Category Archives: White Tiger Ramblings

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

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.

The Music in Mudo!

Guest post by Bill Hedrick.

There is a story about the great American Composer Aaron Copland. In his later years he enjoyed conducting his own works. One rehearsal as he was working with the orchestra, pointing out things the orchestra needed to be aware of and generally breaking down the score, he pointed to a spot in the score, “In measure 60 please mark this in, the violins should come in mezzo piano [a little quietly].” The second violinist boldly said, “Sir, it says forte [loudly] in the score!” Copland looked at him smiled a wry smile and said, “I am sure the composer won’t mind.”

As you learn music and martial arts, you are handed written music and katas. It is essential that you learn them note for note. You have to master the written piece and all the moves of the form. That is just the beginning of the Art. Without this, you haven’t entered into the River of the Art. That being said, the Music, the Budo, is not the paper and the characters on it. A computer or a robot can be programmed to perform more precisely than any human, but that doesn’t make them masters, only a parrot. Don’t be a parrot.

In Music, as in Martial Arts, the spirit and intent is the most important. As a junior high band can hit all the notes and the colored belt can hit all the moves of a form. Without owning, understanding, internalizing the piece, you do not know the form.

A line from “The Matrix” comes to mind. In training Neo, Morpheus admonishes him to “stop trying to hit me and hit me!” After you have internalized the form, you have to surrender to the form and live it. To go to another movie, you have to turn off the targeting computer and trust the Force. Going back to the analogy of the River, it’s not enough to get a bucket of water and pour it over yourself, you have to jump into the River let it flow over, under and through you and go where it goes. Commit.

I have students

In my martial arts school, I don’t have [blank]. I have students!

This started with having younglings in class. Yes, those who are under the age of 16. The idea had first came up because we don’t have a specific youth class. When I first started martial arts training, within a community education program, there was only one beginning class and one advanced class. These classes had students of all ages in them. I’ve continued this idea as I believe that younglings develop faster as they train with older students.

This has two aspects. The first is that most older students have started training because they’re interested in training and are ready to do the work necessary. As younglings may be in class only because the parents think the development of discipline, focus, and courtesy. **I don’t know if it is entertaining or sad when a Mom calls to bring her 5 year old to class because he has anger issues.** Anyway, as younglings see others who are older than them being given the same requirements and responsibilities, they can learn to use the system to help them grow.

The second aspect is that mixed classes can provide the opportunity for a youngling to be teaching/leading older students of lower rank. The recognition of being responsible for helping others can greatly increase their respect for learning and helping outside of the dojang. This benefits the older student as well. The need to check your ego and pride is important for proper training.

Now, I used [blank] in the opening of this post because you should be able to put ANY indentifier there and have the same response. The martial arts have students in classes trying to become better people. None of the things that you think make you who you are matters in the dojang. You are a student working to become a Champion (warrior) for the human race.

What this is all about

No copyright infringement intended!

“Pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery. But weakness, folly, failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.” — Master Yoda (From Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017))

The true burden of all Masters IS their students surpassing them. How do you know if you have created outstanding students? They offer to lead the demonstrations/panels at the anime or SciFi conventions that they attend. They show up on New Year’s Day to do cuts equaling the current year. This is just the beginning. The efforts they put into their training has already put them past my capabilities.

Honestly, I look forward to it! I do, if for no other reason than to find the student who will take over the school when I’m incapable. This is a very tricky thing to watch for. How many of your younglings will continue? Have you created enough Padawans to have interest in taking over?

Lastly, as a couple reminders happened, I had the curiosity of whether or not I can have enough affect to leave a legacy in the martial arts. The martial arts knowledge that I have is pretty much all that I have to pass along to the next generation of martial artists.

Begin with Respect, End with Respect

Yeh Si Yeh Jong (Begin with Respect, End with Respect) is one of the core concepts that Supreme Grand Master Byung Jick Ro, founder of Song Moo Kwan, included in his teaching. This concept can be a difficult one to present.

All too often respect is viewed as bowing and other similar behaviors. This is the unfortunate part as those have no real connection to respect. Bowing and shaking hands are social etiquette that imply respect and courtesy.

Say what you mean and mean what you say! I really try to follow this thought. Many may find me blunt or think that I’m being short with them but it comes from their expectations of what conversation means. I work at using words specifically to illustrate what I am saying. Personally, I’ve found this really helps in a teaching setting as the students “do” what is said…until the one who thinks too much comes along.

Communication is a key to respect. Making sure that information is provided in a timely manner. When words are understood, then progress and success will happen. The fun happens when levels of respect are intrinsic. I have the fortune to work with some very high quality vendors. When one vendor happens to be yudansha (a black belt)  from the same Taekwondo lineage, there’s much more “Yes, Sir.” and “Thank you, SIr.” The humor comes from needing to make adjustments or corrections to an order and chatting about the changes. When my comment is “Do what you need.” and he hears a senior giving a command…yes, there are even more “Yes, Sir” responses. Maybe even to the point that the words aren’t true. Yes, they really are!

Then, as Today’s training went, another aspect of respect was demonstrated. The WTMA Haidong Gumdo and the Pine Tree Taekwondo students joined for a day of cutting and breaking things. All blended on the floor with little effort to take turns using stations and accomplishing everything done that they wanted.

How can you teach?

I really enjoy helping people along their martial arts path. I gain energy and renewed excitement for my training. There are also many, many insights gained from hearing students comment or describe their thoughts. Even learning new, maybe improved, ways to “talk” my experiences to students.

The most innocent problem that can arise is when instructional opportunities are lost. This most often happens when a student loses their teacher. There can be many reasons to this. I searched for a place to answer my questions. It took many years, so I spent time in many different schools. Once I found answers, which truly just created more questions, I was able to be a student who could focus on learning.

This leads to another place where students struggle. I’ve heard from several students that they’d like to teach at some point, maybe even have their own school. To do this they need to start asking questions about everything from the history, curriculum, etiquette, and leadership. It will also include politics and building a good network. A main factor here is to make sure that you are within a group that “plays nice together”. This may happen within the organization/association that your current teacher is in, which is great, but it should also include teachers and schools outside your organization. Gaining insights from fellow martial artists is pretty much a requirement.

If you aren’t interested in continuing the curriculum and passing on the knowledge that you gained during your martial arts journey, why are you teaching? This doesn’t apply to those who help teach classes and fill in to teach as part of being proper students (those without interest in having their own school). This one applies to those who actively seek out teaching roles but don’t put hours into their own training and development.

I’ve come to understand that martial arts training and teaching is a passion. It can be enhanced by business plans but if you don’t truly love it, then you’ll never achieve your goals. The recent visit to a California school brought out different layers of these points. Everyone was thirsty for the chance to improve the current material and hungered for learning more. They’ve started asking the right questions.

Simple Respect

There is much talk about respect in the martial arts and in growing younglings. All too often this respect focuses on following directions – sit still, be quiet, eat your dinner – but it goes much further than that.

Though it goes deeper, the concepts aren’t difficult. They do speak volumes about you and your attitudes. Consider the following.

Respect my time. If you wish to work with me, train with me or have me assist you in some other manner, then don’t be late. I’m putting my time into you. Make sure that you are willing to put, at least, the same amount of time into yourself. This may be a portion, in addition to discipline, for the military idea that being 10 minutes early is being on time. There is no respect in being late.

Match my effort. I may be able to help you grow and succeed in a portion of your life, namely martial arts, but this concept fits beyond that as an illustration. I would wager that you have come across several things in your life where you are amazed that more people aren’t as passionate about the topic as you are. I have with the martial arts. Why don’t more people want to train? Why don’t more people want to learn deeper? The same questions can be asked about your passions. The concept here, though, is about actually putting in the effort for your passion as you see others putting into theirs. If you don’t put in the effort, you will never reach the goals and success that you want. I’ve even used my failing in effort as a lesson to my students. My personal training suffered as I didn’t put enough effort into myself to maintain nor progress. I didn’t match my own effort from earlier.

Keep your word. This isn’t truly about making promises. This is about staying accountable for how you serve others and support your family/community. When you have chosen to step up to help others, make sure that you step up. This is everything from training hard, to getting your schoolwork done, to taking care of daily chores, and anything that you have agreed to do. You would expect others to do the same when helping you, so make sure you are for them.

Always be honest. You need to be yourself! There is no benefit in trying to make someone else happy or respect you. Do what you know is right and work toward your goals. When those goals provide the opportunity to help support others, then do it.

Stay consistent. Consistency is a product of discipline and understanding. When you stay consistent, you illustrate that you have a good idea about your journey and goals. When you have an idea of what your goals are, you start to develop the discipline required to accomplish them. It also, usually, indicates that you’ve gotten past the drama that others may try to bring into your life. This means that you’re working from a solid foundation that leads to being in and supporting the right group/circle. Your consistency means that you can be counted on. Something important for helping others and getting help.

Efficient & Effective

“Sodose [kneeling stance] is hard enough without adding squats. Your friendly neighborhood martial arts instructor is more than willing to give you all the repetitions that you will need for your physical conditioning. Don’t assign yourself extra work on top of it.” – Northwind Haidong Gumdo Master Bruce Burns (https://nerdpossehaidonggumdo.wordpress.com/2018/04/26/sodose-rant-more-pt/)

The post linked above is a great example of how we need to make sure that we monitor how we perform our techniques. If you don’t, then extra movement, usually bad, starts to creep into your work. This can ruin your efficiency and effectiveness. These glitches can show up in all martial arts that don’t study technique beyond learning the movement. If you only study the movements, so much can be passed over. This can lead to things becoming “close enough” as in a recent blog post.

This lack of further development appears in a student’s performance as they “want” to progress but nothing has changed in their techniques and performances. Nothing looks better than it did the week before, the month before, the year before. This was illustrated recently in my classes where an almost teenage student had gotten techniques ready to test. The test was decent but the techniques reverted to their previous state afterward. As I prepared the certificate, I noticed that the last promotion the student received had been a year prior. It won’t surprise me if it takes another year before the next test.

Now, the martial arts isn’t the only place this occurs. Academics has this as the standard to get a good grade. **I won’t get into how the education system has devolved.** Striving for knowledge is part of any job/career that is chosen. Those who don’t become more efficient and effective don’t last in the job long nor do they succeed in their career.

Look at the big names who have chased their passions for big success. How much have they had to learn to make their career effective? Those who take too long to figure out their path (or journey) end up at a great disadvantage. Yeah, that’s pretty much where I am. The best I hope for is to help others find their way faster and leave some effectiveness behind.

So, make sure that you keep moving forward to get better at everything you do! Striving to become effective and efficient will help to move you forward and will support you when you get stuck on some level of your life. You can also look at this as economy of motion.

Glory Days

Don’t live in the past! Well, that’s actually what I hear when I listen to Bruce Springsteen’s song with that title. It struck me a few years back, at least a decade, when I attended a high school reunion. While we having the main dinner event, a couple classmates (who aren’t too bad about this idea) mentioned moments of our athletic careers. “Do you remember [blank] game?” “Do you remember when [blank] messed up that play/” Now, I was IN those games and I couldn’t recall anything they were talking about. Pretty sad? I don’t think so. I do remember the work and fun that we had during those times. I also remember being teenagers trying to figure out how handle growing up.

Now, it isn’t bad that they remember this stuff! The problem starts when that’s ALL someone talks about. It is pretty sad that your high school days were the best part of your life. That means you have ignored or chosen not to build anything new. I say this from having only been a mediocre athlete who enjoyed playing the games without the illusion of college scholarships and professional sports. I do remember (outside varsity athletics) intentionally picking the worst possible partner and still winning the games that we played. It was about “playing” a game for the fun of playing, learning, and growing.

Box of things earned.

It’s now 38 years past high school (WOW! I’m old!), and I still need to decide what I want to be when I grow up. Well…not really. I’ve collected the credentials for the martial arts career that I’ve chose. I have even agreed to a “Look at me” wall in our school. The difference that I see is that these are accomplished goals and NOT just awards or trophies. The originals stay in the box at home but showing my achievements is probably good business.

Regardless, my continued training and education IS for me. That I can benefit students coming after me is just that, a benefit. When I have students 10 and 20 years older than me as inspiration, yet they look to me on how to do techniques. how can I NOT be moved to keep going forward?

Living in the past holds you back from all you can achieve! Moving forward is the greatest challenge! What will you be courageous enough about to commit to? All of those who travel the Hero’s Journey must face themselves and their past in order to move forward and become the Hero. Are you willing to work that hard?