June 3, 2014

A Few Martial Art Thoughts and Observations

A Few Martial Art Thoughts and Observations
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Perspective on various flips, extreme jumps and other fancy movements seen in martial art demos.

Years ago I was training with an experienced martial art instructor and law enforcement defensive tactics instructor. A student asked him if he could do backflips and handstands.

His reply: “Nope. You think doing a backflip is going to help you if someone is trying to kill you?”

Every movement you practice should have a direct self-defense or skill and strength building application. It should not be just for show.

Striving for perfection.
Taekwon-Do students are either pushing ahead for something, or they are falling behind. The mind and body do not like stagnation and there really is no simple maintenance. Humans are designed to work hard and be challenged. That is how we have evolved from living in caves into a modern society. Striving to make progress is in our DNA.

In Taekwon-Do, there is no “perfect” technique. A punch or kick can always be more powerful, timed better, etc. A student who thinks they have perfect technique is no longer a student and has quit learning.

A student of Taekwon-Do should always be striving to perfect technique, physical condition, and character, while understanding that perfection will never actually be attained by any human. This carries over into daily life in the serious student.

Don’t wait for the perfect technique to come along.
There are many interpretations and slight variations in virtually any martial art technique. For example, one school will teach a kick, punch, or throw slightly different than another.

Often students and instructors will focus on these differences, as if one way is superior. Generally, they all have some supporting evidence to argue their opinion. This is not isolated to one school or style. Most mean well, but some do allow ego to get in the way.

While my focus has always been Taekwon-Do, throughout almost 30 years of martial art training I have been exposed – at various levels – to many different martial arts, and have found that what is most important is the one that YOU practice everyday. That is how you build skill and power. Don’t argue subtle differences, just work hard and make your movements absolutely second-nature and the rest will sort its way out.

You may never find something that is 100% right for you. Don’t sit around worrying about a technique being perfect or if it is the “best”way. If you wait for that to come a long, you will have wasted a lot of valuable training time, which would have been better for you than thinking about training.

There are only so many ways to throw a punch. Pick one and stick to it.

Also, we can never know what is the “best” way to perform a given technique is, nor should we worry about it. Everyone’s body is slightly different, but a student is in no way to judge what is best until they have mastered it, which probably comes after about 100,000 repetitions. When you get to that number, then you will be able to make an informed decision.

Common themes among all great instructors.
As someone who has spent my entire life studying and training in martial art, I have found that you will find more commonality in thinking among great martial artists than differences. Usually when you find this overlap, it is there that the real gems of information lie.

You will find the most rigid thinking, and the “my style is better than your style” mentality among less talented and less knowledgeable martial artists. These are usually those that train in martial art in order to defeat some inner-demon and are never very happy people. This type of “cultish” behavior and mindset is to be avoided and does not serve a productive end.

Try to apply this mindset today.
“Be satisfied with your station in life, but never in your skills.” – Gen. Choi


Fastest predator in the world, but does not have the size and strength needed to even bring down prey at times, even when they catch prey animals. Only makes kills 50% of the time.

They also can’t defend their kills from stronger animals, like lions that are much bigger and stronger and have food taken away.

Cheetahs are the most endangered of all big cats.

Training lessons: Speed is fine. Power and strength are final.

Training frequency, intensity and volume.
I have an easy test I use to gauge whether I am training hard enough and frequently enough in Taekwon-Do:

If my belt is still damp with sweat from my last training session when I tie it on, then I know I am doing what I need to do. My technique is always at its best during these times.

Weapons Training.

I am often asked by prospective students if I include weapons training in Taekwon-Do.

No, I do not.

Common martial art weapons such as nunchaku, the staff, tonfas, swords, or other elaborate edged weapons have no place in Taekwon-Do training.

This is from a purely practical perspective. I have no problems with supplemental weapons training, but they must be simple, modern, and relevant…and… taught by a competent instructor.

When considering supplemental weapons training, you must ask the following question:

Is that weapon the best, legally-defensible option? Or, just an archaic martial arts weapon that was not even in use in the 1950s when Taekwon-Do was developed, practiced simply as a novelty?

If you plan to learn to use a weapon in training, make sure you would be willing to have that weapon displayed in front of a jury in a courtroom. Any primitive martial art weapon is likely to be viewed in a negative light by any casual observer. Why were you carrying a pair of nunchaku or a staff? Were you looking for trouble?

Additionally, Taekwon-Do was born in postwar Korea in that nation’s modern military. Gen. Choi and Nam Tae Hi (two founding fathers of Taekwon-Do) did not carry primitive weapons in their duty or include it in training.

Put this into action today.
“Do not be negligent, even in trifling matters.” ~Miyamoto Musashi

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