Building A Better Boat

Driving home yesterday, listening to a country radio station because my regular station started playing Christmas music before Black Friday, I heard the song listed below. Listen to the lyrics.

The song made me think of why Leroy Jethro Gibbs may be building boats in his basement. Granted, this is only my thought, but it has a similar ring to something that USA Haidong Gumdo Senior Chief Master Marshall Parnell stated during his 4th or 5th seminar visit.

He had visited several times helping us develop technique and better learn the required curriculum. This particular visit was different as he told us we were no longer a rudderless ship. We had begun to understand where we were supposed to be going. This changed his role during seminars to one of helping students grow in their understanding of this Korean sword art. It was now our responsibility to guide the ship correctly.

How does this connect to Gibbs? Well, as the lyrics play out in the song.
“I breathe in, I breathe out
Got friends to call who let me talk about
What ain’t working, what’s still hurtin’
All the things I feel like cussing out
Now and then I let it go
Around the waves I can’t control
If it’s working I don’t know
When I get done the thing may not flow
But I’m learning how to build a better boat”

Through all of the tragedy and suffering that Gibbs has seen. Through developing strength of character in his team. Through becoming more than their “boss”. What is the constant in his life? Building a boat. The place where he gets to settle himself and keep working on something that will help him through all of the waves and weather that is yet to come.

How do those in charge find the strength and courage to continue? They turn to themselves to recharge and keep moving forward.
“I ain’t lonely, but I spend a lot of time alone
More than I’d like to, but I’m okay with staying home”

For the Taekwondo Student in your life

Here’s a gift idea for the Taekwondo student (or other martial artist) in your life.

This two volume set contains six of the seven Chung Bong hyung. The hyungs are specific to Song Moo Kwan Taekwondo and created by Senior Grandmaster Jun Sun Hyon and documented here by Senior Master Robert Frankovich.

True Forms of Song Moo Kwan, volume 1

True Forms of Song Moo Kwan, volume 2

Seminars discussing the Chung Bong hyung and the technique applications can be scheduled. Books can be autographed at that time, too. Contact us (form below) for more information.

Which Journey?

Recently a discussion came about that questioned rank and time in rank. How does rank work? When can I test again? Do I have to wait [blank] years before I test again? These are standard questions. How long they get asked is the real concern.

During the first year or so is pretty common. As students try to understand the curriculum and what the system requires, they start looking ahead wondering when things are going to happen. Another aspect in asking is because of the goal setting that our society seems to have. Goal setting is an important and excellent method of achieving success.

The glitch is when the goal is really just achieving things. Goals that don’t lead to a greater plan are time wasting and selfish. When the goal is achieved but doesn’t have value, then the goal was unnecessary. This one struck me recently when I saw a student promoted to 2nd Dan stuff his certificate into his gear bag after it was presented. If the certificate with all of the time, effort, and commitment is not valued as the representation of earning the goal, it was all a waste.

Thrift store belt sale.

It is this long term goal that is truly the journey. Training in a martial art is long and demanding. This is why I have place the value on WHO has signed my certificate over what organization is involved. Yes, I’ve got Dan certificates from the Kukkiwon, the World Taekwondo headquarters, but they mean less to me than those signed by my teachers. The acknowledgement of my teachers has value beyond any organization who have never met me nor seen my abilities.I’m not completely sure how this has come about but it has stuck with me ever since learning what the symbols on the original Karate North patch. I’m not happy nor accepting of being promoted by just anyone, even though their rank has been duly earned by another organization or teacher.

This leads to another step that proper students never ask about testing. In the past, it was not unusual that a teacher would present a new belt randomly during a class. There wasn’t a formal testing nor fancy graduation performance. It was simply that you’ve gained enough knowledge to move to the next step. There weren’t certificates then either.

Students that ask to test are never actually ready. This is a quiet piece of ego showing up that makes people believe that they are further on their journey than truly practiced. I’ve long held that if you think you’re ready to test, you aren’t. Those who are following their journey aren’t interested in rank, they just train.

This leads to the last portion of this post. “I’ve been [blank] rank but my years of training mean that I should be another rank higher.” This illustrates the goal of the student’s training just as asking to test does. If you take the old school Taekwondo format, it should be a minimum of 10 years to 4th Dan. This rank is often viewed automatically as a Senior Instructor or Master, yet fails today because many at this rank don’t teach. They aren’t in a regular teaching schedule in their home school nor have they started a school of their own. So, how does someone hold a title or position if they don’t teach?

I disagree with titles being assigned automatically with rank. I prescribe to the theory that there are only two ways to get a title. The first is that your teacher uses it when referring to you in front of students and peers. The second is when your students start referring to by the title. No one automatically deserves a title! Physical techniques are only 10% of any art and a master knows much more than that!

In the end, the martial arts journey should never be about rank or titles or trophies/awards! The journey should be about becoming a better person and helping…serving…others achieve their goals. Anything other is ego and selfish.

To Benefit The Student

Now, I admit that my martial arts training started because of my personal interests, but that has changed and grown over the years. Not that my interest nor curiosity have changed but my role has evolved.

I had started teaching a class during college because there were no Karate North schools near to train at and I didn’t want to stop (read: get behind on possible promotions). That lead to helping with classes at the University of Minnesota – Duluth (UMD), which was the first Karate North location, as a 2nd gup brown belt.

This was the start of my desire to teach. It took a while, and I still haven’t figured out all of the way I want to do business, but I started teaching. It has now been 32 years since the UMD class. Here is where things changed again. The stretch from my own training and what I can provide for my students was not a difficult connection.

This is also where my “run a business” and my “teach those who want to learn” issues come into conflict. Why is so important? Well, there’s enough really bad martial arts schools out there. Most, in my opinion, because there’s too much interest in making money. Anyway…

There are two main ways that I can benefit my students. The first being that I continue my training for as long as possible. It has been 37 years since I started training and, as many people keep saying, I am still amazed at how little I know. It gets overstated, only because it is true, but every time I get to train with my teachers and seminar instructors, I learn something new. This is where I’ve been fortunate to have very incredible teachers.

The second benefit is in helping students gain knowledge faster, and easier, than I got it. Since I’ve had all kinds of stumbles along the way trying to figure out the curriculum that I’ve been learning, I should be able to help students get past a majority of them. Besides, they’ll have their own stumbles and issues to deal with. They’ve had a different life than I did.

There is another benefit that I can give my students. That is the opportunity to train with many others in similar arts and different arts, even some really cool seminar instructors. I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t provide everything to my students. That means I need to make sure they can understand how to find what they need to meet their goals.

Bill “Superfoot” Wallace telling stories at the end of his seminar.

From seminars with people like Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, the Head Master of the World Haidong Gumdo Federation, Jeong Woo Kim, and reality based self defense instructor, Randy King to weekend training camps with a 10th Dan Song Moo Kwan Grand Master, these are part of where students learn the depths of the material. Tournaments, weekend trainings, and international events all play a large part in how students grow to find what is important in their training. No, it is not the “bright” or “shiny” things that come from these events. It is the challenge of participating. It is the joy of finding peers (friends). It is the opportunity to see deeper or differently into the material that they’ve been taught.

All this because it isn’t about me. The students are the most important thing to every school. They should be treated that way.

Korean Sword Introductory Seminars

Looking to fill up my seminar calendar further! This is a fun, no experience necessary seminar for those interested in learning the sword. There are dates open through the end of the year and into early 2019.

Let me know if you’re interested in attending! School owners are encouraged to host and see what the program might do to help your school. There are two versions available!
Version 1 – a three hour that presents the white belt curriculum
Version 2 – a full weekend that details the white belt curriculum and more.

 Send me a note via the form below!

If you’re interested in old school Taekwondo – Korean Karate – and its applications, click here!

Fall 2018 Update


WTMA is adding Aikido to its’ training program offerings! Starting September 10th, the Aikido class will be held at the Twin Cities location from 8:00 pm – 8:50 pm on Mondays and Wednesdays. This program is open to anyone age 14 and up. It will be based on the Seidokan Aikido curriculum. It will be good to have the Suzume Aikido Dojo open again!



Beginning September 1, 2018, the tuition for White Tiger Martial Arts programs will rise from $80/month to $95/month. The cost for training in an additional program or having additional family members training will NOT change. Adding other programs or family members will stay at $30/month per program or family member. This will have a maximum tuition of $245/month.

There are no contracts, only a 30 day advance notice to end tuition charges. The first month in any program is still free. Online payments through PayPal are preferred and can be set up through the tuition page. The new tuition will be online as of September 1, 2018. Current students who have not set up the automatic subscription can do so until August 31, 2018 or by contacting me for the link.

Current students will continue at their current tuition. Your loyalty and dedication is greatly appreciated and being rewarded.



For the first time in 10 years, we are updating the prices for doboks (uniforms) and other training equipment. The price list will be found in the student area (at the bottom of the page) for the martial art that the equipment goes with.


Taekwondo items can be ordered via email at any time. If the items are not in stock, once the minimum requirement is reached, they will be ordered.

Uniforms are restricted to…
Colored belts are white only.
Black belts can wear uniforms with black in any manner.
Heavyweight uniforms are available.

Sparring gear will be black unless a special order is made.


Haidong Gumdo items will be available to order when there is a Midwest Haidong Gumdo order being placed. There are only student doboks and mokgums kept in stock. Anything else will need to be ordered.

Equipment bags can be ordered at any time from the online store.

Community Education Offerings

Fall class registration is closed! Check this page in December for the Winter offerings!

This page provides links to the Community Education programs that we work with. We believe that being involved in our communities benefits all and builds stronger connections. Use the links to select the district that fits your location.

The current information listed is for the Winter 2019 schedule that starts January 14 in Fridley and September 17 in Spring Lake Park.