This year is producing a number of changes. It has seen me doing a LOT of nothing. It has seen a change in the way I'm recording my journal. And it has seen me part ways with the ATA.
During the past 14 months I haven't updated this journal at all. For all my dedicated readers, here's a recap of what I've done (or not done) during that time.
At the Allen's Tiger Tournament in August 2003 I was injured in sparring. I pulled a muscle on the right side of my groin. This was a nasty one -- it hurt bad enough that rolling over in bed was difficult. It kept me out of training for 10 weeks.
I started attending classes sporadically after that, but my rhythm had been broken. It's amazing how hard it is to get back into training after a break. I continued to assist in teaching my children's classes, but was not training consistently.
Through the spring of 2004 I attended classes less and less often, and finally stopped, although I continued to assist with my children's classes and to provide support at testing time. Then in April I started studying for a professional certification (Project Management Institute's Project Management Professional - PMP). That consumed time, and made a good excuse for not getting myself going again.
During the spring and summer I did have a number of minor injuries that put a crimp in any desires to get back into training. I strained each knee in succession -- not working out, but mowing the lawn. I have a large lawn and it has a relatively steep grade in a few places, requiring me to shift the mower instead of just pushing it. After 2-1/2 hours of lawn mowing I got careless and wasn't using good body mechanics, and managed to twist my left knee. A few weeks later it was better and I proceeded to twist my right knee. Then I managed to strain that pesky groin muscle again!
Feeding my lack of motivation were on-going differences with the ATA and the school owner.
My differences with the ATA? Mostly money. The cost for testings went up again last year, and I was having more and more difficulty forking out $60 per child for testings every other month, plus having to fork out $65 for mid-terms for myself every 3 months.
IMO these testing fees are excessive, and as time went on I had more and more issue with it, as it felt I was simply forking out money for nothing! What was I getting from the ATA for the $120 I forked out every 2 months? Two $6 belts and two certificates that were worth $0.02 collectively.
If the fees had been something like $20 or $30 (per child) I would not have batted an eyelash. Testing fees of $30 I can deal with -- $10 for materials, $10 for the school, and $10 for the ATA. But $60? It became more and more ridiculous, the more I thought of it.
<sigh> At some later date I'll describe my feelings regarding the ATA's black belt mid-term schedule, but just don't feel like getting into it today.
My differences with the school owner? I'm not going to publicly discuss that here, either. Maybe at a later date ... or maybe not.
Foolishly I'm paying for training I'm not using -- one thing I dislike about contracts. Any way -- I'm pushing myself back into training, although I haven't started attending classes yet. I've let myself go enough that I don't feel I'm yet up to a black belt work out. Probably in another month I'll rejoin classes.
I'm in a quandary of what to do. The boys' membership with Vision TKD is up for renewal in a few weeks, on 29 November. Do I renew them or not?
In recent months I've considered changing schools, but there is nothing close to us. There is another local school but neighbors whose child attended there for a while gave negative feedback about instructor quality, something I had also heard from someone else whose opinion I trust, so that is out. Everything else is at least 10 miles away.
It's a tough decision, as the boys are now Red belt Decided. In December they test for the Red/Black (1st Dan Recommended) and I am LONG past eligible to test for 2nd Dan Recommended (next BB testing also in December). Then the boys could test as early as March for 1st Dan Decided. Starting at another school/style will set them back at least a year, assuming their current rank is recognized.
But I consider that Patrick & Eric are 7 and 8, respectively. Another year (or more) will simply make them better black belts when they do get it. As much as they want that belt, I'd rather have them older with more training so that they're better when they do get it.
After my first few months of training as a BB I started feeling negatively about myself and my belt. It was two years after earning my belt that I started to believe that I really deserved it. That is feeding my feelings on this, so again, I'd rather have the boys a bit older and more experienced when they get theirs. I want them to not only deserve their belts, I want them to feel that they do.
In re-reading what I've written, I realize I've made the decision to change schools. Now just a matter of picking one ...
I passed the test for my PMP!!! YAYYY!!! NO MORE STUDYING!!! I am so happy to have that over with. The past 2 months have been strenuous in terms of studying, capped by a four day, 10 hours per day prep course, and then the test! That doesn't even count the 6 months of sporadic studying I did before that.
I've had more e-mails with the owner of a small school in Cary, about 15 miles away. Lorraine saw an ad in the Penny Saver, and I first contacted him in September. At that time I was considering changing schools, but hadn't really gotten serious about it. I did want to meet the owner and observe his classes, but wasn't really serious about changing. At least I don't think I was. Or maybe subconsciously I knew a change is on the horizon ...
His is a Soo Bahk Do school, or is it Moo Duk Kwan? Not sure what the difference is yet. I checked the national web site and that didn't explain it either -- or maybe I just didn't find the explanation.
The information I've received via e-mail looks good, but I want to observe his classes prior to participating. There is a family class I can attend with the boys -- that makes logistics possible. Classes are Tuesday and Thursday, but if we have to attend different classes it will make for too long an evening for the boys.
Master Bannard has indicated he will recognize our ranks, and wants us to come in for a demo class -- he told us to wear our ATA uniforms and belts. We will have to learn all material up to our current rank before we can progress. Which is cool, simply because it cuts out all the intermediate testing fees! Although that isn't as big a deal here, as the testing fees are $10. That saves me a few hundred bucks!
Something is strange at Vision TKD. Normally someone starts talking membership renewal a month or more before the current one expires. No one has said a word about the boys yet and theirs expires in about a week. And my membership, which is actually held by Allen's TKD in Cary, expired at the end of September. No one has said a word about that, either.
Granted, I'm not attending any classes, but I'm assisting the instruction of 2 or 3 classes each week, so it makes me wonder. Maybe my presence is no longer desired?
I stopped in at Bannard Soo Bahk Do tonight and observed the Little Dragons and Family classes. This style is traditional, VERY much like my first TKD style, Kang Duk Won. Big emphasis on using the hips for power. Big difference from the ATA and other styles I've trained in since that time, 20+ years ago.
Both instructors emphasize quality of technique. I like that, as I believe it is far easier to correct mistakes early on rather than try to correct them after someone makes black belt. I've worked with my children on stances, and it's a never ending battle. For some of the Red/Blacks (1st Dan Recommended) I've trained in the past 6 months? HAH! It's a fruitless battle to teach some to execute a correct front stance.
Soo Bahk Do is definitely a military style. The moves are fluid, but rather abrupt, designed for speed and power. It's not ATA, which tends to be more graceful. Again, very much like the first style I learned.
The owner, Master Bannard, talked my ear off. Yeah -- go ahead and laugh! Anyone who knows me knows it's nearly impossible to get me to shut up! LOL!
He was full of information about the style, and pulled out some reference books on ancient Korean style. I really enjoyed talking to him. If anything it was more information than I could digest in one session!
The other instructor, Ms. Chavous, was great with the Little Dragons class. Teaching small children can be very difficult -- I remember my first day in the Tiny Tigers class, when I was simply assisting and not the main instructor! Scary! And that's just the parents! ROFL!
Even with the little ones she was emphasizing quality of technique, although expectations have to be lower for the Little Dragons.
I was most interested in the family class, as that is the one we would attend. Tonight it's all kids in the10-15 range, which still gives me a good feel.
The end result is that the boys and I will try the family class next Tuesday.
We tried our first class last night. It was tough on the boys, as they're the youngest in the class. And I'm the oldest. Everyone else is 10 to 15 (or so).
The warm-ups were a bit rough, mostly aggressive stretching. I liked it -- some of the stretches were new to me, and really seemed to help me.
Most of the terms are in Korean -- had to dredge my memory on how to count in Korean. This is going to be a bit of a challenge, in the short term. :-)
I didn't find the class too strenuous, but it was invigorating. I haven't trained in using the hips in this fashion in years -- it was a bit of an adjustment. Patrick started to get frustrated about half way through the hour-long class, and Eric was looking tired shortly after that.
This gave me some serious doubts. I like the class, but it may not be the ideal one for the boys. As I've said previously, we need to attend the same class, due to distance and timing.
After the class I asked the boys if they liked it. Both were very enthusiastic about it -- that really surprised me! Patrick said, "This class is more interesting", in that we didn't spend 45 minutes doing forms -- we worked on basics and the class varied.
Each class has a theme, basically a set of goals. We're told what the theme is at the beginning of class and work towards it. This is good, and the classes I've observed/attended varied in structure, making it more interesting (as per Patrick's statement).
So we're going to give it a try. There is no contract so we can pay by the month, and that is good. I figure we'll take it month-by-month, and either give it a thumbs up or thumbs down.
Last night we had our third class. For me it was the most difficult. Ms. Chavous warmed us up and then Master Bannard took over. We worked concepts last night, working on little pieces and stressing technique.
Master Bannard spoke of contraction and expansion, and offensive and defensive. It's all tougher than what I've done in recent years, and would be difficult for one instructor to teach a group of 20 kids. It would be difficult to teach to a large group of adults!
One of these days I'll write a description of contraction and expansion, when I feel I have a better grasp on the explanation. I understand it to use it, but not well enough to explain it. One of these days ...
But we really beat on technique. I need a lot of work on this -- it's coming back to me, I have learned this before, but it's going back 20 years. It's an uphill battle, but that's good -- martial arts has my interest again!
Patrick had a mini-meltdown at the end of class. He and Eric were working together on an exercise and Patrick wasn't understanding, and chose to fight with Eric rather than listen. Then Eric refused to let it go until I had to shut him up.
Not a good impression to give ...
Later I spoke with each individually. If they have a disagreement, they must ask an instructor. And I also explained that the next fight in class would result in both of them wearing white belts ...
We had no class last week. Master Bannard, Ms. Chavous, and their kids went on a cruise, taking the week off. To make up for the lost week, we have an extra class this Wednesday and the following Wednesday. That is cool, as having class 3 nights in a row is more intense.
My plan had been for us to work 30 minutes each day on Soo Bahk Do. Didn't happen. We practiced, at best, every third night, and went about an hour rather than the 30 minutes.
The boys are picking up on the differences, but some of it is so difficult for them. It's the little things that really get them. Hand techniques are doing well, but the kicks are a problem.
This is NOT anything that practice won't solve. I knew it was going to be difficult, and I have to be patient. It's nothing that will get fixed in one night or one week, or even in one month. I've been through this before -- unlearning one style and learning a new one. I remember how long it took to unlearn C-shaped foot movements and make everything a straight movement. Now I'm learning to do C-shaped movements again…
But I'm proud of the boys for working so hard! They're starting to get it!
Memorization of Basic Form #1 is no biggie for them. They both have learned multiple forms that are far more complicated. It's the technique that is proving difficult. Vision TKD didn't worry about technique (which is why I wasted a lot of time teaching 1st Degree Recommended students how to do front stances). As much as I've pushed them on it, quality of technique is not something that has been drilled into my sons, and it is certainly a challenge now!
I've been trying very hard to not criticize Vision TKD or the ATA. But it's so damned hard not to. The boys have had 3 years of instruction where quality of technique was not stressed -- everything was geared towards prepping people for the next test, with the goal of collecting testing fees as the primary motivator. Quality martial arts was not even in the picture!
So whose fault is this? If my opinion of this was so low, why did I stick with it?
Because I was used to it and because the school was convenient. I took the easy way out.
Vision TKD and the ATA sell a product. If it's not a good quality product, well, that's for the buyer to decide. The buyer has the choice of buying there or NOT buying there. It's as simple as that.
Copyright 1999-2008 Bryan Fazekas