero. While the 12 year olds are still working the education angle, a couple of speakers were psychologists focusing on heroism.

Then again, there’s these…

1) Great opportunity to fail
Those who know me have already figured out that I’ll try stuff, lots of stuff. A few times it’s been something that I’ve never done before. This was one of those times. I do view the opportunity to fail more as a learning event that actually failing.

2) Great support from speakers, which felt like family
The speaker’s dinner the night before and the conversation afterward was greatly enjoyed. It was wonderful to feel so welcomed into a group. People who had never heard of me were interested in my thoughts and how I came to the event.

3) Respond with further development to truly become a hero!
Now that I’ve had the chance to work with this group and got to see the mindset, I can develop my knowledge and presentation skills to truly fit the event. Continuing learning is always part of what I teach, so it is only proper that I continue as well.

You can see pictures of the event by following this link –

How do you value your martial arts training?

With our semi-annual seminar coming up in a month, I’ve heard the same complaint AGAIN – “I can’t afford [blank] to go.” This typically is filled in with hotel but I’ve heard a few others as well.

So? What is the value of your training? The piece about shows what I spent for the Memorial Day 2017 Weekend seminar and testing that I did. This was not the first seminar that I’ve gone to. Currently, I’m traveling to two per year. Add to that the cost of the local events attended and it becomes several thousands per year. I’m afraid to go back and total the amount from the start of my training 36 years ago.

Why do I do this? For me personally, there are several reasons.
1) I’ve made teaching the martial arts, so I need to continue learning my profession.
2) My desire for education and growth to help me become a better person.
3) My desire to help other learn about themselves.
4) The extended family that welcomes me whenever I show up that creates memories.

I could list many more with greater detail but I think that my point is made. This just illustrates what my perception of the value is. The commitment that I’ve chosen to make to follow this path is very deep. I bet I can find a couple people who have stopped bothering with me because of the choices that I’ve made.

I have seen my students illustrate their commitment to their training. Several have attended seminars (local and distant) hosted by us and others. They take this even further when they voluntarily participate in demonstrations and Anime/SciFi conventions. These are done at their own expense! Yes, I have very awesome students.

I also know that several of our Midwest Masters view their training as very valuable as they regularly travel to semi-annual regional events plus participation in joint regional events and their World Championships.

So, if you are a martial artist, how much is it worth to you? Are you willing to plan for the time and cost? Our Midwest Haidong Gumdo seminar gave two months notice with a very low seminar cost and may include one night in a hotel plus gas and food. Are you willing to plan for something two months out? Do you for other activities?

While this is pertinent to all martial arts, this does lean a bit toward the Haidong Gumdo schools that are part of our group. Lastly, please bear in mind that lack of participation can cause training opportunities to disappear due to what it costs to run them. The turnout for our events affects the planning for seminars with Kwanjangnim Jeong Woo Kim and Senior Chief Master Marshall Parnell. How valuable is your training?

Are You Doing It Right?

So, you’ve been training for quite a while and know all the basic movements. You work hard to make the basics correct. Now, as you work on your patterns, techniques aren’t fitting. Are you doing techniques differently than during basics? Why?

Have you found the combinations that are the same in different patterns? Have you discovered the progression that happens as you learn patterns? Have you worked toward making the similar movements recognizable across a set of patterns?

[Haidong Gumdo] There was a little fun had cutting milk jugs. The first couple students missed the jug on the first 3-4 cuts. Finally, a student stops and asks “Why are our techniques worse when there’s a target?” It got a good laugh but it also made a very good point. Why do techniques change when we add targets?

My thought is that basic cuts are the most correct cuts that you can do. This makes their practice vital. That your efforts are focused on making each repetition better than the previous…better than the last class. Your cuts should always be the same as during basic cuts.

[Taekwondo] This is no different in Taekwondo. Your blocks, strikes, and kicks should be done in drills to be the most correct that you can make them. Speed and power development as well as precision always need development.

Now that you’re paying closer attention the your techniques, the challenge is to not change them when you transfer basic movements to patterns. If a stance is done a specific way during drills, then it should look the same in your patterns. Your movements should look just like drills just in a mixed up order.

The applications of the techniques should be visible during your patterns. These applications have only minor variations (usually targeting) and are still performed the same across many patterns. Combinations work because the techniques fit together well enough to be successfully used. Those that didn’t work were discarded.

Your techniques have been developed and now it’s time for the next portion of your training. My students have heard me repeat the saying that a handful of my teachers all used. They’re told “Physical techniques are only 10% of an art.” This means that there is the other 90% of the art that has way much more for you to learn.

The benefits of self control, self discipline, and focus are all within the martial arts BUT they’re not in obvious lessons. Just because you came to class doesn’t mean that you learned them. Self control comes from working through the frustrations of learning new techniques or patterns. Self discipline comes from returning to class and working on the material. Focus comes from following directions and developing awareness. All of these, then, help to develop an indomitable spirit.

Once the recognition of how these traits develop, then they can be applied to other topics/subjects to become successful in all of the adventures you undertake…even when they aren’t things you’re interested in.

Coincidence…No Such Thing

Over the past weeks, I’ve had several conversations about vacations and how they fit (or don’t) into your job. These have all come about by another’s initiation, not myself, asking if there was such a thing as a job that you didn’t need to take a vacation from or wanting reassurance that if you love your job, you’ll never work again.

I’ve found it odd that these five or so conversations happened in different cities and settings over the three weeks. I could see it happening as a regular topic in one location and setting but over a large part of Minnesota, not so much.

Today, a discussion about Taekwondo training lead to some similar thoughts. How do things get accomplished? Through effort. If the effort is toward something that you aren’t interested in, then it can become work. That’s unfortunate but, getting the work done will still make the accomplishment. So, toward this end, you aren’t “working” if you are enjoying the effort in achieving something.

Since things don’t “just” happen, there’s no such thing as coincidence. (Gibbs’ Rule #39) The efforts made to accomplish a thing (career, goal, dream) is the whole reason that you completed it. If you ask most popular music artists, you’ll hear several of them agree that they were an over-night success ten years in the making.

Many of these efforts include finding teachers and mentors that have appropriate knowledge and experience. It also includes peers are traveling a similar path. This is because it is part of your Hero Journey.

Now, I’m not saying everything will be happy and easy! I’ve been around martial arts for a long time and, every so often,, I need to not go to class. I guess this means that your attitude will most often affect whether you have to work or not. Attitude most greatly affects how you choose to put effort into an activity. Again, there is no coincidence. Only choices and effort.


In reading Randy King‘s book, Selling Out To Your Level of Comfort, the section about setting goals started me thinking about many different things. One of these is how I look forward.

I say this because I have found that when I want to get something done, I jump into the deep end and try to figure it out. This started with stuff as simple as making a website. I knew nothing about html, css, or java. I found a program that I could understand and learned how to make it work. When I got stuck, I asked for help (thank you, Adam Tagarro). He’d send over script that would do what I want and tell me where to put it on the page. Then, I’d start playing with the script to see if I could make it do similar things for the website.

When I know that the end results will help me move toward what I want to achieve, then I’m willing to get things started…even if it gets assigned to someone else later. It isn’t about ego and resume. It is about achieving the goal. I will always work hard to get things done.

Which brings me back to the idea of setting goals. If you look in most self help/personal development books, you will find a section about setting goals as a way to become successful and take you into the future.

This is an important issue. It may not be that you NEED to list specific goals BUT you do need to have some idea of where you want to go! One specific goal with several levels/achievements along the way can work too. Does this sound a bit familiar? Several of you reading this have followed this each time you’ve done a rank promotion test. I know…well, have a good idea, of what I want to do but I don’t have a clear vision of how I’m going to get there. I can live with that.

I have many wonderful and capable students who will continue the journey, so what I’m really wondering about is how to get the ideas I have in my head moved forward enough for others to continue them. If you aren’t sure what ideas I have, you should ask me! You might be the key to make things move forward…or at least the next step!

Motivation is nothing, discipline is the key!

These quotes come from an article written by.Dave Berke for the Business Insider

“Discipline drives you to do the work you don’t enjoy, but is required.”

If you want someone who will handle adversity, find someone who is disciplined.

If you want someone who will conquer fear, find someone who is disciplined.

If you want someone who will never lie, cheat, or steal, find someone who is disciplined.

If you want someone who will do the tedious, thankless, and essential work, find someone who is disciplined.

If you want someone who will commit to doing everything necessary to win, find someone who is disciplined.

When you find these people, hire them. You will have employees who aren’t just motivated, but who will have the discipline to put in all the work required to be successful – and that is the key to winning.

As a Marine pilot, Dave Berke, saw how discipline provided the core for success in combat flights. It was the same for the Navy SEAL Teams. When things start to get difficult, discipline was still there to get you through. His work after the Marines has been to help company leaders find quality employees.

In business, I work with leaders trying to build a team by recruiting and hiring the right people. Those leaders are often looking for motivated individuals. My advice to them is simple: Motivation is a good quality – but it’s not the most important. Hire people who are disciplined.

So, you may not be looking for a job right now, but discipline will help your life! The stuff that is disguised as routine, is often the beginnings of discipline – all of the stuff that you do to prepare for work/school in the morning, all of the things that you check before putting your car in gear to drive away, the way that your workspace is laid out.

The martial arts give this opportunity as well. Lining up to bow inn for class is discipline. It has requirements for what is done and how it is done. Then you repeat until it is automatic. Those martial artists reading this, how many times have you bowed at a doorway that wasn’t your school? I’ve done it a few times.

Now add all of the drills that you do. Stances, blocks, strikes, kicks and more are repeated over and over. Those how can develop the discipline to work hard and seek improvement become outstanding. Those who don’t just dance around a bit and call themselves martial artists. This is particularly evident when the student needs to develop a technique that they don’t like or feel that they don’t do well. I see this as my Taekwondo students get to 2nd gup (two steps before black) and they have to test on a kicking series that is all spinning and jump/spinning kicks. I openly admit that I’d rarely use the kicks sparring but, if I don’t challenge myself, how will I ever know what I can do and what I can’t

One of the recognition moments for me was in college. I had been promoted and started working on a new form. I learned the whole pattern in an hour long class (so probably 20 minutes of work after drills). I do the whole form correctly. That was the point when I saw that if I could be that focused and disciplined to learn a whole form like that, I could go home and do the anatomy-physiology homework waiting for me.

It ends up being discipline that gets you through most things. It is definitely what helps you get better at any activity – physical or intellectual. How do you become an expert? By having the discipline to get all of the work done on that topic and continuing to develop skills, even when you don’t like a portion of that work. Most New Year’s resolutions fail because of lack of discipline, not from lack of growth/development potential. It is often stated that it takes 30 days to create a habit (often in stuff like smoking cessation), so it could also be said that discipline takes 30 days to set in.

Leadership…made! not born!

It is often stated that Leaders aren’t born, they’re made. I completely agree with this. I’ve watched as those who claim to lead us only take care of themselves. It is truly sad. This being said, it struck me the other night as I watched the TNT show “Last Ship”. The great struggle that they faced lead to the following exchange.

Last Ship – Uneasy Lies in the Head

Mr. President. Bernie Cowley, culinary specialist second class. I’m happy to prepare anything for you.

Gosh, um, I don’t know. What did you have for lunch? Oh, you don’t want my diet, Mr. President. Nothing but grilled vegetables as of yet. But for you, name it. Well, uh, let me see. Uh… I got prime rib, chicken cordon bleu.

Well, it, uh, it all sounds so… so very good. I just… I don’t know where to start.
Mr. President. Sorry to interrupt. Uh, Lieutenant Mejia, ship’s navigator. We’re honored to have you aboard, Sir. Just wanted to tell you I’ll do whatever I can to make this ride as smooth as possible.

Well… Actually just came down here to say hello to everyone. Um… I-I think we have to get to that briefing now, don’t we?

Yes, Sir.

I’m walking around a ship full of 20-year-olds who know exactly what they’re doing at all times, on a mission to save a country that’s barely recognizable. And me, Mr. President, I can’t figure out what to eat for lunch.

Sir, how many people did you have working under you when you were secretary of H.U.D?

I know where this is going, Master Chief, but the last time I made a decision…

The last time you made a decision was yesterday, Sir, when you decided to move forward. And I’ll tell you this… The Navy’s been studying leadership since 1775. Between the captain, the X.O., and myself, we have 67 years’ experience. Leaders aren’t born. They’re made. And we all believe in you, Sir. Just give yourself time.

The statement “…a ship full of 20-year-olds who know exactly what they’re doing at all times…” is very powerful. How can these young people be so successful? It is the benefit of having leadership that focuses on creating more leaders.

As martial arts teachers, I think that we’re supposed to be doing the same thing. I have regularly commented that the physical techniques of a martial art are only 10% of what the student is learning. The things that are more important are often hidden in the lesson plans. These are the concepts used in martial arts industry marketing – confidence, esteem, discipline, integrity, perseverance, grit (indomitable spirit), courtesy, goal setting, and respect.

While all martial arts schools teach a portion – following directions, a form of discipline (being able to line up and stand still plus learn forms), goal setting (passing tests and winning tournaments), being successful (passing tests and winning tournaments) – there is very little carryover into daily life. This is where the leadership truly shows up.

My students have enjoyed doing demonstrations at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, Marscon, CONvergence, Comic Con – Minneapolis and 4 or 5 other SciFi/Anime conventions. Several are very avid cosplayers, too. These opportunities have provided them with the chance to take leadership roles for the school.

We don’t have a “demo team” as everyone can participate. This means that as events come up, whoever is available and wants to go becomes the demo team for that event. Recently, we’ve had multiple events on the same weekend. This provides even another level of leadership for those who want it. In helping the school, I’ve had students ask to run introductory courses at different locations. It ends up that 3 or 4 make the program happen. One location has provided 4 new regular students after each time is has been offered.

The reason the demonstrations and introductory courses are successful is because the students got into them wanting to have fun and expose others to the group they’re part of. From my side, any of my students that want to lead a demonstration or course just needs to ask and keep me in the loop. All of my students are MUCH better than I am, so they should be the ones showing it off.