Tuesday, March 31, 2009


In reference to an article I read a couple of days ago (great post Michele!), many students train while trying to be "like" someone, usually their instructor, but also the list may include their parents, a celebrity (I get the "I want to be like Bruce Lee" deal all the time), a senior student, etc. etc. While this runs rampant in children, this is more common with adults than people may think. It can be anything from "I want my horse stance to look like his horse stance," or "My side kick doesn't look like his. What's wrong with mine?"

While there is nothing wrong with having a model to look after, or an idea of what you'd like to be, the most important thing to remember that you are you, and not someone else. Even if, for example, two people perform the same kata, person A's kata should be different in some way from person B's. Even though they have the same basic movements and techniques, each person's individuality should shine through somehow, and this can depend on many factors: each person's different interpretation of the kata, their personality types, their current moods and/or mindsets, their physical makeup (a 6'5" 230 lb. person's movement certainly would be different from one that's 5'4" 120 lb.).

Each of us have been given special talents, abilities and insights that makes us all unique individuals, and it would be a waste not to let those shine.

P.S. Of course, this applies to just about everything else in life outside of martial arts, right? :)

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Correlation Between Kata and Kumite

Check out any martial arts blog, website, article, etc., and you will find some topic that speaks about the relationship between kata and sparring, or even if there is such a relationship to begin with. I personally am under the belief that such a relationship does indeed exist, but not necessarily in the way the consensus would say. To explain, let me mention a few points first:

1. In this post I'm speaking about karate katas since that's what I am most familiar with. Those of you in different disciplines please feel free to comment on your style.

2. Most people that I have encountered tend to argue the relation between kata and kumite as far as sport karate fighting (point fighting, full-contact or kickboxing for example) is concerned. The one thing to remember is that these kata were made LONG before there was a such thing as sport karate.

3. Katas were made for self-defense purposes, namely to defend one's life in a life-or-death scenario.

4. To help spread karate to the masses (especially children) many of the more lethal techniques were substituted or "covered up."

As you may have guessed, the correlation I'm speaking of is kata to kumite as far as actual street fighting/self-defense is concerned. Granted there may be some correlation to sport karate (correct technique, focus and timing immediately come to mind), this is not what the katas were originally intended for. They were intended to show the best basic techniques designed to defend one's self and to end such a confrontation quickly and decisively.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Keep That Hand on Your Belt!

Anyone that has ever studied any traditional martial art such as karate or tae kwon do has probably heard their instructor say this hundreds of times during their training. Like probably 98% of those students, I myself used to wonder why we're always taught to keep that hand (the hand "that's not doing anything") tight on our belts. Is it to make the kata look pretty? To give "the hand that's not doing anything" something to do? Because the instructor said so? Just for the pure hell of it?

While these may make sense to some, none of them are their intended purpose. To put it in perspective, think about what that hand is doing before it gets to your belt...it's out in front of you doing something: punching, blocking, grabbing, etc., and then you're pulling that hand to your belt. This motion is most evident when performing the basic blocking motions (actually, strikes, remember?) that we learned from our first days of training: the high block, low block, middle block, knife hand block, etc. In other words, one hand grabs the opponent and pulls him toward you while you execute the block/strike to amplify it's effect.

The pulling hand is also used for many other reasons, such as pulling to gain leverage on your opponent, unbalance him, to set him up for a follow-up technique, or to throw him altogether. Many katas show these techniques, probably none more so than the Naihanchi/Tekki/Chul Ki katas. For my PaSaRyu brethren, a perfect example is the second move in our yahk soak deta (promised sparring) 1st set number 2, when the opponent's punching hand is pulled toward you.

Now keep that hand at you belt!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Rev. Wind Martial Arts Summer Camp

For those of you in the Memphis area, I would like to invite you all to check out my instructor's annual summer camp.

For more information, visit the link below.

Rev. Wind Martial Arts Summer Camp

Think About It...

Just a quick thought for today....

I'd like for everyone to think about how they go about teaching a new technique. For this example, let's use a kata. When teaching a kata, do you teach the way that you've been taught, or have you thought about the actual applications and teach from your perspective?

If you think about it, this can be applied to a lot of things in life. A perfect example is religious beliefs: for instance, do you attend a Baptist church because you wanted to attend one, or is it because your parents raised you one and you never thought about any other religion?

What I'm saying is that many people (yes, myself included) tend to do things simply because that what we were shown to do, without really thinking about if that's the way we ourselves would like to.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Everyone Should Start Weapons Training!

Yes, I'm a little biased toward weapons training, so allow me to explain why.

1. It's something different. What I mean by this is that it breaks the monotony of always working on katas and sparring. Anyone that has ever taught children knows the importance of changing things around and working on new things.

2. It forces you to concentrate on your technique. While this should definitely be a focus of empty-handed training, in weapons training this increases ten fold, if for no other reason, out of safety concerns. Imagine what could happen if you're not paying attention while performing a kama routine!

3. It's adaptable. If you look at it, many weapons techniques can be applied to empty-handed fighting as well. Kali/Escrima training is the perfect example.

4. It's practical. Training with weapons also translates to the real world. For example, think of how many everyday items can be used in a similar style as a bo or jo staff: a walking cane, an umbrella, a baseball bat, a random stick lying on the ground, and the list goes on.

5. It makes sense. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a "fair" fight, especially if your life is in danger. People use all kinds of weapons to get the upper hand, from beer bottles to knives to batons to clubs to guns to chains and on and on. If you know that 9 times out of 10 an assailant is going to be using a weapon, wouldn't it make sense for you to use one too?

The White Tiger Rules of Self-Defense

OK, I admit I didn't suddenly make up some iron-clad rules of self-defense. But in using one of Bruce Lee's idioms, (I'm paraphrasing here) "keep what works and leave out what doesn't," and also being a man that thrives on simplicity, I came up with 2 simple rules I teach. Here they are in order of importance:

1. Avoid conflict by whatever means possible. The best fight is the one that's not fought, and you live to fight another day (hopefully not though).

2. If conflict is unavoidable, end the conflict quickly and decisively, and with appropriate force. Unlike what's shown on TV, the longer any fight goes, the more exponentially dangerous it gets. "Appropriate force" is similar to The Golden Rule ("treat others as you want to be treated"), except in reverse. For example, you don't react to an overly flirtatious guy who really means no harm by raking his eyes out and possibly blinding him for life. In today's lawsuit-happy society, the "appropriate force" portion is highly important.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Battle of The Sexes, Part II

Now, it's time for some of the biggest problems with martial arts training from the male perspective.

Problem #1: Being chivalrous inside the dojo

Anyone that knows me will tell you that probably my biggest peeve is men hitting women, for obvious reasons. While it is inexcusable to for a man to hit a woman (only exception: if the man's life is in danger, then all chivalry goes out the window), inside the classroom men should forget all about chivalry. While it's understandable and admirable to not want to hurt your female (and fellow male for that matter) counterparts in class, those women need to be prepared for the stereotypical male assailant on the street that could care less about not hitting a woman.

Problem #2: Strength solves everything

The first few UFC fights threw this theory out the window when the average-sized Royce Gracie defeated opponent after opponent, with many of them having an obvious size and strength advantage. Another point is that strength means nothing without accuracy, technique and timing (i.e., a strong right cross does nothing if it doesn't hit its target, right?). As my chief instructor, Master Kang Rhee tells beginners (especially males) "no power, no speed," meaning proper targeting and technique comes first; you can always improve power and speed later, but you have to actually hit the target first!

Problem #3: Training only with other men

There are quite a few things men can learn from training with women. One thing I have personally picked up from sparring with women is how to deal with a smaller and quicker opponent, and also a blitzing opponent, as many women like to go all out with men since "we can take the punishment." On another note, there is an increase of women attacking men (stop laughing male chauvinists), so it would help to train with women to better understand them.

Problem #4: Being "Number 1" or "The Man"

By nature, men are accustomed to being in charge, or being "the man." Two big problems with this are (1) pride, which needs no further explanation, and (2) being more concerned with advancing through the ranks than learning the material while advancing.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Battle of the Sexes, Part I

In this two-part post, I will discuss some of the top problems I've encountered specifically in each of the sexes. Of course, ladies first!

Problem #1: Training only with other women.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with training in a women's only class here and there. One big pro is the absence of the stereotypical male ego, and the fact that many gender-specific issues can be more fully explored with the absence of men. The biggest problem lies in what I call "preparation for the field:" in a real self-defense application, statistics show that women are more likely to be attacked by male perpetrators than female ones. Of course there will be "girl fights" to be had, but it makes sense to be prepared for the most likely scenario as well.

Problem #2: Being too passive

We can blame society for this one. Even in today's "independent woman" society, from the day they're born, the majority of women get messages every day on how a woman "should" be: submissive, docile, feminine, "sugar & spice and everything nice," nurturing, etc. I realize how sexist this sounds, but that's the message conveyed on TV, magazines, and so forth. Many of those same "feminine" traits are what dooms many women in a self-defense situation.

Problem #3: Misunderstanding the ugly truth of self-defense

This is a big problem with men as well, but more so with women simply because of how the two sexes are raised (see Problem #2). Seeing women cringe at the fact that at some point they may have to scratch and claw at someone's eyes, throat and/or groin to save their lives further illustrates this point. Self-defense affairs are ugly, and the sooner this point is understood, the better.

Problem #4: Being too concerned about the other person

This one is most prominent when it comes to sparring, and typically when women spar each other. Out of concern for safety (nothing's wrong with that by the way) women tend to check on each other after one hits the other ("Are you ok?!?! I didn't mean to hurt you!!!). What this is doing is setting up false pretenses for both parties, as on the street, it may be necessary to hit, hit and hit again (as opposed to hitting once) and to frankly not care if the assailant is hurt or not. In class, of course safety comes first, but the habit of hitting a person and stopping to check on them (unless they're truly hurt) creates a bad habit that can be hard to break.

Problem #5: Expecting chivalry in the dojo

Also a problem for men as well, many women don't expect to be hit hard (or at all in some cases). Regardless of whatever reason a person begins taking martial arts classes, self-defense is still the primary focus. It is totally unrealistic to expect a rapist or mugger to not hit you, right? Yes, everyone (men included, even though many won't actually admit it) has at least an initial fear of being hit. The only way to get over that is to mix it up in class in order to prepare you for the street.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Think Small

A few small points to think about the next time you're practicing or teaching kata...

*Hand positioning: Why is the "hand that's not doing anything" always at my belt? Why wrap up for blocks? Why are my hands in a particular position while kicking?

*Stances: If common sense tells you that you would never fight someone while in a horse stance, why does the kata call for one? Why do this move in a cat stance instead of a front stance? Why am I standing on one leg?

*Blocks: Why would a kata end with a block instead of a "finishing blow?" Why am I blocking 3 times in succession? What am I blocking?

*Foot Positioning/Footwork: Why is it important to point my feet a certain way? Why turn away from the fight instead of toward it? What does turning accomplish in the first place?

*Targeting: Where is that punch supposed to go? Does it make a difference it that kick is knee-high or waist-high? What target area would do the most damage?

*Other Intangibles: Would this technique work in multiple situations, or is it designed for one particular outcome? Am I fighting multiple opponents or one relentless one? Could I perform this technique under stress? Does the technique make sense?

What A Martial Arts Instructor is NOT

* A Spiritual Master
Thanks to pop culture and old kung fu movies alike, the popular opinion is that an instructor is, for the sake of shortening this, is like a cross between Yoda, Mr. Miyagi, and a wise old chess player. Granted any instructor should probably know as much material as his students, to expect him/her to be otherworldly is just asking too much. If it’s spiritual guidance you are looking for, a pastor/priest/rabbi is your best bet.

* A Babysitter
It still amazes me how many parents use martial arts classes as a mere “drop your kids off” service. One school of thought says that parents should stay and observe their kids in class, mainly for safety reasons. The flip side to this is that parents should not stay because they can, unknowingly or purposely, distract their kids during class. While I have no problem with either decision, my point is the parents that are merely getting the kids off their hands for a couple of hours. As a parent myself, I can understand the urge to do so, but realize that there are other places to do so.

* The “Maury Povich-Boot Camp Style” Drill Instructor
Many parents enroll their kids to martial arts for discipline, and usually the kid is an “out of control” (or close to it) kid. While the martial arts in my opinion do more for self-discipline and self-control than controlling an out-of-control kid, I have also observed that kids tend to act the same no matter what environment their in. For example, kids that talk back to their schoolteachers tend to talk back to their parents or any other adult as well. I’m not saying that the arts can’t help these kids, but enrolling kids simply for that reason (especially when discipline should start at home) is just asking for it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Insurance Policy

Every once in a while, I see people putting down the martial arts, especially when taught to children. Along those lines, the biggest argument I've encountered against the arts is teaching violence to kids. It doesn't seem to matter about all of the other things taught, like self-discipline, goal setting, and so forth; they still harp on the violence aspect. True enough, kicking and punching are violent activities, but allow me to explain it this way:

From a student's first day (especially when that student is a child) any instructor worth anything will tell that student the most important lesson of fighting is to not fight; that one should avoid fighting if at all possible, and that one shouldn't use any fighting techniques learned unless it's the very last resort. To quote everyone's favorite karate instructor, Mr. Miyagi from "The Karate Kid" movies, "Rule #1: Karate is for self-defense only. Rule # 2: Always remember Rule # 1."

Here's an analogy I often use to put this into perspective: we pay all kinds of money for insurance (health, auto, life, homeowners', etc.), but deep down, we all pray to God that we never have to use that insurance policy--but if the need arises, we're prepared (anyone ever had a wreck while they didn't have insurance?). The same applies to martial arts; no one in their right mind wants to be in a predicament in which they have to defend their lives and/or that of their loved ones, but it helps to be ready if it happens, right?

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lessons for The Young and Old Alike

Anyone that knows me can tell you that my two favorite types of people (other than my wife and my children of course) are kids and and the elderly, for various reasons in each instance. In working with both groups of people in and outside of the dojo, I have learned two main concepts that apply both in and outside the dojo, one from children and one from the elderly.

Key concept learned from children: open-mindedness.

Children tend to be more receptive to new ideas and thoughts than adults, mainly due to their small time spent on Earth, they haven't developed any filters like adults tend to over time. Children aren't afraid to try doing their kata different ways or mixing a little grappling with their taekwondo that will help them become a better martial artist.

Like the "old folks" say, " a closed mouth never gets fed." Neither does a closed mind.

Key concept learned from the elderly: simplicity.

The elderly love and embrace the concept of simplicity, whether it's because (as some elderly say) they're too old to learn new things or (my favorite) because simple works. They could care less about being able to throw a picture-perfect side kick to the head of a 6'8" opponent or the elaborate escape from a choke hold that takes 2 minutes to perform and looks pretty during a demonstration....especially when a kick delivered to the knee and a old-fashioned foot stomp will do the trick.

"Easy does it!"