Training Warriors for the 21st Century

Training Warriors for the 21st Century
Joong Do Kwan Traditional Taekwondo cross training with Kidokwan Perth

30 Jul 2011

Black Belts Start Young and Dumb

This was in the early 90s, a period when I was officially training at least 5 times a week. Getting rather good at what I was doing, submerged, wrapped up in the microcosm of the dojo.



Exposing yourself to as much training as I had, or 'the school of hard knocks' as some of the black belts would call it, gets you inured to the pain that's part of the intimidation students feel when they start sparring. Putting on my uniform, I felt like I was donning body armour ala Batman. Yeah, as you can see, I was feeling pretty good about myself, lucky to be in a semi-contact environment, and getting quietly cocky about the skills I was acquiring.

I was at the stage where sparring against opponents was less about stringing together strikes and blocks than about mental strategy. Part psychologist, part accountant, I was playing a mental game against my opponents. It was a kind of interactive 'Art of War' where time seemed to slow down and when you easily slipped into 'the zone' because you were able to slough away all extraneous thoughts.

What I loved were explosive attacks that were able to beat an opponent's coverage or defenses. I'd also love feinting and landing unbelievable strikes - those coming from impossible unexpected angles. Of course, I took great pride in my improving coverage - just because I started out with little skills in that department.

What gave me a real buzz however, were that the rules of engagement allowed many things other schools at that time wouldn't promote. Controlled strikes to the knee and groin for instance were staples in our arsenal. Hair grabs, throws, and take downs were commonplace. The only rule? You can hurt, but you can't injure. Opponents were expected to walk out of our dojo on their own two feet - adjusting their groin protectors on the way out.

It was all  great fun ...

... and while such rules allowed our black belts to gain an impressive array of skills beyond the usual kick-punch combinations other schools might gravitate towards, it also meant that visiting opponents from other systems had to play catch up with our more bawdy tactics.

What I couldn't understand, and what nagged at me time and time again was something my instructor, a man that I highly respected, commented on what we were doing. He said, "sparring only makes you good at sparring." Additionally, in formal classes we'd spend an inordinate amount of time practicing kata. What would then really confound me was the fact that other black belts who got it, who knew what he was saying and were spending time working out at kata, were good all round martial artists - technically proficient with their kata and great at fighting. I just couldn't understand that.

But of course my instructor was right, and my obsession with my growing skills, of what I thought was one of the most important things I had to develop at that point in time, was only a small part of the large bag of skills every martial artist should be working on all the time. Many years later, I decided that growing such meagre abilities in that arena was somewhat of a distraction, and I actually benefited from returning 'back-to-basics' (another unfortunate concept my instructor kept nagging about which I then blatantly ignored), and think about things such as strategy, the place basic techniques had in my arsenal of weapons, power generation methods, and also perhaps exactly why I was practicing a martial art at all.

Links



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Colin Wee
Coordinator, IAOMAS
Traditional Taekwondo Techniques, Patterns, and Applications at the Traditional Taekwondo Blog. [Subscribe using email or RSS feeds] [Tkd Sitemap]. Colin is a martial art instructor with 28 years of experience across three continents. Colin leads a small Traditional Taekwondo group for adults in Perth, Western Australia.
Connect with Colin on FaceBook and Traditional Taekwondo on FB.

29 Jul 2011

The Ranking System and Delusions of Grandeur

I approach the Kyu-Dan ranking system cautiously. For kyu or coloured belt ranks in my school, students in a specific rank learn specific skills and applications for that rank, and the line up of colours helps me organise myself and the lesson plan I have for each class.

But who cares really cares about what I think. Martial art students get off on the colour of their belts. The belt you wear shows off effort invested and it identifies progress, seniority, and growing experience. Being proud of what you've achieved is not all that bad. You should be proud of what you achieve. In fact, even a white belt should be proud to wear the white belt!

In my opinion, the slippery road begins when a person becomes prideful - overly valuing rank over its usefulness to progress you through a system, exacerbated by the very environment many martial arts schools seek to develop. The Kyu-Dan system is a Japanese system, and exists surrounded by people who are naturally conservative and ultimately very humble, who understand their place in the grand scheme of things. Out of Japan however, I have seen martial arts clubs and organisations place so much emphasis on the ranking aspect of the system that everyone becomes really concerned with their grade, an instructor's particular title, or when the next award is coming.

I myself hold ranks in the Kyu-Dan system as well as a title in the Shogo licensing system. Yeah, yeah, yeah ... I can hear all those purist nerds out there say Colin is full of it because Taekwondo is a Korean art. But that is another story ...

What I'm saying is that I'd like my students to keep a balanced approach to their training and not have to deal with an instructor who's trying to be larger-than-life, signing cheques their bodies can't cash. Remember that movie?

Colin

Related Links

--
Colin Wee
Coordinator, IAOMAS
Traditional Taekwondo Techniques, Patterns, and Applications at the Traditional Taekwondo Blog. [Subscribe using email or RSS feeds] [Tkd Sitemap]. Colin is a martial art instructor with 28 years of experience across three continents. Colin leads a small Traditional Taekwondo group for adults in Perth, Western Australia.
Connect with Colin on FaceBook and Traditional Taekwondo on FB.