Reblog from October, 2014: Embrace the Suck

When I was in second grade, we moved to a new school district. Nobody in my class knew me. The teacher didn’t know me. We might even have had a student teacher. I don’t remember.

One day we were doing science, a rare treat in this county school. I was good at science. I read dinosaur books and watched the rocket launches (this was at the end of the Apollo era). My dad talked to me about how the rockets worked, what happened to the dinosaurs, and I even remember him teaching me fractions on the back of the TV Guide when I was five or six.

The teacher was talking about astronomy that day.

“Who knows how fast the earth moves?” she asked.

Well, I did. Not in numbers, but I knew that it moved fast. I raised my hand energetically, even though nobody else was raising theirs.

She called me up to the front of the class.

“Show us with this globe how fast the earth moves,” she said.

Well, that was a problem. I looked at her and the globe. I knew that from space, it really wouldn’t look like the earth was moving very fast. But I remembered reading the numbers that told how fast the planet was spinning on its axis, how fast it was revolving around the sun. There was only one way to show that.globe

I stepped up to the globe and spun it as fast as I could.

The teacher laughed.

The other students laughed.

“What would happen if the earth was spinning that fast?” she asked, searching the rest of the students for a more rational face.

“We’d all fly off,” someone said.

“That’s right,” the teacher said. “Who can show us how fast the earth really moves?”

She chose another boy to come up. Carl, I think his name was. He put his hand in the Atlantic Ocean and moved the globe as slowly as he could.

“That’s right,” the teacher said. “It’s barely moving.”

Well, obviously I was right. I just didn’t know how to articulate it at the time. The earth spins roughly 1000 miles per hour at the equator and is moving around the sun at about 66,600 miles per hour. Nothing the teacher said could change that. Nothing I said would change her mind.

Still, I never stopped speaking up in class. I was always willing to risk being told that I wasn’t right. I wasn’t a star pupil. I just wasn’t afraid to be wrong. I enjoyed learning.

When we begin martial art training, it’s essential to develop this quality, especially when we begin as adults. We’re going to be bad, to “suck,” for quite a while. It’s a fact that it doesn’t take long to begin seeing changes in your body, strength, and balance especially. But there’s no getting around it; martial art is hard.

White Belt BoyEmbrace your beginning time. You’ve got your whole life to be good at things. Your beginning, when everything is new, is over and done very quickly. Take time to enjoy your crappy kicks and stances. Make them better, by all means, but don’t hate your “sucky-ness.”

Martial art students need to lose their fear and dislike of being corrected and being wrong. If I’m teaching a timid student, sometimes they’ll change their hand or foot position several times before they do the technique. I tell them that they need to be confident. Even if it’s wrong, do the technique decisively. When techniques are wrong, I can fix them. When they are “mushy” it’s much harder.

Remember: when you bow into the dojang, you are supposed to leave the outside world behind. That includes your ego. The ego is what wants to be right and hates being wrong. When you train and practice without your ego, both of our lives are much easier.

Finally, when you laugh at someone remember that they might write about you forty years later. Be gracious when you think you have the answer that others are looking for.

Added Training

2017 Kuk Sool Won of Muncie team at the Midwest Tournament in St. Louis, Missouri.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
Practice, right?

How do you get to the world championships next year?
Same answer.

Coming to class is always the first thing. If you don’t come to class at least twice a week, you’re not going to be in a good spot to do well in any tournaments next year. Twice a week, minimum. Period.

In addition to class time, you have to develop a personal practice regimen. How that looks varies widely from person to person. Feel free to comment below with your routine. Some people run through all of their forms every day. Others have a daily meditation habit and practice forms one day and techniques the next. Some break training down into Kuk Sool, strength, cardio, and mobility. Honestly, it really doesn’t matter what kind of split you come up with. The important thing, at least in the beginning, is developing the habit of practice.

So, once you have established that habit, you’ll probably look for ways to maximize your practice time. When you’re strong enough to do a one-legged squat (the negative portion at the beginning of Kyuk Pah Hyung), then you probably don’t need to develop a lot more strength in your legs, but you need to maintain that strength by practicing your hyung and stances.

Likewise, when your abs are strong enough to pull you down so that your fingertips pass your feet (on Kyuk Pah, etc.) your abs are probably strong enough that time spent on crunches won’t benefit you much. Spend that time on something more beneficial.

If your cardio is good enough that you can perform the underbelt hyung (with good stances) “without much trouble breathing” then spending time running or on other cardio efforts is wasteful. Unless you have a specific goal in mind (training for a 5K or marathon, etc.) you can spend your time more wisely.

Another way to add training time without taking time from your schedule is to find ways to build training into your daily life. Here are some examples.

  • Park as far away from the door as you can. Walk quickly enough that you raise your heart rate a little.
  • When you open doors, use just your fingertips. Either pushing or pulling, you can strengthen your grip. Not a challenge? Start taking away fingers. Make sure your fingers only bend the right way, not the wrong way.
  • Horse stance: brushing your teeth, washing dishes, folding clothes, watching television, talking on the phone, working on the computer, etc.
  • Strength: taking kids to the park? Use the equipment to train. There are lots of ways to use playground equipment for strength training. Explore the different parks and be creative.
  • Walking the dog? Take her to a greenway. Use a heart rate monitor and push yourself a little. Go to an open field and chase your dog: starting and stopping, going fast and then slow is a perfect high-intensity interval workout.
  • Long drive? Work on ki cho cha ki (hand and ki exercises). Only do one hand at a time. Do slow opens and closes against your own resistance, and then fast. Practice opening your fingers as wide as possible and closing your fist as tightly as you can.
  • Take the stairs. It’s obvious but makes a difference. If you’re adventurous, go up the stairs sideways or backward to switch things up. Use the hand rail though. No need to fall and hurt yourself.
  • Stand up desk: These are useful, but standing for long periods without moving is as bad as sitting. The point is to move as much as possible. Get a stool that you can rest a foot on while you’re standing. Feel free to sit down and work every so often.
  • Boring meetings? Practice your hyung in your mind. When I used to manage restaurants, I had boring meetings that were the same every month. I spent the time learning to do hyung in my mind. Techniques too. Not a challenge? Try doing two techniques at the same time. Or three, or five. Or a whole set. (Also useful during a commute, but only if you’re a passenger.)
  • Social Media: Allow yourself all the time you want, but tax yourself. Every fifteen minutes, practice a hyung. Every post, speed drill a set of techniques.
  • Addicted to sweets? Again, allow indulgences, but pay yourself for the privilege by doing slow-mo side kicks and round kicks to build strength and increase mobility.

Adding training doesn’t replace coming to class or your personal practice time. But it’s a way to turn ordinary life into training time. It also keeps your priorities at the forefront of your mind. By working on what matters, you’ll build your own character, discipline, and self-esteem.

There are infinite ways to add training to your day. I’d love to hear your ideas. Share them below, and maybe I’ll add them to the post.

Update

Holy Crap. I’m doing really poorly on my blog this year. I’m going to try to do better, I promise.

Until I fulfill that promise, here’s an update on what’s going on with the school and me.

School

We are doing well in our temporary home. Monday and Wednesday nights are our big nights, but we see some attendance on the other nights as well. Tuesday night Blackbelt classes started slowly last month. I’m disappointed that there are some blackbelts and dahn bos that still haven’t made a single class.

I continue to try to find a permanent home for the school, but the contact people at our facility are not very communicative. Granted, MadJax has its own problems, and there’s no love lost between several of the board members and other members of my family. I’m not sure what the problem is, but for now, I think the facility is serving us well.

Training

I finally began my Fourth Degree training last month. I’m learning a new form called Sahm Bang Cho Hyung. If you know your basic Korean, that means (or implies) Four Directional Defense. You’ll see me practicing it at times.

I’ve also recently started running again. I’m using the Chi Running method from Danny Dreyer. He is a runner, but also a Tai Chi practitioner. He combined running with the principles of Tai Chi to produce this method. It’s all about running mindfully, without injury. I like it a lot. I’m also using the methodology of Dr. Paul Maffetone, specifically his low heart rate training. Added to that, I’ve transitioned back into a low-carb, grain-free diet (no more birthday cookies in class!)

I’m two weeks into my running program (four times a week for an hour a day,) and a week into eating better. I won’t share numbers, but I’m keeping track of things with a fancy new scale that uses a mild electrical current to measure muscle, fat, and bone percentage in addition to weight. I’m keeping a spreadsheet of the numbers every day. That’s not really necessary, but the tech and the science help keep me motivated.

I lost weight last week. A lot of it was fat, none of it was bone (yay!), and a little of it was muscle. That, plus an honest evaluation of my running numbers, tells me that I’m probably running a little too fast and not eating enough. Even though I’m barely running, I need to slow it down a little bit. I might only be walking for the next week or so.

As I said, I’m keeping track of training, and all of the physical measurements. I’ll share them when I reach my goal, hopefully by the Kuk Sool new year, March 1st.

Writing

My writing practice kind of stalled in the spring and early summer. I set a goal to finish a rough draft of my work in progress (working title: Flight) by the end of July. I met that goal and then set it aside for a few weeks. My new goal is to finish editing it in September and begin searching for an agent next month. Also, during October, I’ll start reworking the first story I started working on (working title: Sword of the White Belt). I had a rough draft of both of them, but they both had real problems.

Flight is about a young man who, on a journey of self-discovery and improvement that includes martial art training and meditation, discovers that humans can levitate. Soon levitation becomes actual flight, and he posts a video of himself online. The video attracts the attention of governments and corporations around the world, some of whom are not thrilled with the idea that fences, walls, and transportation might no longer limit humanity. He becomes hunted and persecuted but has the support of a digital underground of followers.

Sword of the White Belt is the story of a group of friends who meet in a martial art school and bond through their martial art training. Their friendship continues outside of the school around their dining room tables as they play fantasy role playing games (like Dungeons and Dragons). The lessons they learn in martial art class are explored and illuminated in the game play.
Last summer I threw out the last half of Flight, replotted it, and then kind of left it alone. Before that, I decided that I had chosen the wrong main character for Sword of the White Belt, and needed to rewrite the entire thing. My writing goal for October is to plot that story so that I can write the first draft during NaNoWriMo in November. November is National Novel Writing Month, and NaNoWriMo is a non-profit that encourages people to write. Their website allows aspiring novelists to register and keep track of their writing during November, to build communities, and to cheer each other on. It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun too. I’ve won several times. There’s no prize except feeling good about yourself. And maybe getting a novel published.

Summary

So, there’s lots going on. I managed to finish Star Trek: Voyager and The Sopranos recently. I also finished a video game for the first time in fifteen years. I’m reading books about health, cooking, gardening, pressure points, meditation, business, marketing, and website design, depending on my mood. I drive for Uber and Lyft on the weekends to make a little extra money. As the school grows, I hope not to need to do that anymore.

Now, to find time to bang out a blog post or two every week. I need to get that on the schedule. Thanks for reading.

Here are the links:

http://www.chirunning.com/
https://philmaffetone.com/method/
http://fatburningman.com/what-is-the-wild-diet/
https://nanowrimo.org/

Five Basic Exercises for Martial Artists to Build Strength

Kuk Sool Won of Muncie team at a Kuk Sool Won workshop in Dayton, Ohio.

There are several components essential for fitness in general and self-defense specifically. Those are:

  • Strength
  • Flexibility/Mobility
  • Speed
  • Knowledge/Understanding

This article, like our classes recently, will focus on Strength. As we move through the year, our focus will shift, and I’ll post articles on the other components.

In the Classroom

For those of you who aren’t currently students, here’s a brief overview of the way our school runs. Class begins with a formal bowing-in ceremony wherein we give respect to our country, our martial art association, and all of our instructors. After that, we warm-up.

The length and composition of the warm-up phase depend on the class and the weather. During very cold weather, I never skip the group warm-up. In the summer, if I have an advanced class, I might have them skip the formal warm-up and just begin training slowly until they break a light sweat. The warm-up isn’t about stretching, it’s about moving the body, and raising the temperature to make injury less likely.

Next, we work on a fundamental skill: likely one of the components listed above. I won’t go into it too deeply in this article, but we don’t do flexibility work at this point unless that’s the subject of the entire class. So, it will either be strength, speed, or fundamental martial art technique like kicking, punching or falling.

After that, we work on material specific to the student’s rank. It could be forms, techniques, or more fundamentals (we don’t teach every kick or hand technique at the same level.)

The end of the class is the time when we might focus on flexibility, but we could just as easily work on strength. And, you know, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. At any rate, the point of this part of the class is to cool down a little, reinforce what we’ve been working on, and answer questions.

So, all of this is to say that the exercises we’re talking about could be part of your warm-up, or they could be part of your skill-building or even your cool-down. However you use them, the important thing is to work on the exercises as if they were a martial art technique. Pay attention to geometry (the shape your joints and limbs make, arms relative to spine, spine relative to floor, etc.) Pay attention to the tension that you’re holding, whether you’re relaxed or tense where appropriate. Can you do the exercise slowly, or are you forced to finish quickly to avoid losing balance?

Strength

For martial artists, building strength is not about building muscle mass. I mean, if you want to, I can show you how, but strictly speaking about martial art activities, extra muscle mass just gets in the way. And, it turns out, it’s not necessary unless you’re very out of shape. If that’s you, then yeah, you’ll build some muscle, but mostly they’ll change shape, get rounder and be more noticeable. What we’re looking for when it comes to strength is the way our brain and muscles work together, and believe it or not, that changes with practice. Strength is a skill that you need to practice as sure as a spin kick is.

So, how do we practice to improve strength without inducing hypertrophy (the overgrowth of muscle tissue)? Work really hard, but keep your repetitions low. That’s basically it. Work hard, but don’t kill yourself. Sets of three to five are enough to enhance neuro-muscular coordination, but not enough to trigger hypertrophy. If you do three sets of these exercises and in each set do them three to five times, you’ll be set. And the sets don’t have to be consecutive. You can do one set with breakfast, another with lunch and the last before dinner, and you’ll get just as much benefit as if you did them back to back. More probably, because the more you allow your nervous system to recover between sets, the better. You don’t want to start your next set if you’re out of breath or shaky from the previous set.

The Exercises

The exercises themselves are pretty simple. There are three basic chains that we, as humans, need to exercise regularly to be healthy: a push, a pull, and a squat. We’re using Dancer Push-Ups, Slo-Mo Squats, and Let-Me-Ups.

Dancer Push-Ups

These are done very slowly on the hands and feet, but the feet may be separated by a foot or two, if you wish, for stability. After completing the push part of the push-up, raise your left hand and gently turn and point to the

Dancer Push-Ups
Dancer Push-Ups

ceiling, keeping your eyes on your hand. Hold for a moment, then slowly bring your hand back down to the floor. Do a push-up and then do the same with your right hand, again, keeping your eyes on your hand all the way. That’s one repetition.

If doing three of these (that’s six slow-motion push-ups) is too much for you, then skip the push-up between the two hand raises so that you’re only doing one push-up, left hand, right hand, etc.

If your push-ups from the floor aren’t up to speed, don’t worry about it. Elevate your hands rather than dropping to your knees. Use a countertop or the back of a sofa if you need to (or even a wall). If you have a stairway in your house, that’s a good place to practice push-ups. Pick the step that is high enough that you can do three solid push-ups, then practice there until you can do five with no problem, then move down a step, etc.

Slo-Mo Squats

These are pretty easy unless you have knee problems or ankle restrictions. Knee issues aren’t uncommon, while ankle restrictions are rampant in our culture (due to wearing shoes all of the time, I’m sure.) If your hips aren’t free,

Slo-Mo Squat
Slo-Mo Squat

you’ll also have trouble. That’s why we’re doing them. Feel free to use support in the beginning.

Start with your feet about shoulder width, reach your hands out in front of you for balance, then drop your hips straight toward the floor. Your knees may move forward, but don’t let them move past your toes. Speaking of your toes, they may want to splay out to the sides. You can let them, but eventually, you’ll want to work on keeping them pointing straight forward (practice). Your shoulders will drift forward. Don’t let them. Think about keeping your spine vertical throughout the exercise (it won’t happen at first, but practice). Try to drop so deep that your hips sit down between your ankles, but don’t be surprised if they won’t even make it to knee-high.

Take about three seconds on the way down, pause for a beat or two, and then three seconds on the way up. You’re only starting with three repetitions. Take long enough that you can enjoy them.

Let-Me-Ups

These might be a little harder for you if you’re playing along at home. This is a pull-up variation that we do in the school with two partners. Your partners will hold a hardwood staff about waist high. You bend your knees and grasp the staff and pull your chest to it. There are a lot of ways to cheat on this, which is good because most people can’t do regular pull-ups. Having your knees bent allows you to use your legs as much as you need to allow the exercise to succeed. The trick is in not using too much help from your legs.

Let-Me-Up
Let-Me-Up

If your partners are strong, you can begin to raise the staff higher, changing the angle of the exercise to that of a more traditional pull-up, but don’t do this until you can do the exercise with your knees extended and your feet elevated.
At home, you might be able to use a broom handle supported between two chairs, or at the corner of the kitchen counter. Use your imagination. Pull-up bars are widely available and you could begin with one of those and a tall chair or step ladder. If you have a good idea to modify this so that you don’t need partners or other equipment, feel free to share it in the comment section.

Martial Artists

The two strength exercises that martial artists need to add are Kicho Cha Ki and Slo-Mo Side Kicks.

Kicho Cha Ki

Hand strength, in my opinion, is the single quality that could have the most impact on surviving a self-defense situation. Doing Kicho Cha Ki slowly will help condition the muscles of the hand and forearm to work properly throughout their full range of motion. It also balances the strength between

Kicho Cha Ki
Kicho Cha Ki

the flexors and extensors, rendering the wrist more stable and the fingers less vulnerable.

Doing the exercise quickly isn’t so much about strength as speed, but I do it for five seconds anyway because it makes them feel better after the Slo-Mo crunches and extensions. (When I’m talking about Kicho Cha Ki here, it’s just the clenching of fists and extension of fingers to the splayed position, not the six stances.)

Slo-Mo Side Kick

We work on the side kick for a couple of reasons. Most people who come to me have tight hips and groin muscles. Tightness is your body’s way of protecting joints whose muscles are weak. If you strengthen the muscles, you can work out the tightness. Trying to banish tightness without increasing strength is a losing battle.

Slo-Mo Side Kick
Slo-Mo Side Kick

On the Slo-Mo Side Kick, start in horse stance and chamber one leg, extend as high as possible, then rechamber, and rebalance, and then work the other side. If you alternate sides each time, like with the Dancer Push-Ups, it allows the muscles on that side to recover a bit. Recovery is good. You want to practice perfect repetitions, not mindless number games.

Only kick as high as you can control. Keep your eyes on your kick, not the opposite wall. Blade your kick properly, position the opposite foot so that the heel is pointing to the target. When you chamber and re-chamber the kick, think of touching your knee to the opposite shoulder (it probably won’t, but that will get it moving in the right direction.) If you need to use support in the beginning, that’s fine. Touch a wall, a chair, whatever. Just don’t clutch it, and wean yourself away quickly.

In all of these exercises, quality is vastly more important than quantity. Master Suh sometimes talks about how 1>1000: this is what he’s talking about. Be conscious of every repetition so that each one is worth more than a thousand mindless kicks or push-ups.

Routine

Kicho Cha Ki  3-5x slow closing then opening followed by 5 seconds opening and closing as fast and as big as possible

Dancer Push-Ups 3-5x – alternate sides

Slo-Mo Squats 3-5x

Let-Me-Ups 3-5x

Slo-Mo Side Kicks 3-5x – alternate sides

I like to do two sets for a warm-up, and then one set for a cool-down at the end of class.


Did you know that we’re negotiating for new space? Until we finish negotiation and construction, our No-Commitment Introductory Course is on sale for $1! Find out more.

Click Here!

Dojahng Protocol and Ancient Lessons

2016 Kuk Sool Won of Muncie team at Super Seminar

This article was originally published in our June 2007 newsletter. 

Dojahng Protocol is confusing for many students and parents. Why? Simply put it is all foreign to them. The art we teach and all of what we do is related to Eastern philosophy. A person who has never studied these concepts will have a difficult time understanding them. Many who have studied Eastern philosophy still have a hard time with some of it. The fact is it takes years of study actually to get it. It is simply a different way of thought.

Here are a few examples of how a martial artist friend of mine made a fool of himself because he didn’t understand Eastern culture:

During my first trip to Japan in 1992, I ordered soda from a fast food joint. When I received my order, the cup was not entirely filled to the rim. I thought I was being ripped off and asked for it to be filled up. I was very adamant about it, border lining being rude. The locals would accommodate by filling it up. Later I found that it was tradition, stemming from the tea cup. The tea cup was never filled due to the heat of the cup as well as the nature of the tea ceremony. My actions were going against tradition.

Another time I was on a train and was being shoved back and forth and treated rudely according to American Standards. When I was about to lash out, my teacher said, this is common here. It is not entirely good manners but is an everyday occurrence. People don’t take offense to it as they do in the States. I immediately calmed down and found humor in it.

How do these stories relate to martial art training? If you think about it, the word “martial” means military. Military Art is what my students practice. The simple fact is this: it is not only about battle and fighting. What we learn are life-skills. The lessons learned in martial art reach deeply into all aspects of a student’s life. Martial art is adapted for use in many ordinary situations, much more so than other sports or activities that a person could be involved in.

Think about someone who has a hard time at work or school. If they know from Kuk Sool that resistance meeting resistance is a waste of energy, then they might understand that they need to flow and adapt. This can turn a bad day into a good one! Life is not as difficult when seen through “martial” eyes. I don’t think any other activity quite compares. I believe martial art will be beneficial to all students young and old.

My goal as a teacher or the Head Instructor of Kuk Sool Won™ of Muncie is to help each student maximize their potential whether they are young or old. Through the virtues of the martial arts, I am positive that my students will find benefits beyond their wildest dreams. The real lesson is to understand that your teacher (whether myself or any of our instructors, Kuk Sa Nim, or the masters) has a great deal to share with you. If you trust in them, then you should take the lessons to heart and adapt them to your life. Do not second guess them, trust them to help mold your future. Steven Seagal once said, “Take ten years to find the right sensei (teacher) and follow them till death, rather than finding a sensei and training with them for ten years and finding out they are not right for you.”

Since we are going to be seeing Kuk Sa Nim and other masters this month, I want to introduce some Protocol Lessons for you to integrate into your training. You might be surprised at some of them. Some of them might make you laugh, but remember that they are from a culture that is based on rules of conduct between people that was designed to reduce friction and increase harmony. We can take these lessons and, again, integrate them into our lives and become stronger and better able to handle challenging situations as they arise.

Protocol Lesson #1

Never call your instructor by their first name. Always call them by their title or Mr. or Miss. no matter where you are. Once you respect your instructor call them by their title now and forever.

Protocol Lesson #2

It is considered very impolite to touch your instructor unless asked to do so. This would include patting on the back, shaking hands or a high five. Now, I don’t have a problem with this behavior. It is very gratifying when my students come up and hug me after class (which happens surprisingly often.) But, unless Kuk Sa Nim reaches out for a handshake, a bow will suffice.

Protocol Lesson #3

Service is a part of your training. Just like doing community service for a charity, it is important to give back a bit above and beyond. You should engage in random acts of kindness that incorporate your dojahng. Help clean, paint, advertise, and refer new members. These are all parts of keeping the dojahng alive and well. Without it, the dojahng is non-existent.

Protocol Lesson #4

Don’t request promotion. Wait patiently. If you are discouraged, speak to your teacher, but do not pressure them. When the time is right, belts are awarded. Remember the promotion is an honor and privilege, not a right. There are many reasons a student may or may not receive a promotion. It is up to the instructor to decide on that individual’s time and merit.

Protocol Lesson #5

Always, show up to class prepared. Be up to date on all your gear. Have a complete uniform, cleaned and ready to go. Excuses are a sign of weakness. When you become a martial artist, it is time to step up and be responsible. As Uncle Ben said in the movie Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” You need to be responsible. By the way, parents can’t take the blame for a student not being prepared. This is not a good lesson to teach. I often hear parents say, “It is my fault he is not prepared.” Think about the lesson: try always to be prepared. Kids emulate what they see and hear.


These lessons are meant to enhance your appreciation for and enjoyment of the martial arts. I’m not some control freak that HAS to be called “Sir” for my day to be complete. My nature is to be fairly laid back and comfortable in my day-to-day interaction with people. But that’s not how we do things in Kuk Sool. We are fairly formal with each other. If you follow these rules (and even use them in your life outside the dojahng), you will enjoy your training more and get more benefit from it.

St. Louis Tournament and Testing Recap

As usual, the competition in St. Louis this year was intense. Lots of tough competitors attend this tournament. Also as usual, even though we had few competitors, we acquitted ourselves well.

For our school, the weekend began with Blackbelt Testing on Friday evening. We had three students testing, JKN Anna Dodd, began testing for Second Degree Blackbelt, and DBNs Pam and Katie Turner logged another test towards their First Degree Blackbelt. The test was just about two hours and was a little different from previous headquarters tests. Still, it was both physically and mentally challenging and gave everyone involved a good sense of where they stand and how much more practice they still need.

The next day, Saturday, was the tournament itself. Team KSWoM came away with a very respectable 12 medals collectively! JKN Anna Dodd received third place in Staff Form. DBN Pam Turner received first place in Forms, Techniques, Staff Spinning, and Breaking, and fourth place in Sparring. DBN Katie Turner received third place in Techniques and Staff Spinning, and fourth place in Sparring. Blue Belt David Spell received second place in Forms, third place in Techniques, and fourth in Sparring.

I did a little math, and if you extrapolate the points per person that we accumulated, we would have done very well with the numbers of competitors that other schools took with them (fifty competitors at that rate would have put us in third place overall in the school rankings.)

I’m not ruling out attending the Midwest Tournament next year, but we are definitely planning to attend the East Coast tournament in early April. It will be held in (or near) Washington, D.C. Shil Jang Nim Krystal is already planning the trip. If anyone is interested in doing a D.C. sightseeing trip with us, please contact her. I would rather do the sightseeing after the tournament so that we don’t miss valuable training time, but we’ll see what she comes up with.

Was: Cleaning Day, Now: A New Day

This is a strange post to be writing.

Initially, I was going to request everyone’s help next month to spruce up the school. I wanted to take a Saturday afternoon in the middle of May and do some painting, plant some flowers, etc. Here’s the email that I sent to the Senior Center.

Hi Judy,

Thank you for getting the floor cleaned so quickly last week. I don’t like to complain. The floor is usually bad after the weekend, but it was particularly awful that day.

I want to ask about something I talked to Bruce about a couple of years ago but never received an answer. I would like to have my students do a “Cleaning Day.” We are preparing for a tournament the last weekend in April, so ideally it would be after that.

I would like to focus on our room and entryway, but if there were other projects, I would be willing to consider them as well. We could do things like:

  • Finish painting the large wall.
  • Clean and refinish the wooden counter-top.
  • Mend the cabinets.
  • Scrub the tables and chairs.
  • Paint with new (muted) colors.
  • Plant flowers.

Of course, we would pay for whatever materials were needed.

On another topic, we need better mats for the floor and are preparing to do a fund-raiser to purchase them. The mats I have in mind would be wall-to-wall (or nearly so), and like now, we would put them down and pick them up every night. I would be willing to allow the yoga class to use them as well since they seem to have problems with their mats going missing.

The reason I’m mentioning this to you is that they would need to be stored in the storage room and would be somewhat bulky. I didn’t want to add anything else back there without talking to you first.

Let me know what you think.

Sincerely,

I didn’t receive a response for a long time, but finally, in response to an unrelated email, I was asked to contact the board president. I waited a few days since I was sick and could barely talk without coughing. When I did speak with him, he asked to meet me the following Friday, presumably to discuss plans for cleaning and sprucing up the room. I rearranged my schedule so that I would have plenty of time to talk with him.

He never showed for the meeting.

I texted, and the only response I got is that the board was meeting to discuss matters and that they would call afterward. I never received a call but found a letter taped to the wall when I arrived for class. There was a letter inside that stated that the Center was terminating our agreement on the first of May.

Their reasons? Budgetary mostly. They have seen massive cuts to their budget over the past few years. Our rent, due to some challenges the past few months, has been a little slow, but we were catching up quickly. Considering that the previous two years we had the rent paid six months or more in advance, I wouldn’t expect that to be a major reason for giving us the boot. Well, their reasons are their own. I have a good idea what caused the unceremonious severing of our relationship, and it has nothing to do with us.

What does this mean for us as a school?

Having been given only two weeks to find a new home for the school, I think we should expect some downtime. I have a good place for us in mind, but it is nowhere near being a done deal. There is still a chance that we can accomplish the move and be up and running by the first of the month. Things are, of course, complicated by the fact of the Midwest Tournament next weekend. We will be out of town from Wednesday through Sunday.

Students can expect a phone call as soon as I have a deal hammered out somewhere. Since we have students planning to promote to Blackbelt in June, it is imperative to me to restart classes as quickly as possible.

I feel something like a teenager being thrust out on my own. The Senior Center was always meant to be a short-term location for us. We’ve been here too long. It’s time to take our chances out in the world…again.

United Outrage

I’m going to assume that you’ve seen the images and read the stories of the man dragged forcibly from the United flight in Chicago. The story has gone viral via several recordings of the incident that were widely shared on news and social media.
I usually avoid watching the news. I like to feel good, and it makes me feel bad. I looked at this story though because I was curious what the rationale of the airline would be. Once I watched the videos and read the story, I couldn’t get it out of my mind.

Now, I feel sure we don’t have the whole story about this man. His extreme reaction, not only to being “reaccommodated,” but when he escaped police and returned to the plane, was bizarre. More information will come out soon.
The thing that compelled me to write was the other passengers’ reactions to this man’s mistreatment. Many of them were angry; some were offended. A few were voicing their displeasure with the ham-fisted tactics of the police. But nobody was outraged enough to stand up and defend him.

Why?

Were they afraid of the airline, worried that they would lose their seats if they stood up? Were they scared of being arrested if they defied the police?
I’m not sure. I would guess that they were in shock. Brutality, if you’re not used to it, is always shocking.

Thugs, abusers, and manipulators of all kinds know this well. They prey on people unused to their particular brand of brutality and take advantage of the ignorant selfishness of innocence. People like Ted Bundy, the serial killer, fake injury or helplessness to gain their victim’s trust. Sometimes, a thug will simply sucker punch his target, relying on the physical shock and confusion to allow them to have their way.
Of course, it’s not only physical brutality that we’re talking about here. There are people in our society that rely on nonphysical attacks to surprise, shock, and disorient their victims. We’ve all become familiar with the term “gaslighting” over the past few months. People who use this tactic are no less brutal than physical abusers.

I don’t want to spend a long time talking about abuse and brutality here. I just want you to think about it. I want my students, and everyone reading this blog, to be aware. Watch the things going on around you. Be involved.
I can’t say that I would have confronted those airport police had I been on that plane. The truth is, I might have been as hypnotized by the situation as everyone else.

But not anymore.

I’ll recognize those actions if I see them again. I’ve already decided that I’m not happy sitting by while people are abused by those in authority. If I can make a difference by interfering, then that’s what I’ll do. I hope you will too.

Local Events

As part of my ongoing mission to help make Muncie a better place through the practice of martial art, I’ve committed to being involved in more community events this year. Since we participated in precisely one event last year, that won’t be a hard goal to reach.
We’re participating in the 18th Annual Children’s Health Fair at the Muncie Children’s Museum this Saturday.

Still, I want to do a lot more. If you know of (or learn of) an event that might benefit from our participation, please let me know. I’m thinking of things like health/wellness fairs (both for children and adults), festivals, open houses, women’s events, safety meetings, church functions, etc.

In the past, I’ve done self-defense seminars for seniors where we talked not only about physical self-defense, but life-hacks to ensure safety. I’ve done workplace seminars on the health benefits of martial art. I’ve done demonstrations for disabled services, schools, festivals, etc. We used to do demonstrations during Ribfest in the children’s area but grew tired of fighting to be heard over the drunk rednecks. That’s not a great venue for us.
I’ll take photos and post them here with a little write-up whenever we do an event this year.
Again, keep us in mind for your church, school, or business. We’d love to spread the word about Kuk Sool Won and the physical, mental, social, and spiritual benefits that our members share.