Tag Archives: Leadership


I see myself as a martial arts teacher that hasn’t gone completely into the commercialized version of the industry. Teaching first, making money second. When life changed a year ago, I had to create something new. Part of that change has been to move away from security work and pursue a different management oriented route.This position resulted in me working security positions, originally, and now as a retail operations manager. I’ll admit to the job being interesting but the “if you can’t use it off the mats, you’re training wrong” martial arts perspective has made the learning curve very small.

Since I see martial art as developing problem solving, it only fits that the concepts work in retail also. What needs to get done? What is the simplest way to get it done? Both of these come into play nearly everyday. Add to that something that my Father always said: “Only touch something once”. Meaning, do everything that needs doing, then put it away. When you’ve done everything that you can do in that project, you should put it away. Don’t leave things lying around thinking, “I’ll get back to it”. This was an example from Seidokan Aikido as well. The aiki-taiso (aiki solo movements) have an exercise called “Happo undo,” the eight way exercise, that demonstrates the wide variation in life. When do you really have only one thing happening in your world at a time?

Operations work often has multiple things happening. The best way, I think, to make success happen is to take ownership of the responsibilities. That is everything from the overall plan through to the small details. Building a team that understands this and works toward the same goals is of great importance to the success of a business. If members don’t see the business as part of their legacy, they won’t help the business much. Truthfully, developing ownership starts much before becoming employed.

Ownership is often disguised as chores when you’re young. Making your bed and cleaning your room give you the chance to demonstrate your value. Ownership gives you the opportunity to gain more responsibility and opportunities. Learning this at a young age starts the path to the great success we desire. There are many additional byproducts from taking ownership. Things like discipline, confidence, problem solving skills, and goal setting are increased when you believe that it is your responsibility (you own this) to get things done well and correctly. To continue this analogy, making sure the business looks good to customers is really just a variation of making your bed so your room looks good to customers (parents & family).

In conclusion, I think that young people should look beyond their parent’s requests to see there’s more to why things are asked of them. Well, parents, you may have to help the younglings understand this point as they only hear what you say. In addition, I believe that more businesses should hire young martial artists as they already understand the real reason to work for excellence in what they do.


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.

What is Success? (part 3)

I hope that you enjoyed What is Success, part 1 and part 2. This week examines the next two levels of the chart, which can be reviewed in part 1.


Quite often the phrase “Being comfortable in my own skin” is used when people actually recognize who they are…for themselves. Poise is where this fits. Once students understand their emotions and don’t allow those emotions to dictate behavior. The learning curve toward this emotional development is steep. Recognizing what are threats to your safety and well-being are the important ones to see but often insecurity allows you to create threats where none exist. Coach Wooden also commented that you should be focused on your character as it truly represents you, rather than be concerned about your reputation as that is what others think of you. This is not the same as confidence but contributes to it.

“Respect without fear” says it all. When you can offer to let others be themselves without judgement or disdain, you illustrate confidence. We are not always confident. Doubts from past failings or lack of knowledge can disrupt confidence. Training helps correct that as it provides a variety of situations (physical and non-physical) that you get to work through with others who are not actually trying to damage you. Your confidence grows as your training continues and discipline grows. Simple things like making sure that you have your house key, phone, wallet and school bag/briefcase with you when you leave the house develops discipline and confidence.


Yes, Coach Wooden told this to his players and won several national championships because of it, but he didn’t intend it to only be about basketball, sport competition. I think that, at least in our school, we’ve adopted “MUDO” to fit this role. I say this because Coach Wooden also had this included in his teachings.


Never accept “good enough” from your work (the things that represent you). The USA Haidong Gumdo Association Senior Chief Master Marshall Parnell is a Marine and regularly comes to train with us. He has given us two very well received ideas – “Embrace the Suck” and “Be a Champion for Humankind” – that completely fit this top thought of Coach Wooden’s chart.

This was part three of a four part series. So, until next time – Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel – tune in for more! Part four next week.

Please comment, like and share this (and my other posts) if you have found it worthwhile. You can also subscribe to get post updates via email with the form below. Thank you!

What is Success? (part 2)

I hope that you enjoyed What is Success, part 1. This week examines the next two levels of the chart, which can be reviewed in part 1.

JohnWooden-Pyramid_Of_Success2This level starts to make the process more specific and has applications in many more areas. The martial arts will always promote the self-control of a student, the alertness in personal protection situations, the initiative to further develop knowledge and understanding and the proper intentness of learning these skills. If any of these are under-developed in a martial artists, it will probably result in injury to themselves or others. That said, it is great to see the applications listed as non-physical actions that will benefit the student off the mat.


This level sees a lot of struggle in many students. They train hard but only develop physical conditioning. They work on techniques but only have application for sport. They fail at becoming martial artists as their competitive winning is viewed as something that they did without help.

Too often the mental discipline in the martial arts is thought to be meditation. Can you sit still for a period of time. But that is only a small portion of developing mental strength. This conditioning is also much more difficult to see. Learning to take a punch or a kick is visible but the mental strength to get back to work, keep trying, always moving forward is mostly invisible. Then developing morals is even deeper within the student. Knowing what should be done and whether or not to do it can be a struggle, then put it in a personal protection life threatening situation.

The skills that succeed in tournaments are not the same as those that are needed for personal protection. The development of speed and timing, that are essential to physical applications, must be studied further to understand when to change lanes while on the highway and when to accelerate or brake as you watch the traffic ahead of you. Important here is that he comments “…execute the fundamentals.” This is NOT the new, shiny, flashy toy! It is the basic requirements of the art!

The team spirit is probably the most lacking in the martial arts. Many of the commercial schools have pride in their organization and cheer for their classmates but miss the actual camaraderie and family. The part that makes students get together outside of class to help another student move or celebrate weddings. The real work of the martial arts is serving others.

This was part two of a four part series. So, until next time – Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel – tune in for more! Part three next week.

Please comment, like and share this (and my other posts) if you have found it worthwhile. You can also subscribe to get post updates via email with the form below. Thank you!

What is Success? (part 1)

The following set of posts are based upon the chart below. I hope that you find some benefit from them. Part One starts here.


While this is from John Wooden, who I know about because my high school alma mater here in Minnesota has a coach with one of best careers in the nation, it is a very good illustration of what the martial arts should be teaching.

The words are different from those typically seen in martial arts classes but they represent the Tenets of Taekwondo, the credos of Song Moo Kwan, the principles of Aikido (and probably EVERY other martial art style taught). The most important factor here is that Coach Wooden presents these in terms that apply on the court or on the mat and outside of them.


The student must understand that all of the work they are doing is what created the success of those who came before them. That work will help build relationships with their teachers and peers, who are working just as hard, and the emotional benefits begin. These relationships (and emotions) provide the desire to see others grow, especially those who have helped them. The loyalty to others further develops the cooperation among the friends as they all see growing benefits. The increased benefits generates ever growing enthusiasm to continue. Well, at least this is one version of putting them together.

The true may be closer to something like Aikido’s principle of Mind-Body Unification. This talks about the four parts that need to be present in order for a person to move in a completely mindful, intentional manner. These parts are “weight underside”, “extend Ki”, “keep your One Point” and “Controlled Relaxation”. As it is discussed in Aikido, if you can find one of these concepts, then you can find them all but if you you lose one, you lose them all. This may be what happens, or is created, with Coach Wooden’s list. If you have any one of these from this level, you can create the others as you grow into the whole. I wager this will fit for each level of this chart, so I’ll only mention it here.

The next few weeks will feature posts from this chart done as a four part series. So, until next time – Same Bat Time, Same Bat Channel – tune in for more! Part two next week.

Please comment, like and share this (and my other posts) if you have found it worthwhile. You can also subscribe to get post updates via email with the form below. Thank you!

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?

Journey Toward Leadership

I found this series of articles and they gave me cause for thought about my leadership and capabilities. The Essentials of Leadership Part 1Part 2Part 3.

I have always tried to impress on students that the school/class is theirs, not mine. While I may have started the movement, I know it will NOT be me finishing it. With luck, it will be several generations of continued training, learning and developing. The start of my school came because I needed a place to train (Taekwondo) and no one else had this curriculum locally (Haidong Gumdo). I never thought that I was the “right” person to do it but someone had to.

There have been many schools that have come and gone due to the owner’s lack of knowledge and ego. A few months ago, I had several calls from collections agents. No, not for my school as we are completely debt free. The calls were for another school with a similar name. They had purchased a franchise, opened a big strip mall location and within two years closed. I don’t know the actual cause but would bet that it falls into the “want vs is” (see below) idea in part one.

(Excerpt from part 1) “Rather than serving the need and the community they turned the circumstances to their individual advantage. They were egotistically driven and eventually overwhelmed.”

From part 2 – “As that tension grows two camps emerge: those who are progressive and search for something new and those who are orthodox clinging to what is and has been resisting change and forward movement. This tension builds to a point when a new visionary emerges to open a new field. At that time those who put up the greatest resistance fade away.”

All the students who answer the question “Why do you do this technique like this?” with “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” I can understand some of the idea behind wanting to keep things the same. There can be history and tradition which is important to keep alive. The problem is that society changes and while the physical application of the technique remains the same, the intent behind the technique may be outdated. This is an important factor when you consider that each individual makes the art their “own”.

There have been many times over the nearly three decades where I have had no idea where my thoughts…dreams?…were going. I have only always known that I had to go forward. Even though I didn’t know how to accomplish them. Just keep training (and teaching) and the path will appear. A very recent example of this is the creation of an academic degree program. Those who have known me long enough will tell you that I have wanted to create a degree program for over 10 years. I have taught as an adjunct in two universities and tried to figure out academia. It wasn’t until responding to a craigslist.com post that the goal was met. The next step now is to figure out how to get people to earn the degree. I really don’t want to be compared to a fitness instructor!

It isn’t unusual for me to attempt things that are well over my head. I, also, have a bunch of things that I want to do yet or get further along with. Making it my “own” has even evolved in the past few months. The development of technique application has been a goal for many years. Discussions with some Shorin Ryu Karate and Kyokushin Karate people brought new ideas to my Taekwondo that are letting me take the curriculum that I was taught past the sport version. I hope that my desire to lessen what I don’t know will do the same for the students training with and teaching me.

If you want to do something, do it and collect helpers along the way. You may not want to be the leader but if you don’t start it, it will never happen. Others will work with you to acheive your goal and take it further. Since there will never be a perfect time to do something, just start now!