Tag Archives: Pine Tree Taekwondo

The Line of My People

“…there do I see the line of my people back to the beginning.”

Recently my martial arts training has taken a major upturn. After many years of training and researching my Song Moo Kwan Taekwondo heritage, I have received a chance to take some really big forward steps. Additionally, I’ve had another chance to train with the education director of the World Haidong Gumdo Federation and celebrate a Hall of Fame honor with my U.S. Haidong Gumdo teacher.

I have always been appreciative of heritage and tradition. If I’d been able to, I would have been military and loved the history that went along with the discipline, honor and service. There is a lot that has been developed over the decades, even centuries. The improvements in techniques, tactics and strategies are documented. This is what it is all about. Tradition and linage are vastly important.

The number of martial arts students that don’t know their own style, let alone lineage, is huge. I regularly see students talk about going to their “karate” class without understanding that the masters and grandmasters are from Taekwondo. Also, those who say their art is Taekwondo but call their teacher “Sensei”. Without understanding where your art came from, you can’t understand your art. Learning about the founder and the lineage of leaders plus the history of the country and era from where the art comes from makes you a martial artist.

The physical techniques have a big role in developing your personal protection skills. This has lead to the rise of reality-based self defense programs. These are great…after being introduced to a handful of very qualified teachers doing this work…and definitely serve a purpose for those interested in purely personal protection. My view is bigger. I want to be a martial artist.

Another current glitch, in my opinion, in the  martial arts industry is selling franchises. While I understand the business aspects and logic, I believe the major flaw is that there is no tradition when you can “hire” a black belt to teach a curriculum that they haven’t trained in. I believe that martial arts schools are successful because of the tradition and heritage…and the belief in the teacher, not a system.

The following is from a favorite movie of mine, The 13th Warrior, and illustrates the importance of tradition and heritage.

Muslim prayer: “Merciful Father, I have squandered my days with plans of many things. This was not among them. But, at this moment, I beg only to live the next few minutes well. … For all we ought to have thought and have not thought, all we ought to have said and have not said, all we ought to have done and have not done, I pray thee, God, for forgiveness.”

Viking prayer: “Lo, there do I see my father. Lo, there do I see my mother and my sisters and my brothers. Lo, there do I see the line of my people back to the beginning. Lo, they do call to me. They bid me take my place among them in the halls of Valhalla where the brave may live forever.”

There is no secret ingredient…just TRAIN!

I got the chance to watch Kung Fu Panda, again, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice last night. Its a nice little piece of brain candy to relax and just enjoy. However, it did get me thinking.

(Kung Fu Panda) At the end, it was discovered that the secret Dragon scroll had no writing and there was no secret ingredient in the “Secret Ingredient” noodle soup. (The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) Doing magic without a ring would be reaching the ultimate level. Now I will admit to being a bit “thick” at times (afterall, I am just a male), but after many years of training in the martial arts I finally understood the concept.

360_kung_fu_panda_0604Yeah, I know that it seems pretty obvious but the concept goes deeper than “Believe in yourself”. There are almost countless stories, movies and cartoons that show the benefits of believeing in yourself. Most of them could also qualify as “Hero myths” (see Joseph Campbell writings). The Hero is given a task to accomplish and a journey to get there.

During these journeys, the Hero must learn what needs to be done and how to do it in order to be successful. He must TRAIN. This is the part that gets overlooked. You become amazed and enthralled at the skills developed to achieve the goal. The downfall is that it gives the illusion that the skills and knowledge…and power…can be attained through short intensive training.

Sadly, the time it takes to train completely is a lifetime. This means that all those who are teaching should still be training. Teaching is only another method of training (integrating intellectual & academic). Skills will become usable, some even amazing, before the end of your lifetime but the real knowledge will take the whole time.

The connection between the movies and martial arts finally made sense when I heard the voice Master Kim Jeong Woo (Haidong Gumdo). During the recent Master’s training I was able to attend, I had worked on a form and had gone to make some notes on it. Master Kim moved to the next portion of his lesson plan. I was intent on writing things down before I forgot and got called on it. As we lined up to bow out, he said “It is good to write things down but train first.”

So I leave with…are you still training?

“footsteps of the men of old”

Block-Net-Right“I seek not only to follow in the footsteps of the men of old, I seek the things they sought.”
– Matsuo Basho

Well, I guess that this phrase is partly true, though. I want to follow in the footsteps of these original leaders but I will try to vary from them upon seeing a roadblock or pitfall that they got stuck on. Hopefully, I’ll have their teaching to show me where these are so I can avoid them completely and be more productive. Besides, I’ve got my own glitches to watch out for and my own ego/personality that has developed that needs tending. I’ll stumble enough with my own problems and avoiding theirs would be great. Some may even be the same.

There are also places where I don’t want to follow the footsteps. When I was a young martial artist, I saw what my school and organization did and thought that it was the whole martial arts world. The testings and tournaments had to include everything that the martial arts world was. Some ten years later and several questions that came back with incomplete (in my opinion) answers, I started researching more. Looking outside of my organization to learn more about the whole martial arts community. It was an eye-opener!

Some of the questions took another ten years to get real answers. This lead to me wondering if the material that I was taught was real and correct. Well, yes, of course it was! The continued research showed all kinds of other material from a variety of martial arts. This created some very fun “debates” about (Seidokan) Aikido vs. (DanZan Ryu) Jujutsu between myself and a couple buddies. The important part that came from this was the discovery that “Different isn’t good or bad. It is just different.” (words from an Aikido teacher I had).

Now, this understanding lead to more research. Specifically, in my case, looking for the traditions and heritage that came from the Song Moo Kwan Taekwondo that I had learned. Since it had taken the better part of 20 years to figure out anything in the first place, I still had a lot to find out. At this point, I really wanted to know the ideas behind how the Kwan developed.   I found it fascinating that our Kwan founder held important positions within the Korean Taekwondo Association and was highly respected for his leadership & martial arts skill. When I asked about the development of the Kwan, I got a lot of great history but nothing about the “did this because” stuff.

Locally, it was really cool that I learned a set of hyungs (patterns) that were created by a Song Moo Kwan master instructor but that made me want to learn about the “stories” (applications) that these hyungs told. No one that I asked seemed to have any ideas. Once I ventured beyond my organization, I was dumbfounded that people had never heard of Song Moo Kwan’s Chung Bong hyung! how could they not have? Boy, did I have a lot to learn!

Black_Belt-PTTKDRecently, after 30+ years of training and 25 years of working private security, more of the information about what I’m truly trying to accomplish has come to light. Training with several martial artists who also believe that “working together will teach us more” has lead to insights into the bunhae (applications) of the Chung Bong hyung. This is greatly important for it is what leads to students being able to do real personal protection techniques when they need to. I have moved quite a bit away from the sport karate style that I started with but I greatly appreciate everything that I learned from those teachers and peers. The divergence has come from wanting more personal insight and less of a “hobby” perspective. This IS and SHOULD be life!

I do hope that I can find someone to ask more questions of, though. This gets more challenging each year as many original masters have retired or passed. I hope that there is something published soon that tells the whole story about Song Moo Kwan. Heck, I’ll even offer to work on it and do whatever I can to help.

No, don’t follow in the footsteps of the men of old but definitely learn from them and seek what they were seeking to make your life better!

“…of no use.”

“Planning has power. Executing plans has even more power, of course, but the plan comes first. Most people dither through their lives, waiting for opportunity, dodging problems, taking what comes. This is inherently passive. This is not a winning strategy. Do you like passive people? Admire them? Quit being one.

So make a plan. What goes into the plan? Later. If you have a plan , steps to get to your goal, you have something to do. You have a quick test to see whether or not you are wasting time: Will this get me closer to the plan?

Musashi said, “Do nothing that is of no use.” You want to be a black belt? Is watching a night of TV or going out drinking getting you closer to that? You want to strengthen your relationships? Spending hours alone at the gym might not be working for you.

Just having that benchmark, even if you only pay attention to it ten percent of the time, gives you a ten percent edge over almost everyone in the world. Because almost all of them are drifting, waiting for a perfect life to
be handed to them.”
– Rory Miller “Chiron Training Journal”

swordMany people will be making New Year’s resolutions soon. They make a statement about what they wish to achieve or accomplish…but they never make “the” plan to do it. Even worse, they wait for the “right time” to even consider doing their resolution.

One of the worse things that our society has happening right now, too, is that children have to “do” a lot of activities that provide awards and recognition. But does it lead to anything? Do the children understand what they are getting good at?

One of the first books that I read after starting my martial arts training was “Zen in the Martial Arts” by Joe Hyams. In it he discussed the idea of “spend time, don’t waste time.” This is a perfect match to Musashi’s statement. I regularly pose the following to new students (young ones).

“You get home from school, throw your book bag in the corner and proceed to plan video games for the next four hours. Is that spending time or wasting time? Now, how about this version – you get home from school, throw your book bag in the corner and proceed to plan two video games before starting your homework. Is that spending time or wasting time?”

Taking a little time to decompress fits into the plan and is “of use” but the concept is lost on too many. If you aren’t willing to see beyond the short term activity to how it aids you in accomplishing your plan, you will never wok your plan to success.

Maybe it is time to consider whether the things you spend many hours on will actually help your plan in achieving your goals. Things that are interesting now and that you spend hours reading about, learning and understanding may actually be part of the plan. It is said that you should “follow your passions/dreams” and that “if you love what you are doing, you’ll never work a day in your life.” These may just be “the” plan. Learning and growing plus being of service are within ever plan. Even if you don’t quite understand where it may lead, you are not being passive about your life.

One of my pet peeve’s is getting the answer “I don’t know” to any question asked. If you truly don’t have an answer, use better words to state it. More often than not, though, the answer is given because not enough thought has gone into the question. If this is allowed to be an acceptable answer, then you are not working toward your goals (based on questions usually being asked in things that you are actively working on).

Do nothing that is of no use.

Korean Karate…is what we really do.

SMK-hanjaOkay, Wyatt, I apologize for having given you such a hard time about calling your training “Karate”.

I am very proud of my Song Moo Kwan lineage. From what I have been able to learn about Grandmaster Ro, Byung Jick and his accomplishments show great intelligence, wisdom and courage. The roles that he has held during the development of the Korean Taekwondo Association helped lead to the success of the World Taekwondo Federation. I greatly desire to learn more about those who trained with him and understand the knowledge that he has passed on.

Over the past few months I have gained better insights into the curriculum that I have been taught. This has lead me even further away from the sport aspects. The whole emphasis on tournaments and awards has always felt against what training should be about.

Grandmaster Jun Sun “Jay” Hyon stated in a 1974 Karate Illustrated article that “In tournaments, you also have to attack certain areas. Then the meaning of tae kwon do is not there. You cannot exclude any place from toe to top of head as far as self-defense is concerned. You don’t have to attack too high either.” He continues in the article “Looks good, sounds good (with a kiai), fast enough but you cannot really hurt like this…” as he describes the ineffectiveness of scoring points versus protecting your life.

As I have already been a proponent of hyung (form) practice, I like Grandmaster Hyon’s description of what he spent one thirds of his training time – “These formal exercises develop patience, stamina and, indirectly, good character. You have to have respect for your teacher and partner.” The practice of the Chung Bong hyungs, which were created by Grandmaster Hyon, illustrates how seriously he took these principles. The hyungs challenge the students from the start as they require front kicks, round kicks and side kicks in the first form.

As the Chung Bong hyungs are designed to have six forms to earning a Chodan, it is apparent (at least I think I should have seen it earlier) that each hyung should have time spent looking beyond the techniques and pattern. Development of bunhae (applications) from the Chung Bong hyung has become a focus and leads back to the concepts presented in most Karate systems.

So what is the point of this? I have finally understood that I train and teach Korean Karate. It better describes what my curriculum is and what knowledge I am trying to provide to my students.

My classes are NOT fitness classes!

I am NOT a fitness instructor! My martial arts are NOT a fitness class!

Recently, I found a posting for a Martial Arts Instructor position with a major fitness center. The requirements were listed as: (copied from the job posting listed today – 6/4/2014)
—–
Qualifications
– High School diploma or GED preferred
– Six months to one year of martial arts experience
——

This seems to be just a bit degrading. If the fitness industry can promote programs with this little knowledge and experience, what does that make our society believe the martial arts are? How can the core principles and concepts of the martial arts be taught, developed and understood when the instructor barely has enough knowledge to do the techniques? This is one major worry that I have about how the martial arts are presented…continued…within our society.

Another major worry is the plentiful list of schools who do “business” well but don’t have any real knowledge of their arts. The acceptance by our society that “if they’re a Black Belt, they must know what they’re doing” is a horrible trap that will ruin the martial arts. The number of schools who play upon this as a method of convincing students and recruits is huge. The business of the martial arts recognizes the need for an increasing student base to earn money. The “Black Belt is a Black Belt in Everything” allows new programs learned by watching DVDs and reading books to be added to the school and bring in more money. An easy way to watch out for this is to ask the instructor about his lineage. “Real” teachers will tell you without hesitation. The others will have replies such as “it’s a secret or special program” or “why does lineage matter”.

My biggest fear from these items is that people will not understand that the one bad experience is not the whole of the martial arts. Once they have a bad experience, they’ll never try again. A different teacher of the same art or trying a completely different art may be completely skipped. In a society that argues Chevrolet or Ford, Domestic or Import, Harley or Honda, how can we NOT be losing some of the greatest potential and world changing leaders because of fraud and ego.

I have felt that working within academia is the best way to change the fitness industry flaw. Creating the degrees that truly represent the work that illustrates our efforts. The myriad of educational subjects that non-martial artists never understand or see such as anatomy, biomechanics, history, philosophy, conflict & crisis studies, problem solving and personal development (emotional & social).

Martial arts…today?

Robert Frankovich
Help wanted —
Martial Arts Instructor – Tae Kwon Do-EDE01156
Description:
Our team of Martial Arts Instructors works to provide entertaining and educational athletic programs for our members. Utilize your excellent customer service skills and passion for martial arts in this exciting position!
As a Marital Arts Instructor, you will teach new skills to members to help them develop martial arts techniques while building teamwork.
Qualifications
– High School diploma or GED preferred
– Six months to one year of martial arts experience

Primary Location: : MN-Eden Prairie – CRT – Eden Prairie (Crosstown)
Schedule: Part-time
Job Level: Individual Contributor
Shift: Evening Job
Travel: No
Nearest Major Market: Minneapolis
Job Segments: Customer Service, Education, Instructor, Part Time, Service
Actual job posting

I came across this job posting while bored & surfing the net. While I can understand fitness centers/health clubs wanting to offer martial arts programs for the clients, I don’t get the “disrespect” shown in their job posting.

Do they truly think someone with six months of “training” is capable to teach a program? This is the attitude that I’ve complained about as yoga programs began showing up everywhere. Attedn a weekend training course and become a certified instructor. How much do they truly know about “real” yoga after a weekend? Do I believe that they can “lead” a class, yes. Will they promote the personal development of their clients, no. I did use clients specifically because I can’t see them as being “real” students since they aren’t attempting to learn anything “real”, just get a workout. No, there’s nothing wrong with a good workout.

Personally, I see the personal trainer status in a similar light. The people working now are much better and knowledgeable but I have a hard time understanding it when a “certification” program from an organization is placed higher than a Bachelor’s degree in Sports Science…unless its because they can pay the personal trainers less. Capitalism at its finest.

Most who know me know that I’ve preached the pursuit of an academic martial arts program, if a university will give one a chance, to initiate the change of martial arts from the second class status that it has to one with the respect that it deserves.

You hear regularly from counselors, educators, psychologists and others that people greatly benefit from martial arts training but the development of an academic program hasn’t happened. Yes, I know of Bridgeport University and Amerstate but there’s still a flaw since they don’t grow. On the other hand, though, massage therapy has become a credible, respected and profitable industry. Go figure.

If anyone has ideas on how to get the academic program accepted by a university, please pass it on. I’ve got plenty of curriculum developed…as do many other quality teachers that I know. And, yes, I called them teachers because they do much more than “instruct”.