That look I get when I ask students to work on a drill that moves differently than the other drill. Yeah, the one you just gave me…a bit of confusion.

Part of the Haidong Gumdo curriculum are fighting combinations that we do mostly as a movement drill to develop footwork and cut lines. These combination come from a set of gumbub (patterns) that are also required. They are a lot of fun to work on and provide insights into some strategy.

DSC_0865The real fun comes when we add a partner to play the opponent (i.e. Bad guy). The designed response for the partner can throw off the movement of the combination. Movement angles change, techniques don’t seem to be on target any longer. Students can have a hard time “seeing” what they’re trying to accomplish. That’s when I get the “what are you talking about?” look or the “there’s no way this will make sense” look.

Once I start discussing the bunhae (application) of the movement, things usually start to brighten up. You can see the lightbulbs turning on. This is one of the faults in martial arts training. There are so many drills done, without the variables included, that the actual techniques and combination become ineffective. Students need to keep reminding themselves that they aren’t just learning physical techniques but, rather, parts of a fight. The dynamics of movement will change the whole drill. Yet, I only have given them one possible outcome variation. There are nearly limitless variations for that encounter due to the number of variables within the encounter. It is the student’s job to start looking for these applications while practicing the required version.

But, to get back to the look I get, it makes me wonder why the thoughts and hesitations come up when given an assignment. It seems to contradict that they came to me in the first place to learn the martial arts. The look from senior students is even more entertaining. After years of training with me, they still aren’t seeing the pattern or progression that is used to get them to the endpoint? That look of doubt (“You are goofy thinking that I can do it that way!”) on their faces always gives me a little smile.

DSC_0145All too often, it is forgotten that there is a progression toward learning new techniques and applications. Some are obvious but many are hidden within the drill. If you get too focused on doing only the original drill, then the insights from the different version will be a struggle to find. This is the same for any subject matter. The physical techniques of personal protection and martial arts are easily recognized but there are others. An everyday example is driving. How many people only know two applications for the car – gas or brake? It takes time to see another option – coast. It takes time because it involves more knowledge and developed skill at reading traffic flow and timing for distances.

There is MUCH more in everything that we do. The level of success in any skill or activity is directly related to the development of knowledge and understanding in the subject matter. If you don’t get pushed outside of your comfort zone and knowledge limits, then you will not develop greater understanding. So, the next time your teacher presents something that doesn’t quite make sense, look deeper into the applications and purpose.

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Author: Master Robert Frankovich

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