Category Archives: White Tiger Ramblings

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

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?

1+1=3

That’s close enough, right?

That was the question I asked a student last night. When I did, I got this really funny look including a wrinkled up nose and a rather emphatic “No!” So, I asked “Why not?” The response to that was “Because it’s not right.”

Where is this going? Well, it started back in the middle of that particular class, when I asked the same student if they had done their form with their best techniques. Did you do your best stances? Did you do your best kicks? Did you do your best blocks and strikes? The answer to each was “No.” I left the student with one last question – “Why not?”

Today in class I had another student was dragging things a bit. I asked the math question again and received the same type of response. Since it was earlier in the class, I took a few moments to expand on the idea.

If you don’t agree that 1+1=3, then you choose to do that work right. Yet, if you don’t keep your physical techniques correct, you are choosing to do them wrong. Right and wrong shouldn’t be something that is turned on and off. It should be a constant.

This leads to how many choices that you actually make in a day, even younglngs. What clothes are worn…which is very evident that boys may not care…is just an example. Books read, the type of video games, getting homework done [correctly] are just examples of choices made everyday by younglings. The evident actions of this show up in class when the student spends more time talking than working on material, does techniques mostly, or asking irrelevant questions.

It is truly unfortunate that we pass through each day not realizing the many choices and decisions that we make plus how they affect our lives in training, career, school, and relationships of all kinds. Knowing what work and effort that you’re willing to put forth will help you achieve all of you goals plus find the support to achieve more! Just as you should be careful of what you wish for, you should be careful of what you choose.

Integrity

Box of things earned.

Over the past couple years, I’ve learned more about the poor behavior within the martial arts than I ever wanted to know! I’ve had my own horror story of being homeless after believing that I was going to become part of an organization that would lead toward a huge goal that I had. I also watched as that person/group tried to convince seniors of the Kwan that they would fulfill those goals…even after a 10 year federal prison term.

These experiences have made me skeptical as many high rank people start talking about what they have planned. I now watch much closer and listen more. This has led me to learn that there’s a whole group that…

1) delays submitting Dan applications to the Kukkiwon for 10 months to over a year, 2) schedules testing at random intervals with unspecified requirements for Dan – Black Belt – testing, 3) charges anywhere from $600 to $10,000 for Dan testing.

These are sad examples of what happens in an unregulated industry. How do you know what is a good school? How can you believe that you and/or your child(ren) will get a proper martial arts education? These are samples of the questions that you won’t know until after you start training. Yes, sadly, you will have to join a class for a while and attempt to become part of their family before you truly find out if you belong there.

Here are a couple ideas on how to help you figure things out before you get in too deep. Things to ask about are…

  1. If the school can’t tell you about who their current teacher is and where (s)he trained plus who their teacher was and their teacher’s teacher was.
  2. If the school talks contracts for certain levels before they even let you try a class.
  3. If the school doesn’t have a schedule for training and testing.
  4. If the school doesn’t list it’s tuition and test fees.

Those are just things off the top of my head. There is SO much that can be tainted in a martial arts school that hurt the student trying to learn and the family finances. It is here where anyone not training but thinking about it has the chance to keep these schools honest. One of the key principles of training in the martial arts, Taekwondo in particular, is that of Integrity. If the schools and their teachers can’t answer questions honestly, how can they teach integrity to you and your child? If the school owners and teachers answer “I don’t know.” to questions asked, then you may not want to be there!

That’s Why There’s A Team!

Rene: “I just–I screwed up. You know, Oliver was right to kick me off the team.”
Dinah: “You were in an impossible position.”
Curtis: “Yeah, and when you’re in an impossible position, that’s why there’s a team, D.
Just like Dig said.”
— Arrow (6×09): Irreconcilable Differences

So, this was going to go the way of superheroes with leadership and teamwork but a closer reference has shown itself. I knew somewhere along the line there would be the opportunity to comment with pride about my student’s creation called “push-up club.”

When a group of students were preparing for their Haidong Gumdo, Korean sword, black belt test, they realized that they had push-ups to do as a portion of the test. What do good responsible students do in this situation? They get together at the end of class and do push-ups. Most only did what would be required for the test, but they were there doing them,

Now, at the time none were looking at how doing push-ups as a group was building our team further. They weren’t looking at becoming a leader within the school, either. They just did the work that they knew needed to be done. The several students with military experience have commented that push-ups have always been done to build teams. Even recently, watching an episode of Miami SWAT on Netflix, not my choice, the 22 team all joined in with the probie to do push-ups, which were caused by messing up his assignment. This is done to help drive the point that the team does together always, plus that the team is more important than the individual.

I agree with this concept, though, I don’t believe that it truly develops a stronger team when it is pretty much expected to do. Someone not wanting to do the push-ups would be seen as not part of the team, so it is kind of a false development of the team. Why do I believe this way? That’s a really good question.

The real reason for my stance on this is illustrated by how push-up club has evolved. Back in October 2016, in the middle of their wedding reception, the bride and groom and fellow students had push-up club. Moving forward to May 2017, another wedding reception where students married had push-up club while the DJ played YMCA (yes, it was a Star Wars theme). The third comes from a random evening out socializing with friends and push-up club erupts.

In all of these illustrations, push-up club happened because all there CHOSE to join in. This is truly how push-ups build teams and leaders. All those who choose to do the work benefit from the group’s work and growth. I’ve said it many times and will probably say it many more…I’ve got awesome students!

Do what Works – Guest Post by Bill Hedrick

Do what Works

I was originally going to title this: “Don’t try new things,” But of course that would send the wrong message.

When I was a kitchen designer my biggest problem is that I didn’t want to do things the same way. If I found a good way to solve a design problem, I would use it once or twice and try something new. Most often this resulted in failure. I coined a saying, “There are many new bad ideas, there are few new good ideas.” Recently, it came back to me in Gumdo class. We were doing “Zombie drills,” where a zombie would come at you doing straight cuts and you had to block or avoid them. I found a good way that worked for me and couldn’t stick to it. Several of my classmates had the same issue, we would try something flashier after using a technique that worked. Master F. observed that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Do techniques that work! I saw this in action at Northwoods Conquest, in the youth weapons division. The winner did Ssangsu 5 and 7 (sword forms) in combinaton and nailed it. Another competitor tried a mashup of a stationary cutting drill, a bit of one sword form and a couple moves from another form. He got lost somewhere along the way and quit. Another competitor tried to do Ssangsu 3, got lost somewhere in the middle and butchered the end. He used a kagum, metal training sword, for the put away and ended up grabbing the blade, had it been sharp there would have been literal butchery. Another student simply did a good Ssangsu 1 and earned a medal. He did what worked. In competition you need to stick with what works for you. Stretching your limits should be done in training, not in competition.

True Growth

Okay, the audio is poor but it says a lot!

This is out of New Zealand but applies everywhere! I agree completely with his graphic about successful athletes. I also hope that people will start viewing the martial arts as more than just a sport but a way to teach the points he mentions! The personal growth areas of character, values, virtues and discipline are SO much more important to develop than how many trophies/medals you have on a shelf!

Fight Like A Girl

I don’t know that I’ve posted anything here but…
Back in the day, when I was yellow belt (Karate North Gold belt – 8th gup), I started sparring. This was March 1981 or so and a Purple belt (4th gup) lady pulled me aside to spar with her. It ended up that she was tired of being “beat on” by the 15 & 16 year old males in the class. Their lack of control and excessive contact was beyond what she was interested in.

So, after a few weeks of sparring with just her, there was a night when she wasn’t present for sparring. The whole fun of that night is when I ducked under a flying side kick from a fellow student about 4 years my junior. Yeah, he missed as he went over my back, then I punched him in the head.

Since that night sparring him and a few others, I’m proud to claim that I fight like a girl. Now why do I put it this way? Because it isn’t a negative thing. It is a way to understand what tools you have and how to use them. I’m not the strongest nor fastest and, if I hadn’t spent the time with her, I probably wouldn’t have continued with Taekwondo. My personality doesn’t fit the aggressiveness of the sport.

I’ve been banged on pretty hard by some of the competitors in my sparring division during colored belt days. The sneaky that I learned was the only way that I could keep up with them. Since then, I’ve kept sparring and challenging my students to understand the fight. This work has also helped me develop a better understanding of personal protection and problem solving.

I guess where I’m trying to go with this is that, yes, there are many differences between males and females physically, which is basic physiology. Then again, I would rather watch the quality athleticism of women’s college softball and basketball over men’s baseball and basketball. The games are cleaned with more actual playing. I guess I’m good with fighting like a girl.

Thoughts into Words (Bunhae)

When I started training in the martial arts, I found that learning techniques came quickly. The coordinated movements seemed to fit together with decent balance. The flow of techniques in drills – stances to kick to stance to punch – helped develop them further. This is the start of developing discipline and focus.

This was much easier than figuring out how a pattern moved and why it moved. Developing the application of techniques is only proper to martial arts training. The work put into figuring out why a technique has been included in the pattern. Then how is it being applied as the technique shows up in other patterns,

Okay, so now I’ve got the movement down and an application set. What do I know? Probably still very little. I do tell students that they can use a “Hollywood” story to hep them remember the pattern but I warn them to not keep that as the only story. That version may not include practical application of the techniques. It isn’t until you look at techniques as being applicable combinations separated in patterns by direction changes. Yes, when you change directions, you change the fight. Patterns aren’t really one full fight but rather several linked together.

The next item that comes into play is being able to articulate what you see as the application of a technique to another student. I have written student manuals to help students but I know that in several places my labeling of technique and movements are inadequate. They don’t say what is truly happening but I don’t have better words. This ends up being an illustration of why I’m always a beginner. There is way too much to learn and pass on.

Arnold Sports Festival/Battle Of Columbus 2018

I have the distinct honor to be the Gumdo/Kumdo Co-Director for the merged Arnold Sports Festival – Battle of Columbus. The joining of these events returns to the 2001-2004 version BUT this doesn’t mean that the event hasn’t grown! The addition of Gumdo to the event is a great step forward for the Korean sword art! Please consider joining me at the OPEN TO ALL ASSOCIATIONS/FEDERATIONS event!

Arnold/Battle Of Columbus

Awesome Day!

So, today I received the appointment to b the Co-Director of the Gumdo/Kumdo division of the Arnold Sports Festival/Battle of Columbus. this is a great honor bestowed by Supreme Grand Master Choi. T am honored to work with Senior Master Robert Gross on this event. He is an awesome martial artist and I believe that we’ll make it a success.

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.