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Category Archives: Motivation

The True Power of Taekwon-Do

My journey in the martial arts started when I was 13 in Marietta, GA when I joined a Shotokan Karate school. I studied up until I was 17 when I joined the U.S. Army. I earned my Cho 1st Dan in that art. I was introduced to Taekwon-do during my first stint in the Army. I earned my Yellow belt. I was deployed a lot during this time in the Army so I did not spend very much time learning TKD. I got out of regular Army and joined the Army National Guard moving to the home town of my wife, Bonners Ferry, ID in 1993. In 1994 a Taekwon-do school opened up and I joined the school. The instructor, my friend, let me help instruct the lower classes of children because of my Shotokan background and strong tournament experience. In 1997 I earned my 1st Dan and became a full assistant instructor. In 1998 the owner had to move and she sold her part of the school to our 5th Dan who was the other partner owner. He continued teaching Taekwon-do with my friend and me as the assistant instructors at his house. In 1999 I earned my 2nd Dan and my friend earned his 3rd Dan. In 2001 my friend went away to college, I took a job in Alaska, and our 5th Dan moved to Texas to help medical trauma studies there (he taught other doctors in trauma medicine). I practiced when I could but it was not steady during the time period of 2001-2010. I was deployed during this time to Iraq and Afghanistan with the U.S. Army. During my deployment to Afghanistan in my life took a drastic turn when I was injured due to a a suicide car bomb hitting the vehicle I was in while providing security for U.S. Ambassador Chris Dell on November 16, 2008.
ghowr-001-162aI was inpatient for six months, then they let me come back home to Bonners Ferry to continue my healing in August of 2009 mainly due to my wife becoming ill at the time. In 2010 I heard about another Taekwon-do school that had opened up while I was away overseas. My doctor was against me getting back into Taekwon-do because of my injuries, but I knew the TKD would help. I needed something; I was determined that I was not going to let disability become my life nor be on painkillers. I joined the school. The way I did my forms was different. In this I mean the school did not breathe as ITF does nor did it practice sine wave theory (hip rise level sink) of movements. I decided to return to ITF Chang Huhn patterns as my main form of personal practicing and improvement. In 2011, I recertified with the American Athletic Union Taekwon-do program. In 2012 I decided, despite my condition, despite what they doctors told me I could not do, and despite my rustiness, to go ahead and try a competition the North Idaho Karate Classic open invitation. Because of my age and years in martial arts and that there just were not enough competitors in my bracket; I was put into the master’s division; even though I am still only a 2nd Dan in Taekwon-do; wow! I did earn 3rd place in patterns and sparring. I did ITF pattern Kwang-Gae. I stayed with the school until fall 2012 when I had to have more surgeries and then I was medically discharged (retired) out of the Army in 2013. After the medial discharge I took a job in law enforcement and moved to a new town. I practiced very little Taekwon-do until January of 2016. Little did I know that in three short years I would be brought back to Taekwon-do in full.

My 16 yr. daughter from another relationship had run into some trouble in fall of 2015. She had become a victim to various crimes that involved physical, mental, emotional, and sexual abuse at the hands of cruel adults and as a result of trying to cope she became addicted to drugs. It was decided that she come and live with me and my wife to help her. When she arrived, she was a broken girl. While working and supporting her during her recovery she mentioned that she wanted me to teach her martial arts so that she, as a young woman, would not be taken advantage of (used) so easily ever again. I started training her in January of 2016. In April of 2016 we came to a point where I asked her if she wanted to learn the full art of Taekwon-do and not just self-defense. She did. I thought for a while and decided to go back to true ITF Taekwon-do. I knew that ITF Taekwon-do as General Choi Hong Hi created it could possibly become the pillar in her life she needed to aid in her recovery and continued success. She agreed to learn Taekwon-do and it is here that she has found healing and strength. She discovered the Tenants, the Student Oath, and Moral Culture of Taekwon-do. She discovered that it was these things that truly give Taekwon-do its power. dscn1592a
Now more than ever I understand what General Choi Hong Hi meant when he described his vision and deeper meaning of what Taekwon-do should be in the world we live in. I now understand and witness the true power of Taekwon-do in my daughter every day. It is not revealed through her ability in performing front snap kicks, turning kicks, punches, or even her patterns; which she does well. No, I see it when she smiles and has a look of dignity again after all she has been through.

My daughter shared with her health teacher at high school she was learning Taekwon-do to help with her healing and recovery process. The teacher asked if I would teach her children Taekwon-do to help boost their confidence and build self-esteem since it has shown so much positive results in my daughter. So, here I am back with and teaching Taekwon-do. Our goal is to open a Taekwon-do school in a couple of years to help spread the martial art that has become a very happy, crucial, spiritual, and healthy part of my family’s life; ITF Taekwon-do.

AUTHOR: Lawrence Jefferson II

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The Best Sport for Autism and Other Mental Disabilities

Diagnosed with shingles days after I had won first place at the 2013 USA National Taekwondo Competition (1), I, at the peak of my athleticism, was forced to let go of everything I had trained for since the age of five. For three months, I could not train at the dojo or at home because I was bed-ridden and contagious. After a long summer of recovery, I was able to train again, but I quickly realized that I would never be able to fully regain cardiovascular and respiratory capabilities with time.
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This illness helped me appreciate taekwondo beyond the glamorous gold medals. Shingles led me to a route that has fulfilled me in a way I had not anticipated – sharing my skills to help the mentally disabled in my community.

A few days after being informed that students at an institution for the mentally disabled suffered with obesity and other health issues, my sister and I started a taekwondo program. Our class was the first organized athletic program at the institution, American Wheat Mission, but I initially did not care much for it. I was focused on training to return to competing at the highest level as soon as I could, and I agreed to teach the students at the institution once a week only because I wanted to be a good citizen. I thought leading a class couldn’t be too hard, given the experience under my belt, my taekwondo belt, that is. However, I quickly realized that teaching 20 students with mental disabilities and their assigned aides would be no small feat. The students ranged from age 7 to 30, some even over twice my age at the time, and when I first stepped into the room to greet my new class, even introducing myself was a challenge. One student was jumping, another was yelling, another running, the list goes on.

After my sister left for college, I singlehandedly directed the class that had grown to 30 students. In the beginning, I was convinced that the students would not be able to master basic motions. Most of the students were inattentive to basic instructions because of their extreme placement on the autism spectrum, and the rest of the students refused to engage as a result of their Down syndrome. The few individuals who did try could not manage even lifting one leg without falling. Their strongest attempt to break a board was knocking it as if it were a door. However, I refused to give up. I started an additional intensive class, and I spent time outside of class planning long-term goals tailored to each student, choreographing creative taekwondances, and preparing class curricula. And the students did, in fact, improve. Now, in my intensive class, every student completes each stretch, drill, and activity. They maintain silence during meditation and can perform 50 consecutive kicks at waist height. They have perfected both the hammerpunch and the elbow strike to the extent that they can break boards without my assistance. I was not the only one pleasantly surprised by the students’ progress; the students themselves and their parents were astounded by the improvement.
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While I was overjoyed to see my students reap benefits from practicing taekwondo, I did not realize until this year that taekwondo specifically is one of the best sports for those with mental disabilities. Contrary to popular belief, only 58 of every 1000 taekwondo students suffer a serious injury, and there is no statistical correlation between martial arts and violence. Surprisingly enough, I found that taekwondo is not only one of the best sports, but one of the best activities for comprehensive improvement in individuals with cognitive impairments.

Neurologists, psychologists and other medical professionals highly recommend taekwondo for autistic children’s healthy lifestyle choices that lead to psychological and physical development. Sports such as taekwondo, as Dr. Fred Volkmar, head of the Yale Child Study Center, puts it, “are very ritualized and predictable, so those sports are good for kids with autism.” Autistic children exhibit behaviors where the same word, phrase or movement is repeated in an almost obsessive pattern, so one might initially think that a child on the autism spectrum should avoid doing repetitive physical skill training, such as taekwondo, and yet scientific studies increasingly prove otherwise, as repetitive practice is the foundation of skilled learning, especially for taekwondo.

The focus demanded from taekwondo can be especially helpful as a supplemental activity for children with autism. According to Erin Carson, a writer for the Livestrong Foundation, martial arts “can turn on a child’s attention system – consisting of the cerebellum, frontal cortex and limbic system – which can affect the parts of the brain responsible for sequencing, prioritizing, working memory and sustaining attention.” Furthermore, exercise increases the brain’s dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine. “These chemicals in the brain positively affect the attention system’s ability to stay regular and consistent, which can increase alertness.”

Through taekwondo, the mind develops fundamental habits such as self-discipline. By controlling the autonomic nervous system (fight or rest) while staying in tune with emotions, one also develops willpower. This discipline enables the athlete to not only persist through strenuous training, but also train him/herself in character and performance on and off the training mat. Not to mention, it builds a habit in setting and meeting goals; taekwondo requires memorization of specific forms, and belt promotion is earned by correctly executing the form. In addition, the intense dedication one must exhibit for proficient results in taekwondo builds concentration. In practicing taekwondo, students train their brain to focus, a skill that benefits in learning in other disciplines. Other mental benefits include improved memory capacity, enhanced cognitive functions such as determining right from left, and a heightened self-esteem. Since the structure of taekwondo is based on measurable goals such as breaking boards, winning matches, and being promoted in belt, students have specific figures to point to when taking pride in their feats.JO_16_0129-149-2587

The brain is not the only muscle exercised, as taekwondo also offers various physical benefits. Young people with autism have been statistically prone to obesity. As of 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that autistic children are two times more likely to be obese than children without autism, and approximately 32% of autistic children are “severely overweight.” Taekwondo is one of the most efficient sports to tackle weight problems, labeled the “best martial arts for weight loss.” The Federal Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion listed the sport as a rigorous activity, and it is one of the top calorie burning cardiovascular workouts. A person of 160 pounds typically burns 752 calories in 60 minutes of training in taekwondo. For a comparative analysis, a person of 160 pounds typically burns 292 calories in 60 minutes of playing volleyball. Taekwondo is especially fitting for autistic children; the CDC reported differences in weight in those with autism than in those without as early as in ages two to five years, and taekwondo is a sport than can and usually is practiced from a young age. Before taught and pressured about health and exercise, children become familiar with an enjoyable schedule that includes beneficial.

A second physical benefit of taekwondo is its ability to alleviate sleep problems, which are reportedly as high as 80% in autistic children. Recent research demonstrates that poor autistic sleepers exhibit more problematic behavior than good sleepers, as sleep problems and insufficient sleep can result in daytime sleepiness, learning problems and behavioral issues such as hyperactivity, inattentiveness and aggression. The most common sleep problems in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are difficulty falling asleep and repeated awakenings during the night. Professionals such as Dr. Paul Loprinzi and Dr. Bradley J. Cardinal in addition to other sources of mounting scientific evidence conclude that the more people exercise, the more people sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day. Not to mention, according to Dr. Michael J. Breus, a Clinical Psychologist and a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, exercise also helps keep body clocks in line with sleep and wake times.

A third physical benefit of taekwondo is the development of important physical habits. Taekwondo nurtures good posture. Today, 3 in every 100 people have scoliosis, including those already diagnosed with mental disabilities. Taekwondo nurtures good posture since every stance and motion requires a straight back. Taekwondo also fosters full and healthy use of the lungs. During a period of meditation, students teach themselves to breathe deeply, allowing oxygen to fill the lower and middle parts of the lungs. During fast-paced drills, students learn to breathe quickly, allowing oxygen to fill the upper portion of the lungs. In taekwondo, breathing engages all parts of the lungs. Though unnoticed, “the way one breathes,” reports Jamie Licauco, writer for Inquirer Lifestyle, “can have either a salutary or deleterious effect on one’s health and well-being.”

A fourth benefit of taekwondo is the development of numerous skills. There are three main events in taekwondo: sparring, form, and breaking. Since most dojangs, institutions where taekwondo is practiced, have inclusive curriculums including all three events, taekwondo enhances a variety of physical skills in trainees, stretching the body’s capabilities in speed, accuracy, strength, flexibility and coordination. Sparring students develop agility and sharp reflexes, quickly evading and countering a kick. Form students develop accuracy and balance, refining their technique by performing choreographed routines. Breaking students develop strength and timing, breaking wooden boards of varying thickness and in different ways. All taekwondo students develop flexibility and coordination.

Autism is becoming increasingly prevalent. According to estimates from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network of Centers of Disease Control (CDC) 2014 report, the number of children identified with ASD varied widely by community, from 1 in 175 children in areas of Alabama to 1 in 45 children in areas of New Jersey. Nevertheless, in the same report, 1 in 68 children in America was identified with ASD. This new estimate is roughly 30% higher than the estimate for 2008 (1 in 88), 60% higher than the estimate for 2006 (1 in 110), and 120% higher than the estimates for 2000 and 2002 (1 in 150). Taekwondo dojangs have also become more ubiquitous and hence more accessible to this increasing population. For those interested in competing, taekwondo is also emerging like no other sport, as one of the two martial arts hosted in the Olympics and in the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. Whether students train for fun or train to compete, taekwondo’s nature of mutual teamwork and individuality is perfect for autistic students, for students train together and build each other yet perform independently.
My four students who have recently passed their first promotion test to white-yellow belt are working everyday to tie the belt, which represents taekwondo’s central motive. The inner layer of the belt around the waist is representative of the human inner mind, the outer layer is representative of the human physical body, and the tying the two forms a diamond-shaped knot; the balanced collaboration of the mind and body creates a strong and indestructible human like the diamond, an unbreakable crystal. By unifying the mind and body, taekwondo offers both psychological and physical benefits.

LITERATURE:
(1) Taekwondo is professionally spelt as one word, but the term is also informally spelt as tae kwon do.
(2) Pieter, W. “Injury Rates in Children Participating in Taekwondo Competition.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. July 1, 1997. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9253914.
(3) Goehner, Amy Lennard. “What to Ask About Autism.” New York Times. April 13, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/ref/health/healthguide/esn-autism-questions.html.
(4) Carson, Erin. “How Does Karate Help Kids With ADHD?” LIVESTRONG.COM. August 16, 2013. http://www.livestrong.com/article/344254-how-does-karate-help-kids-with-adhd/.
(5) Harle, Wade. “Taekwondo Speed Training.” LIVESTRONG.COM. October 21, 2013. http://www.livestrong.com/article/282907-taekwondo-speed-training/.
(6) Lakes, Kimberley D., and William T. Hoyt. “Promoting Self-regulation Through School-based Martial Arts Training.” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 25, no. 3, 283-302.
(7) “Key Findings: Prevalence and Impact of Unhealthy Weight in a National Sample of US Adolescents with Autism and Other Learning and Behavioral Disorders.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. October 18, 2014.
(8) Wayne, Jake. “The Best Martial Arts for Weight Loss.” LIVESTRONG.COM. January 30, 2014. http://www.livestrong.com/article/256088-the-best-martial-arts-for-weight-loss/.
(9) Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. “Be Active Your Way: A Fact Sheet for Adults.” Be Active Your Way: A Fact Sheet for Adults. November 6, 2014. http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/factsheetadults.aspx.
(10) Dunham, Deborah. “What Cardio Workout Burns the Most Calories?” LIVESTRONG.COM. October 21, 2013. http://www.livestrong.com/article/18777-cardio-workout-burns-calories/.
(11) Mayo Clinic Staff. “Weight Loss.” Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour. December 1, 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/weight-loss/in-depth/exercise/art-20050999.
(12) Lamm, Carin. “Sleep and the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).” Autism Speaks. N.d. https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/health-and-wellness/sleep.
(13) Loprinzi, Paul D., and Bradley J. Cardinal. “Association between Objectively-measured Physical Activity and Sleep, NHANES 2005-2006.” Mental Health and Physical Activity. 2011. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1755296611000317.
(14) Breus, Michael J. “Does Your Teen Sleep Like a Zombie? There’s a Reason for That.” Huffington Post. December 1, 2012. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-michael-j-breus/teens-sleep_b_2089382.html
(15) Shah, Suken. “Scoliosis.” KidsHealth – the Web’s Most Visited Site about Children’s Health. January 1, 2013. http://kidshealth.org/kid/health_problems/bone/scolio.html.
(16) Licauco, Jamie. “Is There a Healthy Way of Breathing?” Inquirer Lifestyle. October 14, 2014. http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/174369/is-there-a-healthy-way-of-breathing.
(17) Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring (ADDM) Network. 2014. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/addm.html.

AUTHOR:
Christina Cho Profile1 pic Christina H. Cho is a certified fourth degree black belt master by Kukkiwon with twelve years of experience. Since 2006, she has been top-ranked at the USA Taekwondo New York State Championship and the USA Taekwondo New Jersey State Championship in events including individual poomsae, partner poomsae, team poomsae, breaking, and sparring. At the 2013 USA National Taekwondo Championship, she won first place in female partner poomsae and fourth place in individual breaking. She has been an authorized referee for the Pan American Taekwondo Association since 2010, the youngest member of the Tri-State Officials Certified Taekwondo Referees Corp since 2013, and the master of the taekwondo program for students with mental disabilities at The American Wheat Mission since 2013.

Christina thanks her family for their unconditional love and support in her taekwondo journey as well as her adviser Ms. Stanford for her help in writing this article.

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ITF-HQ Earns Honors

On 16 April 2016, Grand Master Jeff Helaney, Founder of the United States KiDo Federation (USKF) hosted the annual Omaha National Martial Arts Championships and the USKF Black Belt Hall of Fame. Grand Master Robert Dunn, Founder of the International Jun Tong Taekwon-Do Federation also honored this event with his presence and his inspirational speech on the future of Taekwon-Do.

Grand Master Robert Dunn and Michael Munyon

Grand Master Robert Dunn and Michael Munyon

Many Masters and senior black belts ranging from World Champion tournament competitors to black belts who contributed to the martial arts were honored at this event. Two ITF-HQ black belts were recognized for their hard work and commitment to Taekwon-Do were at this event. Mr. David Quigg, owner of the Blue Cottage Taekwon-Do (www.bluecottagetkd.com) web site was inducted into this hall of fame for informing and influencing thousands of Taekwon-Do students worldwide on the many aspects of Taekwon-Do regardless of rank and affiliation. Mr. Michael Munyon, ITF HQ North American Regional Representative was also inducted and awarded the “Master of the Year Award” (Taekwon-Do/ITF). As representatives of the ITF-HQ both Mr. Quigg and Mr. Munyon hope to continue to do great things for Taekwon-Do and are committed to continuing the great work they’ve done to earn the respect of fellow martial artists.
Kelly Lynn Sowerby & Michael Munyon

Kelly Lynn Sowerby & Michael Munyon

AUTHOR: Michael Munyon

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Mental Macros

No doubt you have heard the saying ‘you are what you eat’, and in the performance world what you put in your mouth and ultimately your body really makes a difference to how well you perform.  Knowing your macro and micro needs is important to optimum health and performance success.  However, what we feed our mind is equally as important in terms of performance.  What you put into your head is just as vital to a successful performance, in any field.  So how do you monitor your mental macro and micro needs?  How do you ensure that your ‘brain food’ is providing you with all of your mental nutritional needs?

A few years back when I filled out my amateur sponsored athlete profile sheet I was asked to provide a motivational quote. The very nature of who I am dictates that I have a bucket load of quotes in my head about various things like motivation (yes, I’m that annoying), and the quote that I used was by Bruce Lee,

Strength does not come from physical capacity it comes from an indomitable will.

I’m sure you’ve heard of it.

Yeah I know, a Taekwon-Do practitioner choosing a Bruce Lee quote is pretty cliched but he’s not just a martial arts legend, he’s a beacon of light for people in general, and his philosophy towards motivation here is mental focus, which is the point.

Indomitable will.  The unshakeable mental fortitude that you cannot be defeated or subdued.  An egoless thought that you can win.  You have to win in your own mind before you win in the ring.

You can train as much and as well as you want, eat healthy pure foods and still be vulnerable to a loss based purely on your mental attitude.  Attitude is key.  Remember the saying ‘whether you think you can or think you can’t you are right’?  It’s that.  And more.  Just as you don’t suddenly wake up one day fat or fit, you don’t just suddenly wake up one morning and go from a state of mental negativity to one of positivity, you have to work at it.  You have to munch on mental mangoes, not French fries (no offence to French fries, I love the French, Paris is my favourite major city in the world, Bonjour Paris, Je t’aime).

The things you consume every single day make big differences to your performance.  Negativity perpetuates negativity and the same goes for positivity.  A bad kick does not mean you are a bad Taekwon-Do practitioner.  A loss doesn’t make you a bad athlete. Unless you constantly say that it does.

Arthur Ashe, legendary American Tennis player of old said, “One important key to success is self-confidence.  An important key to self-confidence is preparation.” In the Army, where you need incredible mental strength, they follow the 5Ps of “Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance” and we’ve all heard, ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’.

Physical and mental preparation is key to success.

So let’s prepare our mind:

  1. Mix with the right people – you are who you hang with, don’t hang with naysayers and negative people because it will rub off;
  2. Use motivational quotes and signs – pin them around your bathroom, bedroom and have them constantly on your phone;
  3. Meditate – things like sleep, rest, yoga, hitting the beach, baths and shower, spending time with nature or your cat/ dog, that’s all meditation;
  4. Physical – Keep up-to-date with your training program, exercise releases endorphins making you feel good and who doesn’t love to feel good;
  5. Food – eat well, it makes you look good and feel sexy, SEXY!
  6. Visualisation – go step by step through a successful version of your event, from hours and minutes before it to the medal presentation;
  7. Gratitude – Being thankful keeps you in a perpetual state of positivity, everyday write down 5 or more things you are stoked about;
  8. Get it out – purge yourself of negative thoughts, write ’em down, get ’em out, rip ’em up, process the poor thinking right out of your mind;
  9. Positive Affirmations – write things down, type them up, use the 3 Ps – put it in the Positive, Personal, Present tense.
  10. Listen to Motivational CDs – Invest in Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn, Brian Tracy, Stephen Covey, Norman Vincent Peale – WOW;

When I was working towards the world championships in 2012, I changed every single password I had (and there were a lot) to “Champion2012” to keep reminding myself of my potential (I told you I was annoying – and don’t think about hacking me, they have long since changed).  I also regularly wrote down “I am a Taekwon-Do world champion”, on paper, in my phone, in my head, everywhere – but that’s not all I did – I also worked really hard on my physical self and my Taekwon-Do too, and clearly it all paid off.

What you eat and what you think will largely determine your success or failure, so get the right physical and mental macros and micros.  Give yourself the greatest chance to succeed by consuming the good stuff, because you are what you think.

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Walking The Path

The path that Supreme Grand Master Ro, Byung Jick traveled to learn and train. His path was named Song Moo Kwan. Not many had gone before him. It is also the path that Sensei Ueshiba took.

Pathway 1
The path continued and grew as Grand Master Hyon, Jun Sun traveled along with Supreme Grand Master Ro. Nearby Sensei Ueshiba and Sensei Koichi Tohei traveled. There have been more traveling along this one.

Pathway 2

Many years later, the path has grown still as more travel it including Master Tom Sullivan, Grand Master Bill Miller and Master Vic Marotta. A few steps over are Kancho Mark Crapo, Sensei Richard Harnack

Pathway 3

The path that is today. Many have traveled it and many still are traveling it. I am in this group. Continuously developing the principles taught by those who walked the first path. This path has taken us further along than the first path could, though. The martial arts are living things that keep developing and adapting. For as much as many today would like, there is no way that they can walk that first path. This is not bad unless we lose the history and traditions that come from that first path.

Pathway 4

What happens to the path now? Those who are continuing the principles can still see the first path within the current path. Those who have lost the principles will widen the path and fall off the edge. Don’t think that you know all there is to know. The path is still very much longer than you can see.

This current path is not a bad thing. It is just different from the original path. Greater understanding and continued development have been necessary to keep up with the rest of the world changes. This new knowledge doesn’t make anyone better than those who walked earlier paths. Sadly, it often makes them worse as they forget what the principles are.

Where are you on the path?

Please comment, like and share this (and my other posts) if you have found it worthwhile. Thank you!

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The Serendipity of Change

Several years ago, my daughter Erin completed a 200-hour instructor training course at the Kripalu Yoga Center located in Lenox, Massachusetts. My wife and I went to pick her up one beautiful, autumn day and while walking up a stairway I noticed a poster on a wall. In it was a photo of a woman sitting on a bus with a caption reading: “I was only trying to get home from work.”

For those of us old enough to remember, the precipitous event that produced this antiquated photograph represented a world of change.

On December 1, 1955, in segregated Montgomery, Alabama, USA, after a long, hard day at work, a seamstress named Rosa Parks headed homeward. Dog tired, she took a seat in the front section of a city bus. After a few stops, the bus driver demanded that she give up her seat to a man of European descent – she refused. Shortly after, she was arrested, convicted of disorderly conduct and, subsequently, lost her job. The response of one woman to this unreasonable command inspired the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott. Ultimately, it helped end segregation in Alabama and is a testament to the fact that the actions of one person can have a profound effect on the fabric of humanity at large. Later, when interviewed, Ms. Parks said: “I was only trying to get home from work.”

Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks literally changed the complexion of racial discrimination in America without any premeditated intent whatsoever.

Today, as martial artists, as modern warriors endowed with an ancient wisdom, we endeavor, by example, to live a life of virtue as dictated by the Five Tenets of taekwondo: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control and Indomitable Spirit. We set our sights not on elusive perfection, but on a path to excellence both physically and ethically. As living vessels of these moral principles, we possess the power to influence change for the better whether it be at work, at home or in school. Yet, when we awake in the morning, just as Rosa Parks did one December day in 1955, we never know where our daily path will take us.

During a recent promotion test at my school, the Chosun Taekwondo Academy, a ten-year old girl rose to read her required essay on the topic of indomitable will. By the conclusion of her reading, there was not a dry eye in the audience. I feel it is safe to say that not many adults could have annunciated this virtue as well as this child did. She is small; a little wisp of a thing, yet she spoke of her confidence and how, regardless of how her peers might attempt to discourage her, she would diligently press ahead with her adolescent dreams and, eventually, with those that will flesh out her adult life. Both she and her parents attributed this sense of self-assurance directly to her taekwondo training. Who’s to say what this youngster might accomplish in the decades ahead? Might she one day change the world simply by returning home from school or work?

Fortunately for us today, the great martial arts masters of the past chose to imbue their hard-earned disciplines, no longer as viable in a world of advanced weaponry, with meritorious codes of honor in an effort to survive cultural upheaval within their society. Evidence of this trend manifested itself in the creation of Funakoshi’s karate-do and Kano’s judo. Rather than teaching techniques primarily intended to devastate an enemy on the field of battle, the original intent of the root disciple was altered, particularly during the early 20th century, for the benefit of elementary and college level students in Okinawa and Japan. For the first time in memory, martial training methods were instead utilized as a vehicle for physical fitness and character enhancement. Later, following the liberation from Japanese imperialism in 1945 that coincided with the conclusion of the World War II, Korean masters returned to their native land, continuing this tradition. We, as taekwondoists of the 21st century are the recipients this time-honored practice.

Granted, practical taekwondo was initially developed as a form of self-defense for soldiers in the theatre of combat. However, by recognizing the necessity for an ethical framework intended to govern and balance the destructive power we as martial artists possess, our predecessors fashioned an environment where altruism eclipses apathy. By way of example, the Chosun Taekwondo Academy Leadership Team – a group of active, young students whose mission it is to serve our local community under the and train with diligence – year after year generates a vast amount of revenue for the Lions Club International and provides Christmas gifts for underprivileged children. Likewise, I personally attempt to gainfully influence fellow martial artists of all ages and creeds, by teaching with integrity and by sharing my knowledge of traditional taekwondo globally, through the written word, international seminars and by exposing practitioners to seminal skills by arranging training tours to Korea – the epicenter of the taekwondo.

Nevertheless, I am certain that my students are not unique in their pursuit of virtue through the practice of traditional taekwondo even though our comprehensive curriculum clearly emphasizes the philosophical elements of the art. Many of the schools I have visited across America and abroad can easily boast of members equally as devoted to leaving a positive stamp on their communities.

Yet, regardless of the source, it is often the deed that occurs unlooked for that resonates most through humankind at large just as in the case of Rosa Parks or my young student who stands ready to create a climate of benevolence whenever necessary. Given the blueprint set down by previous generations of masters and grandmasters, the important work of cultivating an elevated lifestyle wrapped in virtue becomes less a chore and more a gratifying reward. Therefore, as modern day martial artists, we must strive for ethical consistency through the disciplined, virtuous practice of taekwondo so that if called upon by fate, we will be prepared to affect positive change anywhere, anytime or anyplace, as best we can…even if we are just trying to get home from work.

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The Martial Arts Chose Me

Martial arts classes don’t just provide physical benefits. Studying martial arts changes lives; it shapes the person you are and puts you on a path to become the person you aspire to be. Martial arts make a lasting impact on the world.

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Learning

Teaching+QuoteThis is probably one of the best saying that I’ve seen for how the martial arts should be taught. Well, all education for that matter but that is for another post.

There is a lot of discussion about how to teach according to the best learning style for the student. Which may or may not be accurate. The video below – Learning Styles Don’t Exist – fits my thoughts on this, but I’m no scientist.

The key point here, to me, is the end of Franklin’s quote “…involve me and I learn.” This goes past the learning style and gets to the passion of the student. If the student sees interest and value, then being involved will amplify the amount of learning that happens. Unless that happens, no learning will occur regardless of how they learn or the teaching style used.

While I was trying to motivate a couple colored belts to step up their efforts in preparation to testing, I had one of junior black belts tell me that I could “just make them work harder.” When I asked him how I should do that, he responded with “You could have them do more drills and count faster to make them keep up.” My next question to him was “Will that really help them get better?”

That is the real trick, right? No matter what my teaching style or how prepared the lesson plan or how well the drills and other training fits the curriculum, there is still the need for the student to WANT to learn it.

Learn

Once the choice is made to put in effort and spend time actively working to learn a subject, then there are no limits to what can be accomplished. There are several examples out on YouTube that illustrate this. The key to their success is not just the practice but the commitment to learning. This becomes extremely important when you consider that the physical aspects of martial arts training (and probably all physical activity training or sport) is only 10% of the material needed to be learned. As there are only so many ways to kick and strike, it is the learning of how to use these techniques and adapt them to a variety of situations becomes vital. Seeing the applications beyond the basics is the real learning. Developing the principles (for living) and the concepts/strategies used to apply techniques provide the opportunities to use you knowledge in all areas of life for greater success in everything that you do.

I will involve you in the teachings. Are you determined to learn?

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Asperger and Martial Arts

I don’t claim that practicing martial arts was a miracle cure for my adaptation problems with Asperger. Undoubtedly, knowing about my condition at an early age would have been an enormous help to deal with its unpleasant consequences.

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Leader Development

Do not assume that you already “know” what leader development is. To paraphrase numerous articles and books on developmental systems, three things must be present for a developmental system is to be effective

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