Sunday, March 29, 2009


Since I love to write, I'm trying something new as far as my personal training is concerned. I'm keeping a journal.

I hadn't ever thought of keeping a record of what I'm doing, exercise-wise, until recently. It helps me keep track of what I'm doing and will help me keep from slacking off. I'm not a strict disciplinarian, but I do find that writing things down helps me keep accountable for my actions.

That was one of the things the doctor told me about going back to WW--they have an accountability factor there with the journaling and writing things down. While I haven't stepped back into THAT arena yet, I am writing down my training for the sheer enjoyment of tracking myself. I promised someone that I would have it available to display, so that's what I'm doing. I can write down my thoughts on the forms as well. I may not put a huge effort into working out--but I can and I will write down what I've done as far as conditioning (i.e.-the squats I did yesterday, the lunges I despise but will do because it'll improve a form I like to do and need to practice...). It will also help me see where I need the most help.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hammer and Nail

The following parable is attributed to Master Ed Parker of Kenpo Karate.

A young carpenter with a few years experience in construction went to work for a new company to increase his knowledge and carpentry skills. The young carpenter’s hammering technique had been admired by carpenters at his old job but the new foreman told him his methods of pounding nails by striking them straight on while gripping the end of the hammer was flawed. The foreman said that, while he held the hammer correctly, he should be striking the nails with a circular motion rather than hitting them straight on. Wanting to please the well-known foreman, the young carpenter changed his hammering method to please the foreman and found the new way just as effective as his old way.

After a few years, the young carpenter went to work for a bigger company. The new foreman immediately told the young carpenter that his method of pounding nails in a circular motion was all wrong. The foreman told him to hold the hammer at the top of the handle and to strike the hammer head straight down onto the nail. Wanting to please the older, more experienced foreman, the young carpenter again changed his way of hammering and found the new way just as effective as the other two ways he had used.

The moral of this parable is not that each method of hammering was correct, but that each method was the appropriate choice under the given circumstances. The question is not whether circular motion is superior to linear motion or whether all methods are equally valid; it is a question of which method is most appropriate for the situation at hand. The young carpenter knew that under each set of circumstances, the best technique to use was the one one that got the job done and pleased the foreman.

A second moral is represented by the attitudes of the two foremen in contrast to the attitude of the young carpenter. The attitudes of the foremen could be considered rigid and close-minded. Rather than embracing the young carpenter’s ability to satisfactorily perform a task in a unique manner and taking the opportunity to absorb such knowledge, each of the foremen, being stuck in their own paradigm of what was correct, forced the young carpenter to conform to their methods, thereby losing the opportunity to learn and grow from the experience. In contrast, the young carpenter remained flexible and open-minded, and was able to adapt and succeed in each circumstance.

Unfortunately, many instructors have attitudes similar to those of the foremen. They think their style or curriculum is superior to all others. Such close-mindedness hampers their growth and the growth and potential of their students. Even though most instructors pride themselves on being adaptive and progressive, many may display much obstinacy and stagnation.

Even though the attitudes of the foremen at first appear rigid and shortsighted, they were not completely wrong in insisting that the young carpenter use their methods. A foreman’s job is to supervise workers and enforce standards and procedures. Having more knowledge and experience than the young carpenter, the foremen were correct in insisting that he use those methods that they knew from experience would produce the desired results. It is only by such insistence that the foremen could insure that the end product met the desired standard of quality since any deviation from standard procedures or methods might potentially effect the end result.

Instructors insist that their students perform a technique in a particular manner. It is not that there is no value in other variations in a technique; it is that, to insure student’s have a solid knowledge of the art being taught, instructors must insist on proper, proven techniques. There is a time to be open to the ideas of students or other instructors and to learn from them, but there is also a time to be insistent and to teach the art as it exists.

Even when instructors are open-minded, they must also understand that there are some absolutes. Sometimes techniques and theories are wrong. Instructors should not blindly accept everything as true, even when the information comes from their own masters.

What lessons may be learned from this parable:

  • My way or your way or his way may not be the only way or even the correct way. Only the unique circumstances of a particular moment in combat may determine which way is correct.

  • We should all try to stay inquisitive, adaptive, and open to new knowledge and new possibilities.

  • We should seek wisdom, learn to recognize it, and work to obtain it and impart it.

Remember that the nail, once set, will not move or adapt. The hammer, being mobile, may adjust and correct the course of the nail to ensure it holds true. There is a time to be a nail and a time to be a hammer; a time to be a student and a time to be a teacher.

Words of wisdom

A student came to a Master, full of himself and his potential. The Master invited him to share a cup of tea. As the Master poured the tea, it overflowed. The novice cried out to stop! The cup was already full. The Master replied that the student too, must empty himself in order to be filled with knowledge.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Challenges abound when you're taking martial arts. There are people who will ask you frequently (as happens at my office), "WHY are you taking martial arts?!" They obviously don't understand the passion there, or the reasons behind it.
I joined martial arts after taking my daughter to a class. She wasn't interested in the class at the time because she "felt funny with all the bowing", but I found myself drawn to it. I tried two classes and that was it. I found my niche.
That was back in 2004.

I was told that I had "tried to quit" a number of times, which I truly don't remember. I stuck it out, even after several people left. I thought I wanted to teach, to help people learn what I knew. I signed up for a "CIT" or Certified Instructor Training class when I reached Cho Dan Bo. I attended many classes, assisted with the Little Ninjas class and felt that I was doing okay.
I kept working toward my black belt, which I subsequently earned.
After my belt, things still were working out in my favor, or so I thought. I continued on my path toward "leadership". I helped out more with the LN class, until it was "mainstreamed" and became part of the "white belt class". I continued to try to maintain a positive attitude, despite all the changes that were taking place.

In July, 2008, I made a decision that was not easy. I left the school I'd been attending since 2004, the one I earned my belt in. I had suddenly felt that I was going nowhere...I wasn't teaching anything, I wasn't allowed to teach when I was supposed to teach. Classes weren't the same. I won't say they were bad, but they were different.

I wanted to continue taking martial arts. I felt that it was something I was drawn to. I looked into a Taekwondo school, but didn't feel it was for me. I didn't want to change my discipline. I wanted to stay with Tang Soo Do.
I spoke to the head of my then Federation, who gave me a recommendation of what to look for. Then I went to a school I'd been referred to. I communicated with the owner of that school, attended several trial classes and felt that I was where I needed to be.

I still feel that I need to be there, but now I'm questioning myself. I have this really bad habit of questioning what I'm doing and second guessing myself. When I was at the other place, I earned a belt. I second guess myself on whether or not the belt was deserved. I am working oh so much harder than I ever did and yet, I feel that I'm floundering. You can see the differences in the schools. The quality of instruction is extremely high. I need to stop comparing myself to the people I train with. I am me and not them. I came from a different tradition, even though it is still TSD. I know this and yet, in my own eyes, I am second guessing. I find myself questioning WHY I am doing things, but then I ask, "why am I still doing martial arts? I earned a black belt. Shouldn't I let that be an achievement in and of itself?" The answer to that question, in my heart, is NO. I love martial arts. I like the "high" I feel when I work out. I may not be the smallest person in my class. I'm like 75+ pounds overweight. I have to make concessions in my training. I just have to work out the self doubt and get my butt into each and every class and then just work as hard as I can.

Even if the people I work with don't understand WHY I am taking classes, I understand. Well, okay, I THINK I understand! I'm not out to be a grand champion cage fighter or anything like that. I'm just out to be the best I can be. I've seen my self esteem grow in the past four or five years. I'm now volunteering for extra responsibility at work and in my own personal life.
THAT is why I am taking classes. I'm doing it for me. There's a side effect and it's a positive one. I am learning self defense at the same time. It may not show, and just because one man in my company can reach out and intimidate me (he's bigger than me and uses that to his advantage), it doesn't mean that my classes are for nothing. I just have to address his sarcasm and his disbelief and then channel it to my advantage.

The question isn't "WHY are you taking it?" The question should be, "What are you taking out of it?"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I need...

In order to move ahead with my plans, I need to get myself up to speed with my vocabulary, one steps and Ho Sin Sul. As of tonight, I made an agreement with one of my fellow students to practice my terminology. If I am supposed to know the Korean for things like two handed low x-blocks, etc, I need to get busy and practice. The best way to practice is to get together with another student who is near my level and practice. I SHOULD be working with the other Dans but I feel stupid for asking. There is no harm in asking, as I was reminded during class tonight. I didn't know a technique (gasp!!) and didn't ask, so I looked really stupid in my own eyes. I have an inflated sense of what level I should be working at. Granted, I'm not at that level, but I feel like I need to get off my butt and get to that level. I could be setting myself up for failure, but we shall see. At least I'm setting myself a goal that I think I can reach.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Gup test

I went to the first of several gup tests I plan on attending at the dojang yesterday. I really was impressed by the way the test was run. They didn't put everyone who was testing up on the floor all at once. Instead, they had the groups marked out into groups. They were either out running or they were in the room, waiting their turn to get out onto the floor and demonstrate their abilities to do the forms, one steps, Ho Sin Sul, etc. It was refreshing to see these people work because they were not automatically guaranteed a place in that test. They invite people who have demonstrated their abilities in class to the test.

It was a nice thing to see how they handled the examinations. Each of the Dans had a specific student in any given group to watch during the test. Each Dan called his or her student up and they lined up depending on where they were supposed to be. This was a big change from the last test I attended at the old school. There, there wasn't this separation. They had everyone in one room and the senior black belts were responsible for many students. It was a confusing (in my mind) thing. Here, it was good to see how they paid close attention to their student/examinee.

One of my friends has a son who is attending this school. We both came from the other place. She and I discussed it and we agreed that this was a testament to the quality of the instructors they have. Her son looked 300% better at this test than he did at this time last year, when he attended his Dan test. He decided to start over, but believe me, he's a smart kid and will pick up the Korean a whole lot faster than I will. I told him that I thought he'd done very well. I don't know who his examiner was, but I personally think he gave more to this test than he had given last year and it shows.