Category Archives: White Tiger Ramblings

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

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.

Goals

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.

Do Your Best

Everyone tries hard but…

Did you learn what you needed to BEFORE trying your best?

This seems to be one of those “isn’t it obvious that I know what I’m doing” things whenever someone is actively seeking to accomplish the goal.

Well…it doesn’t always seem to be true in the martial arts. Between the industry putting promotions on a schedule regardless of quality and so many people believing that if they show up enough it’ll be given to them, I’m quite uncertain if the student truly has learned their material or not.

There have been several times over the past 25 years of teaching where a student told me that they know everything and are ready to test. The worst of these couldn’t even tell me the name of their required form. Another is the one that asks why we do something in that manner and retorts that they don’t like to do it that way including the “Why-don’t-we-just-do-it-like-this” phrase.

There is a lot to learn in any martial art. The number of techniques and patterns and drills/steps can be ridiculously huge. My Song Moo Kwan Taekwondo curriculum is large and demanding, so I can see their struggle. The problem isn’t so much the curriculum, though, as it is their willingness to WORK. There’s a question that gets asked frequently in class – How many times should you be asked to do something? The answer is “Once.” So, I can give a student adjustments and corrections to help them develop further but, if they don’t choose to work on them, how do they get better?

This is a piece of the martial arts that has been lost, in my opinion. The continued challenge to grow and develop in skill and as a person is left out. When test requirements only involve performing material, growth is lost. This grow is the real part of the martial arts! The stuff that is used in most advertising and marketing material.

That we can get a class to line up, bow in, and do drills is NOT discipline. How can you tell? Does the student behave the same way at home? Doing drills on command in class doesn’t equate to having learned or developed discipline. Watch a class closely and you will see all of those who are working to become better and those who are following commands. That is not martial arts.

Until the student chooses to make these concepts – discipline, esteem, control, indomitable spirit, courtesy, and integrity – part of their everyday behavior/actions, then they haven’t learned martial arts. They are martial athletes or martial dancers.

What do you choose to do now that you’ve learned?

Starting Over! (Guest post – Becky Jones)

Starting New

It’s hard starting something new, and even harder when you find out that everything you thought you already knew is wrong (or at least just slightly off). That’s what it was like leaving the White Tiger family and joining Hwang Yong in Cheltenham, England. I left American a 1st Dan thinking that my hands wouldn’t be up for much more Gumdo but went to check out the UK school to see how things were over here. I was not prepared for the infancy of Gumdo in the UK, nor was I ready for Master Limer’s very different instruction method, but most of all I was not ready to be at the very front of the class. We’d had maybe one or two instances where us color belts had been in the front during a seminar, but usually there was a comfortable two rows between me and having to do the starting call. Now I was the highest in the class under the Master, and I had to speak Korean commands that I didn’t confidently know how to say. I went from feeling like I was ready for anything and knew it all, to having no clue and having to politely decline doing what seemed like the simplest of curriculum because I didn’t know it. I was put at the front of a group of their senior belts and was leading what I thought would be easy gyukgum (fighting sword) drills, only to have blank faces staring back at me, though some tried to follow along regardless. They had no idea what I was doing and I had no idea why they didn’t know, what to me, was basic material. It quickly became clear that I couldn’t lead any of the classes beyond basics, and even that I ran differently (copying Master F). I was in deep water, floundering desperately to stay afloat. It didn’t get better, I just got to work. I stopped trying to do things my way and asked them to show me the their gyukgums, baldo chakgums (draw/scabbard), and forms. I am a student-teacher, in that order. Just because I am in the front, doesn’t mean I know everything, and often means I just know a bit more or differently than my students. That’s a hard lesson to learn, and it’s hard to let go of that need to have all the answers.

In my own school, I still apologize at least once per class for my inadequacies as a teacher, either because I’m still working on a thing and so tell them not to try and copy me, or because I slip into the US style, or I can’t remember the correct order for the UK curriculum. I hate being such an imperfect instructor for my orange and white belts, but I also love the feeling I get when I see them getting it. When I can watch them correcting themselves or each other, when they come and tell me how they stood in kimase (horse riding stance) during their lunch break or practiced their Korean counting to ten in the office so that they could be ready for class, so they can do better. I’m so proud of my original three students and how far they have come, and I love working with the new white belts, staring anew with them as they discover and hit the same problems we all have. That is what I love about instructing now, what makes it all worth it.

Starting in a new place, with new people, and new material is intimidating and stressful, but I made the choice not to let it stop me, and the encouragement that I had from Master F and the White Tiger family helped push me to keep going, work at it, and not give up. Yes, I really miss my belt-mates, the classes over here, feeling confident in my curriculum knowledge, and being surrounded by such encouraging and amazing people, but I have a new school now that needs me to be there, and I’m doing my best to create in Leicester the same family that I have here in Minnesota. The lessons I learned in Master F’s dojang (school), and working with everyone here shapes what I do, my attitude, and the environment I want to create in my own dojang. It is hard staring new, but I am not staring alone and that makes all the difference.

Coming Back – Becky Jones (guest post)

One of our Chodans has moved to the Untied Kingdom to follow her academic goals and has become one of their new teachers. Here’s some of her thoughts after a Summer visit. Thank you, Becky Jones, for the guest post.

Coming Back

It’s been almost a year since I left for England, and left the Haidong Gumdo family I had found in White Tiger. It was hard to leave and harder still to start over with a new school, new people, and a new master.

Coming back having now started and run a school for the past six months, I was almost brought to tears to see the wooden tile with my name on it hanging on the wall. I discovered that White Tiger school is a place I can always return to, and that knowledge warms my heart and will be a comfort when I return to the pressure and stress of running Cheong Yong in Leicester.

I missed being just a student, not an instructor trying to cram in all the changes and new material that her students will need. I was welcomed back with such excitement and everyone was so keen to help me cram in my own 1st Dan curriculum I was spoiled for tips, critiques, examples, and corrections. I am sad I’ll have to leave this amazing and still growing family again, but even with only these few classes, I’ve already learned so much again and even had some new ideas for my own school’s instruction.

It’s like no time has past and that makes it all the harder to leave again. But in the world of Haidong Gumdo we all know we have to be flexible, ready to change and adapt, but regardless of where we are, we are always welcome in the dojang.

Coming Back – Becky Jones (guest post)

One of our Chodans has moved to the Untied Kingdom to follow her academic goals and has become one of their new teachers. Here’s some of her thoughts after a Summer visit. Thank you, Becky Jones, for the guest post.

Coming Back

It’s been almost a year since I left for England, and left the Haidong Gumdo family I had found in White Tiger. It was hard to leave and harder still to start over with a new school, new people, and a new master.

Coming back having now started and run a school for the past six months, I was almost brought to tears to see the wooden tile with my name on it hanging on the wall. I discovered that White Tiger school is a place I can always return to, and that knowledge warms my heart and will be a comfort when I return to the pressure and stress of running Cheong Yong in Leicester.

I missed being just a student, not an instructor trying to cram in all the changes and new material that her students will need. I was welcomed back with such excitement and everyone was so keen to help me cram in my own 1st Dan curriculum I was spoiled for tips, critiques, examples, and corrections. I am sad I’ll have to leave this amazing and still growing family again, but even with only these few classes, I’ve already learned so much again and even had some new ideas for my own school’s instruction.

It’s like no time has past and that makes it all the harder to leave again. But in the world of Haidong Gumdo we all know we have to be flexible, ready to change and adapt, but regardless of where we are, we are always welcome in the dojang.