The Tao of Taekwondo

Notes and reflections from a deeper practice of traditional taekwondo

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Making improvements

A great post from John Vesia on getting better gradually:

1. Videotape yourself. I can't recommend this enough. Whether you're interested in improving your sparring or rolling skills, a taped rendition of your performance on the mat will give you a fresh perspective. Prepare yourself to cringe at mistakes you had no idea you were making, while at the same time express surprise at how well you do certain things.

2. Keep a written log. When I started training I was given a manual with most of the techniques needed to advance through the ranks. Make it a point to note which ones need work and detail a routine to fix these deficiencies. If you're training primarily for fitness and health benefits, record the number of basics, pushups, and crunches you're able to do over a period of time.

3. Slow down. When I see somebody flying through kata at warp speed I suspect they're trying to conceal something, albeit unconsciously. The next time you work your form, slow it down as if you were performing tai chi movements. At some point actually stop midstream and look at what you're doing. Is your back straight? Are you bending your knees to their proper depth? Are your toes pointing in the same direction as the target of your hand strikes? It's the details that count.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Changes in the dojang and learning vicariously from pain and defeat

We are going through many changes at our dojang and it's interesting to notice how things feel.

First off, our Master Tony Kook has taken on the responsibilities of running Choi's Martial Arts in North Vancouver which is our mother school. This school was started by Master J. Sun Choi more than 20 years ago. Master Choi has just retired and turned his school over to Master Kook. So Master Kook is devoting time to that transition and as a result we have had two new teachers with us. Instructor Milad Bahrami was Choi's head instructor until this year when he dropped down to part time to continue his schooling. He is joined by Master Chris Yu who has trained also with Master Choi, Master Kook and his masters in Korea, where he always returns for his promotions

AS a result, we are being exposed to a whole variety of new drills, exercises and philosophy, all of it very good, very rooted in the traditional practice I love, geared evenly between conditioning and technique and delivered with great energy and joy. It is great to have such amazing teachers around us, and it is wonderful to see people responding to their enthusiasm. We miss having Master Kook on a regular basis, but feel blessed by the diversity and quality of the instruction.

On another front, our star athlete and instructor Calder Stewart went to Calgary last week for his first ever National Junior Championships. He fought fiercely but ended up with a 12-8 loss in his semi-final bout, losing to the eventual national champion. Calder took two wicked head shots, one of which broke his jaw in two places and which hospitalized him this week while he awaits surgery to repair the damage.

Calder is my long time training partner. He is a a beautiful and fearless young man and at 17 is a hero and teacher of mine in many ways. It's a deep learning time for him, a character forging event, and it's affecting all of us who are proud of him, concerned for him and all taking a close look at our art as a result of Calder's journey.

We wish him well.