Bryan's Martial Arts Journal -- 2005

Late last year the boys and I quit Vision TKD and joined Bannard Soo Bahk Do. This year will detail our adventures with our new school and style!


Journal Entries

02 Jan 2005
06 Jan 2005
07 Jan 2005
11 Jan 2005
12 Jan 2005
26 Jan 2005
27 Jan 2005
28 Jan 2005
05 Feb 2005

06 Feb 2005
07 Feb 2005
24 Feb 2005
28 Feb 2005
02 Mar 2005
16 Mar 2005
05 Apr 2005
08 Apr 2005
22 Apr 2005

29 Apr 2005
04 May 2005
10 May 2005
18 May 2005
20 Aug 2005
21 Aug 2005
25 Aug 2005
06 Sep 2005
08 Sep 2005

22 Sep 2005
02 Oct 2005
12 Nov 2005
08 Dec 2005
09 Dec 2005
31 Dec 2005


Addendum, 09 December 2005: While all Soo Bahk Do 4th Dan and up are "Masters", those who are also certified instructors are addressed as "Sa Bom Nim". I don't normally go back and change journal entries but for all of 2005 I have changed all references to Masters who are certified instructors to "Sa Bom Nim", or "SBN" for short. Those who go through the extra effort to get this certification certainly deserve recognition for it. Not all that surprising, the vast majority of the 4+ dans whose name I've seen in print are listed as "Sa Bom Nim", rather than just "Master".


02 January 2005

Patrick told me week before last that he wanted to quit Soo Bahk Do. He's been frustrated in class, finding the strictness of technique to be difficult. The ATA let him slip by with imperfect technique, and having to do things correctly is irritating him. He's had a couple of melt downs in class.

When I asked him why he wanted to quit, he replied that it was too hard and he couldn't do it.

My first thought was, "If he wants to quit I can't force him to do it".

My second thought was, "I've paid for December classes for him so he can continue classes until the end of the month".

My third thought was, "He has NOT given it a chance yet -- another month of it may change his mind".

At first I told him he had to finish the month out. Then later I told him I wanted him to give it more of a chance, and that I wanted him to continue through January. In our discussions I told him that if he quits now he'll regret it, especially when Eric & I earn our First Dan. I know *I* wish I had been in martial arts as a child, and that I hadn't taken so much time off from it at intervals. I even regret the last year with the ATA when I did little training.

Not sure he understands. He just knows he's frustrated and that it feels like he'll never get it right. But he's 7 years old so there is only so much I can reasonably expect from him.

I feel like a hardass for forcing him to stick with it longer, but it may be enough to turn him around. This is something that he'll carry throughout his life, and if I'm not a hardass now he'll miss it. It may be that he'll quit anyway, but I'm going to put the effort in to help him succeed, and if he does quit it won't be because I didn't try.

GAWD! This is so hard a decision to make. I hope I'm doing the right thing ...

06 January 2005

Soo Bahk Do is definitely proving to be a challenge. Tuesday night we learned to do "back kicks", which strongly resemble ATA "spin side kicks".

The resemblance is superficial. The SBD back kick is not only a kick, it's an evasion! It is designed as a reaction to a frontal attack, probably a front kick (that's what we discussed in class, although it's perfectly useful for other attacks as well, such as round house kicks).

I will try to describe it: Start in a sparring (fighting) stance with the right foot in back. When the attack begins, shift the right foot laterally so that it is slightly to the other side of the left foot. At the same time lean way back, evading the attack and shifting most of the weight onto the right foot.

At the beginning of the shift drop the left arm. The counter-clockwise shifting motion turns that arm into a block of the kick, which may not even be necessary due to the body shift back and slightly to the left, as the body is (more or less) completely out of the kick's path. The block is really there for insurance. This entire process "accepts" the energy of the attacker.

Now turn the head counter-clockwise (to the left) to look at the attacker. Shift the weight back to the left foot and execute a side kick with the right foot. This "returns" the attacker's energy. Re-chamber the kick in front and then put it back down in the original fighting stance, effectively spinning completely around.

It feels very awkward! I'm not used to shifting my weight like that and leaning so much! Sa Bom Nim Bannard makes it look so smooth and easy! [Which makes sense -- he's been doing this for 30 years! :-) ]

This is going to take some effort to learn, as it is a complete paradigm shift from my last 5-1/2 years of training. But it's all making sense. Now I just have to convince my body that it can do it! ROFL!

That pretty much describes SBD -- it's a complete paradigm shift from my last 5+ years of training. The differences are all minor, but so much more difficult for that. As I said previously, it's got my interest back in martial arts.

SBN Bannard gave me "homework" a couple of weeks ago. I demonstrated Songahm 1 for him, and he asked me to practice it using the hip motions of SBD. I've been practicing it, and it works. But it's changing the fundamental foundation of the Songahm forms. Another few months of SBD and I won't be able to do it without hip motions ...

07 January 2005

Class was interesting last night. The next testing is in a few weeks, so we're prepping for testing.

My current understanding is that we (Patrick, Eric, & I) will attend the testing and demonstrate technique. We won't be awarded new belts -- we're 1st Gup, 1st Gup, & 1st Dan, respectively, in Songahm TKD, and SBN Bannard is recognizing our rank. That means we are considered our current ATA ranks but cannot promote until we learn all the SBD material up to our current ranks. So giving us new belts is pointless -- we (and he) simply need to keep track of what we have learned.

I think that we will be demonstrating material for 10th and 9th Gup, which is White belt and White belt with one Blue stripe. Normally this testing occurs after 6 months of training, and we will have been with the school for about 6 or 7 weeks at testing time.

The difference in material for the two belts is apparently minor -- testing at 9th Gup requires one additional form above the 10th Gup material. But the quantity of material isn't the issue -- it's quality. My guess is that 10th Gups testing will be graded more on memorization with some attempts to use the hips, and 9th Gups will be graded with more emphasis on the usage of hips.

Assuming I'm right, it's an interesting distinction. It's very different from what we're used to, where memorization is the key item, and quality of technique is not.

Testing us on the two belts worth of material after so short a time makes sense. So many of the things that beginners have to be taught we have long since learned, so the major job we have is to unlearn our old techniques and learn the SBD techniques. So 6 weeks is reasonable. Due to our previous training our technique *should* be superior to the average 9th Gup at this point.

Patrick is doing better. He and I talked a lot about martial arts and that he hadn't given it a chance. This week he was really trying, and doing VERY well. Last night we were taught Ki Cho Hyung Sam Bu (Basic Form #3), and he picked it up pretty much on the first try. No tears, no frustration.

I think he felt the material was too hard and too overwhelming. Once I presented the idea that it was NOT too hard and that the memorization was actually easier that what he was used to, and he had a chance to think it through, he decided he could do it.

His performance last night was stunning, given his recent melt-downs. I was SO proud of him.

Eric has been chugging along like usual. He's REALLY into the martial arts for its own sake, and has been enjoying the challenge. Not that it hasn't had it's frustrating moments for him, but he's really getting it. Children under 10 have lesser requirements than those over 10, but he's trying to train like an adult. I'm so proud of him, as well!

11 January 2005

Testing was announced tonight -- it's at 11AM on Saturday, 22 January. There is an hour workout before the test, which kind of surprised me. Tests are usually strenuous enough WITHOUT a workout before hand, but I'm going to trust SBN Bannard on this one ...

SBN Bannard confirmed that the boys and I will demonstrate 10th and 9th gup material, which includes the following:

All of the above material except Basic Form #3 is required for 10th gup, and #3 is added to 10th Gup material for 9th gup. It seems like far too much to learn in three months. But let's break it down.

Basic Form #1 is 20 moves, which are either low blocks or center punches. it follows a consistent pattern, an "I" shape, with each side of the "I" consisting of low block/middle punch and the upright of the "I" consisting of low block/punch/punch/punch. Everything is in a front stance.

Basic Form #2 is also 20 moves, which are either low blocks, high punches, or high blocks. The pattern is similar to #1, with high blocks replacing the punches in the upright part of the "I", and high punches replacing middle punches every where else.

That is NOT that hard to learn, memorization-wise. Total of four techniques in a simple, consistent pattern.

The one steps are similar in simplicity. The attack for #1 is a middle punch. The defense is to step forward at a 45 degree angle with the right foot, performing an inside-out block (which may not be necessary, but is good for insurance!), then right middle punch, left high punch, left round house kick.

#2 is the opposite -- step forward LEFT at a 45 degree angle and use the same techniques with the other side of the body. One Step #3 uses an outside-inside block, middle punch, high punch, side kick as the defense (stepping to the right), and #4 is identical to #3, but stepping to the left.

Stupidly simple, huh?

These 4 forms use all of our kick, strike, and block basics (except front kick), and teach us how to move using them. The one-steps teach simple combinations. For a total beginner, it's actually quite a bit.

But it is NOT as hard as it seems at first glance. This teaches a critically important item in martial arts -- self confidence. What appears initially to be overwhelming is mastered relatively easily, giving the student enough confidence to continue.

Given three months to learn this, the student not only learns the material, but becomes comfortable with it. This is a different paradigm than the ATA, but is equally effective (IMO).

In the middle of all of this, the student is being taught to use the hips for power.

9th Gup material adds one new form to the above. My first thought was "HUH???" But it's harder than is immediately obvious.

Basic Form #3 adds back stance, middle stance, side block (a form of inside-out block), and side punch (a variation on middle punch). This is fairly difficult material for a beginner. But the beginner has three months to learn it and build good technique.

Again, a confidence builder. Funny -- 10 years ago I would not have recognized this as a good teaching technique. Now -- it's so glaringly obvious!

I need to start my site section on SBD technique. If I don't my journal is going to get too bulked up with explanation! ROFL!

12 January 2005

It looks like I'm filling my journal pretty quickly! This makes sense, as I've got a lot of thoughts to preserve! LOL!

This week and next we're having three classes per week, with extra classes on Wednesday as makeup for the week in December that SBN Bannard & Ms. Chavous were on vacation. This is cool, with testing coming up.

Last night we did "free sparring" at the end of class, using the material from our one-steps and practicing it. I did one session with SBN Bannard. This evolved quickly into a free form sparring session, as he was using SBD techniques that I had never seen except in Chinese martial arts movies. SBD has a strong Chinese influence, so that makes sense.

I quickly dropped into ATA point sparring mode, which also makes sense as it's what I've done the last 5-1/2 years. VERY different from what SBN Bannard was doing, which was all power techniques. He uses a lot of ridge hands and techniques that come from above. It all used hip and body weight actions, which would make defense against it difficult, and probably painful, if used full force.

If it had been for real I would have gotten my butt kicked, VERY quickly! Clearly I have a LOT to learn!

But it was fun. I had a very good time, although it was very exhausting. I had been sweating up until that point, but was dripping afterwards. :-)

I also worked with another adult (with the exception of myself, the class had previously been composed of children aged 7 through 15). He had earned his orange belt some time in the past, been out of training a while, and was now back in. It was nice to have another adult to work with, other than SBN Bannard and Ms. Chavous. I hope he will be continuing to attend this class.

Last week SBN Bannard told me I could attend the 7PM adult class when possible. Normally it isn't, but I got to thinking -- the boys have soccer season coming up. Practices in the fall had been on Tuesday, which conflicts with our class. If soccer practice is on Tuesdays for the three months that soccer is in season, I'll plan on attending both the 6PM family class and the 7PM adult class during that time. It will be grueling, but the extra training should really help.

Given my druthers I'd rather have the boys attend class and have soccer practice on a different night. Guess we'll find out in a few weeks ...

26 January 2005

I missed class all last week. Tuesday I facilitated a study group for my employer, to help the next group going through the PMP training, so Lorraine took the boys. Wednesday night the makeup class was cancelled because of the snow storm that dropped 1" of snow and paralyzed the area. The Thursday forecast was more bad weather after 6PM (which is when class starts) so we declined to travel.

Testing was postponed 2 weeks, due to the forecast of bad weather and some students needing a bit more time to get ready for the testing. I'm just as happy, as the extra two weeks of training will help solidify my understanding of the material. [I also like the fact that being ready for testing is more important than collecting money for testing!]

Ms. Chavous said last night that the boys and I will be testing for 8th gup, bypassing 9th gup. This is just as well, as the difference in material is just Ki Cho Hyung Sam Bu, which we already have learned. The extra three months would give us more time to improve our technique. But in the next three years as we progress to 1st dan that extra three months will not really make any difference.

After this testing we will be wearing Orange belts, rather than our ATA belts (black for me, red for the boys). I'm just as happy about this, and the boys are cool with it. We recognize how different this is from our previous training, and even at 7 & 8 the boys understand how much we have to learn.

I mentioned to SBN Bannard that I'd rather wear an SBD Orange belt than my ATA Black belt in class. It stands out less, and it reduces expectations from other students. When seeing a (relatively) high-rank belt, even if it is from another style, it raises expectations above what is realistic.

Plus I hate anticipation. I'd rather just switch belts and get integrated fully into the new school.

Previously SBN Bannard had indicated that we might wear our ATA belts until we were ready to progress again, me to 2nd dan and the boys to 1st dan. I don't believe he's dealt with students with significant previous training, so he worked things through with the regional training coordinator. Again, I have no issues with putting on a colored belt again, as it is definitely appropriate.

Last night we did review for the testing, doing all our hyung, il soo sig, and ho sin sool -- not sure I spelled them correctly, but in English: forms, one-steps, and self defense.

I've got most of it down, but the self defense is a sticking point. To do it correctly requires correct application of the hip, which is proving difficult, both from a taekwondo and a hapkido POV. Both do things differently than SBD, meaning they don't use the hip for power, and I keep reverting to my previous training.

This would be a LOT easier if I was starting with no experience! LOL!

But SBN Bannard is showing a LOT Of patience with me, and eventually I'll get it. I expect that within another 6 months I'll be fully into it. It's all a matter of practice and perseverance!

Oh, I almost forgot -- the testing fees were announced! As SBN Bannard had previously stated, testing fees are $10 per person. But here is a family discount for families of 3 or more the testing fee is $25! Not that I was worried about that extra $5, but it is a nice gesture!

And Ms. Chavous took the time to type of sheets detailing exactly what we needed to know for the exam. It's all in the Gup Manual she let me borrow, but it's really nice that she took the time to make sure we had the requirements!

27 January 2005

To hip, or not to hip -- that is the question!

Tonight we worked combinations in preparation for testing a week from Saturday. In SBD combinations are required at testing. I think it's a matter of demonstrating some practical or semi-practical applications of what we have learned. Since our sparring is generally non-contact (due to the potential for maiming and death <G>) it makes sense. Plus it teaches us to do typical (and some not-so-typical) combinations and builds muscle memory.

In a couple of instances SBN Bannard told us to NOT use the hip for a block, where there was a block/strike combination.

HUH???

OK ... time to back peddle ... let's think about this.

I had mistakenly developed the idea that we were expected to use the hip for everything, so this stopped me cold. But it does make sense! It's not possible to use the hip for everything.

So how do I figure out where to use it and where not to? I think the simple but confusing answer is to use the hip every where possible, and not use it when it isn't possible.

Ok. How to explain that in a fashion that someone else can understand ...

Right now I'm not sure that I can. I have an understanding, which may or may not be correct, but I don't have enough of an understanding to explain it to someone else.

My current plan of attack is to try to use the hip in everything, and if I can't make a technique work, ask SBN Bannard! < or Ms. Chavous > The idea is to use repeated empirical evidence to: 1) Determine if my understanding is in fact correct; 2) improve my understanding if it isn't; and 3) Develop a procedure for determining if I should use hip or not. If I can explain it, I understand it well.

I realize that in a couple of months I'm going to come back to this journal entry and wonder what-in-the-hell I was thinking ... <G>

28 January 2005

I had a thought this morning -- now that I'm back in the colored belt ranks with my rank changing every 3 months or so, do I want to go back to my old style of segregating my journal by belt?

After a bit of thought, lasting slightly less than 4 nanoseconds, the answer is "NO".

My first thought is that I am NOT reformatting my journal again! Once was quite sufficient. My second thought was that dividing things by belt would simply be confusing. Plus it makes for a must larger menu, which hinders navigation and requires more maintenance.

So I'm sticking with this format, although I will probably put entries in the menus at the top of each journal page to mark the passage of tests.

05 February 2005

Today we passed an important milestone: our first Soo Bahk Do testing. In some ways it was the most difficult testing I've experienced. It was actually more arduous than my test for Songahm 1st Dan.

My Songahm 1st Dan test was actually the easiest test I've had, in ANY style. First I had to demonstrate my rank form [which was the rank form for Red Decided (1st Gup) -- Choong Jung 2], and without a break I demonstrated the first five colored belt forms (Songahm 1 - 5), after which I was given a rest. Then I demonstrated the last three colored belt forms (In What 1 & 2, Choong Jung 1). After another rest we had sparring and board breaks, which were relatively easy.

This took endurance, but I had been practicing my nine colored belt forms for nearly a year, and had reached the point where I could do them all twice without resting. Note: These nine forms constitute 310 moves!

I am NOT going to claim that my technique on the second set of forms was up to snuff. I made it through the first set with full speed & power, and continued through Songahm 3 the second time. At that point my energy was depleted and I was proud to stay on my feet. But Practice! Practice! Practice! built my endurance to the point where I could do the first nine without a break, keeping my technique up, and at least stay on my feet through the second set.

So that test was, due to my preparation, quite easy. Others who did not prepare as much found it to be quite difficult ...

Today's test was difficult from an endurance POV. We had a workout before the testing, where we reviewed some material and basically warmed up for the testing. The workout started at about 10:15 AM and went until about 10:50, enough to warm us up but not enough to burn us out.

Then testing began ...

From a technique POV this was not a difficult test. We started out demonstrating basic techniques, then onto combinations. We did a couple combos we had not done before (well, *I* hadn't done them before!), but no new techniques, just different ways of putting them together.

Then we did forms. Forms done properly are always intense, so this was a bit tiring, but nothing too serious. Next we partnered up for self defense, a bit intense at moments, but again nothing too difficult.

One-steps took a LONG time as SBN Bannard had each pair do the one-steps by themselves, not all as a group as we had done the previous material. It appeared that things were a bit too confusing to judge, so he slowed it down. That took time, especially as some students appeared VERY nervous, and had to repeat things a few times. I believe they knew the material, but were very nervous.

At this point the testing had gone on for 1-1/2 hours, and I could see Patrick and Eric were running out of steam. Patrick especially was getting very whiny.

Then on to breaks! Those were fun, as we break wood no re-breakable boards. Ms. Chavous & I held for everyone else, and we had all successes. Patrick broke his with a hammer fist on the third try. Eric broke his with a side kick on the first try. I did an upset knifehand strike (ATA terminology) and blew through the board like it wasn't there. :-)

Then SBN Bannard broke -- he did three boards with a jump back kick, making it look totally effortless. He just blew the boards apart!

Finally came Q&A -- apparently part of all Soo Bahk Do tests. We all had to answer questions about our material and Korean terms in general. Two students are 4th Gup (Green belt w/two stripes) going to 3rd Gup (Red)-- they had to answer philosophy questions.

At this point Patrick was about having a melt down. SBN Bannard noticed this and asked him if anything hurt. Patrick said that his left ear hurt. Uh, oh!

SBN Bannard remarked that his left ear was bright read and told him he could go sit with Lorraine, at which point he burst into tears and ran to her. He held as long as he could. In retrospect I'm more proud of him for holding his discipline while dealing with the terrible pain of an ear infection than anything, but at the same time I need to talk with him about telling me he's in pain.

Turns out Patrick had an ear infection that had no head cold as a precursor ... THAT is a surprise, and totally different from his previous ear infections.

What a way to end our first test! Thankfully a dose of children's Motrin killed the pain, and now Patrick is on antibiotics ... he's feeling better and that is good! I've had an ear infection before and hate it when either of the boys has one, as it is so terribly painful.

The ATA awards colored belts at the testing -- apparently SBD does not. I guess we find out Tuesday how we did, although I'm confident that the boys & I passed.

This test was an endurance test. Nothing was all that difficult by itself. But when all strung together it was VERY tiring!

06 February 2005

Something SBN Bannard said yesterday really hit home, and I've been thinking about it since then. He talked about passion towards the martial arts ...

I've tried to articulate how I've felt about martial arts in the past two years, and a lack of passion really sums it up. I've had the interest, but none of the passion. It's been an odd feeling, like apathy towards something I used to really love.

Of course, once I realized this I had to analyze it -- like a small child, I always want to know "why?"! :-)

I earned my 1st Dan in Songahm TKD in December 2001. In thinking about it and re-reading my old journal entries I realized I hadn't learned anything new since about Sep 2002. At that point I had learned Shim Jung (1st Dan form), plus the nun-chuck and fighting stick forms. And I'd learned all the techniques that are taught to 1st Dan.

Over the next 6 months, to about March 2003, I improved my material but then hit a plateau, although I did not realize it at the time. I stopped improving and didn't comprehend that I had stopped.

Side Note: Although it may not be clear in the way I write, learning new things doesn't necessarily mean new techniques or forms or whatever. It also means improving what I already know, learning to make it better.

In the spring of 2004 a fellow black belt made a comment that she was ready for 2nd Dan, as she was tired of Shim Jung. We got into a discussion about that, and I formulated a belief that the ATA turned us into "material junkies" -- always craving a "fix" of new material. As colored belts we were crammed with new material every 2 months, barely learning it just enough to pass the next test but NEVER perfecting it, or even improving it. For the first 5 ranks we learned new material (forms, one-steps, self defense) every 2 months and then promptly forgot about it.

The next 4 ranks were split across 2 testing cycles each, so we spent 4 months on the same form but only 2 months on self defense and sparring segments. Basically we were still cramming material into our heads just enough to pass the test and then forgetting it.

Even 4 months is not enough to perfect a 40+ move form. Added to that, at each Decided rank we had to re-learn an old form (Songahm 1 - 4). So it's the same grind -- learn material just enough to demonstrate it at testing.

Then when preparing for 1D it's cram the 9 colored belt forms in and test. In MY case that was a no-brainer 'cuz I worked on it for nearly a year. But for others? It's a stressful time!

Then I get to 1st Dan Decided. Mid-terms were at the 6 and 12 month marks, with testing for 2nd Dan Recommended at the 18 month mark. Six months later test for 2nd Dan Decided. Things slow down, right??? We have a chance to really perfect our techniques, right???

WRONG!!!

The ATA changed the Black belt mid-term cycle to make it every 3 months, but didn't alter the testing fees, so the price of testing doubled. [I'm not going to discuss that today, but one of these days ...]

This put us back in the same grind, jamming new material into our heads just in time to demonstrate it poorly at testing. At the first 3 month "mid-term", we did half of Shim Jung and half of a weapon form. Next mid-term we did the rest of Shim Jung and the other half of the weapon form.

Three months is NOT enough time to learn this material well enough to perform it properly. I skipped my first mid-term 'cuz I knew I wasn't ready, at least in my own opinion. I did NOT know the material well enough.

After the second mid-term we started on the other weapons form, learning half of it to demonstrate at the next mid-term, then the rest of the form to demonstrate at the 12 month mark. In theory we're supposed to spend the next 6 months perfecting this material, with yet another mid-term in the middle, a "practice" test. But 6 months is NOT enough time to honestly perfect that material.

I was at the two year mark, when I could have tested for 2D (if I had kept the standard mid-term schedule), before I felt I deserved my rank, much less felt ready for the next rank.

YOW! I just re-read what I've written tonight, and I've gotten as far off the track of what I had started as is possible! I hadn't planned on writing about this tonight -- I was talking about passion and its lack.

But did I go off the mark? I just explained where my passion went. Subconsciously I felt I was not improving. In some respects I hadn't improved in any significant way since about Brown belt (2nd Gup).

Improvement is NOT learning a new form or new technique. For a while Patrick was obsessed with inventing a new kick. He and Eric came up with some ideas that were downright dangerous, like the "staple kick" (as they called it), which is a jump side kick with both feet striking. The down side is that they boys landed on their shoulders each time, with the head not far from bouncing off the floor. Patrick got really irritated with me when I suggested that instead of inventing a new kick he learn how to do a side kick properly!

So I spent 3 years learning new material every 2 or 3 months, but I wasn't really getting much better at anything. I was just learning more things to be mediocre at. That is where my passion went -- I was mediocre and realized it deep inside me.

Now? In the past 2 months I've found my passion re-invigorated. I have learned more in the last two months than I have in the last 3 years. I can see a clear improvement in myself in the past 2 months, and foresee that trend continuing.

I can see the path ahead of me and realize it is a difficult one. If nothing else, my past 5+ years of training have given me the endurance and courage to plow ahead on this path. I'm not arrogant enough, or maybe skilled or experienced enough, to fully understand where this path is taking me. I suspect a journal entry 5 years from now will show this one to be as na´ve as the ones I wrote 5 years ago. But I think I'm on a good path and am enjoying the journey.

Maybe I'm fooling myself, and I have reached my limits and won't really progress any further. Maybe this is true. But until I'm convinced of this I'm going to plow ahead. Five years from now I might earn my 2nd Dan and we'll see what comes. Until them I've got my passion to sustain me!

07 February 2005

Saturday on the way home from testing Lorraine asked me about the board breaking. She asked how much time we spent in class practicing for board breaks -- she didn't think any -- which is different from the ATA, where we spent considerable time practicing for breaks. Two of the white belts had probably never broken before doing it at the test. Note: Breaking is not a testing requirement for white belts, 10th & 9th Gups, but is done for fun and as a confidence builder.

Lorraine's comment made me think, and the answer dawned on me quite suddenly. The techniques we learn in SBD are directly applicable for breaking. They're all power techniques performed the same if the target is air, target mitt, heavy bag, wooden board, or a human being.

Conversely, ATA techniques are NOT applicable to board breaking, requiring that we learn variations on the techniques we're taught for forms. For breaking we're taught to use hip power, although it isn't called that specifically. These techniques are essentially different techniques from what we do for forms, therefore they must be taught separately.

It is an interesting distinction ...

09 February 2005

A light bulb went on last night.

We started learning new material last night, beginning with what appears to be a one-step. We did several versions of it, and the last version made me think I'm really starting to understand SBD.

We start in a left sparring stance (left leg forward). The attack is a middle punch. We evade by stepping to the left with the right foot, turning the body out of the way of the punch and using the left arm to block (mostly as insurance). Then we circle the left arm down, moving the attacker's attacking arm out of the way, step sideways into a front stance with the left foot and execute a hammer fist onto the attacker's right shoulder. Then we grab the attacker's right wrist and shoulder, execute a stretch front kick and sweep the right leg.

Pretty cool one-step, and definitely practical (as are the SBD one-steps we've learned so far).

The light bulb that turned on? A month or more ago SBN Bannard demonstrated the hammer fist for me, a big circling technique that goes very high. At the time I thought he was bringing his weight up, like on his toes, and then dropping his weight with the strike.

Last night I understood that the technique works something like the turning back kick, where the weight is shifted backwards in the evade and then forward for the strike. There is no vertical change in the body position, it's ALL in the hips and the weight shift.

Last night when SBN Bannard demonstrated the technique I could see the power, and understood how the power was generated. It all made perfect sense. Now I just have to learn how to do it ...

24 February 2005

I had an interesting conversation with SBN Bannard tonight. Although I do have an orange belt on order (the one he had didn't fit me, too small), he told me I could wear my Songahm black belt in class and I should line up as a 1st Dan, not as a 8th Gup. [I do need to wear an Orange belt when attending any outside events, like the Dan testing in Myrtle Beach in April.]

SBN Bannard also told me that I will not need to progress through the Gup ranks at the normal pace. I could test for 1st Dan in 1 year or 2, instead of 3, depending upon how quickly I master the material for each succeeding Gup rank. Eric and Patrick also may be able to progress faster, depending on how fast they master the techniques.

My response to all of this was probably a big underwhelming. Part of me was VERY surprised and I try to cover surprise with a poker face (whether or not I'm successful is a different story ...). I told SBN Bannard that I would gladly abide by whatever decisions he makes.

I probably scored some points for humility. And to be fair, some of that is correct. I do NOT want to put myself forward beyond what I feel I've earned, and sometimes not even that much.

Another part of me simply does not care what belt I wear because I understand how little the belt means without substance to back it up. I think of this almost as apathy as I honestly don't care what belt I wear, but I guess it probably is humility. Even if it doesn't really feel like it to me.

But the biggest part of my attitude is pride.

It took about 2 years after earning my 1st Dan in Songahm TKD before I really felt like I deserved it. At that point my technique had improved to the point where I felt like a black belt.

I REALLY want to earn my 1st Dan in SBD! But when I get it I want to feel that I deserve it, not get that feeling some time later.

As a Gup in Songahm TKD I twice I declined to test, and I declined several Black belt mid-terms, all because I felt I wasn't ready for the test, that I didn't know the material. Now I'm experienced enough that I'm not concerned about learning the material -- I'm concerned that my technique is good enough.

Even further back, when I joined Allen's TKD Mr. Wegman was willing to start me as a Green belt. I declined and joined as a White belt. I wrote in my personal history page that I'd rather be a overweight, out-of-shape White belt than an overweight, out-of-shape Green belt. :-)

This is definitely pride. Pride can be a damaging thing, especially when it causes one to make bad decisions that hurt either one's self or others. But in this case it's spurring me to work hard to be the best that I can be.

I have confidence in SBN Bannard that he won't promote me faster than I deserve. There is no incentive for him to do that (in the form of testing fees), and every incentive (his pride in his students, his position as a SBD Master) for him to ensure that all his Dan students are qualified.

So I'll test for 1st Dan in a year, or 2, or 3? It doesn't really matter when. I think of that commercial for the Marines, to be "the best that you can be" ...

28 February 2005

Last week Ms. Chavous assigned us the task of learning the first two of the Eight Key Concepts and the first two of the Ten Articles of Faith on Mental Training. We need to have them memorized by tomorrow.

My solution was the one I used to memorize the Memory Map for my Cheetah Learning prep class for the PMP certification: We wrote everything out repeatedly.

Patrick was NOT happy about this, although Eric agreed pretty readily. After some arguing by Patrick all three of us sat down and wrote out the first two Key Concepts 10 times each:

Then we did the first two Articles of Faith:

I wrote Chung Shin Tong Il about about 15 times, as I had a VERY difficult time remembering it. Patrick saw what I did, and without prompting wrote it 20+ times, as he had the same difficulty I did. I was very proud of him for realizing the need and taking the effort to learn it!

Eric picked it all up quickly, and has most of the 8 Key Concepts memorized already. I'm proud of him for writing with us, showing solidarity with Patrick and I!

02 March 2005

I learned something new last night -- I learned that I don't know how to punch.

Well, to be fair, I DO know how to punch, but certainly not the SBD way. Last night was an eye opening experience.

Last night we did punching exercises on Wavemaster-style heavy bags. I thought I was doing well until SBN Bannard corrected me. After several corrections I still wasn't doing it right.

I just wasn't getting it. I understood what he was telling me, but could neither apply it nor understand why I was punching incorrectly. His tips and hints were helping, but just not enough.

Then we switched sides, so I was punching with my left hand. This worked better! Being right handed my left side is weaker, so my left punches are never as strong. I was rocking the bag far harder with my left fist! As an added plus, there was less stress on my hand, wrist, and arm.

This still doesn't mean that I understand. I'm doing better with my left hand, but that is probably a case of not having other techniques as firmly ingrained, rather than an indication of my understanding. I still have to figure out what I need to be doing, unlearn what I'm currently doing, and then learn the new technique.

I have a feeling this is NOT going to be easy. I've been in some form of martial arts training for nearly half of the past 22 years. During the 10+ years of training I've had in numerous styles, NO ONE has ever really taught me how to punch. Especially in TKD styles, it's almost as afterthought. So I've had a LONG time to build up a "bad" habit ...

Let's see if I can describe the punch. The stance is a sparring stance, with the front hand up in guarding position and the rear hand in chamber. The rear hand is a tight fist, and chamber is against the side of the abdomen, about half-way between the belt and the armpit, palm up. The hip is pulled back a bit, but the shoulder is not. [Well, the shoulder is back some, but not a lot.]

The fist glides forward out of chamber toward the opponent's solar plexus (or similar area on the heavy bag). As the fist comes out the elbow stays connected to the side of the abdomen (referred to as the hip, although the connection point is actually higher than the hip). As the fist nears the target it turns over from palm facing up to palm facing down. This twist occurs at the point of impact, increasing the power.

During punch execution the non-punching hand remains in position. IT DOES NOT MOVE! The hips/waist twists to bring the fist to the target, but the shoulders do not move significantly.

In describing this I think I figured out what I'm doing wrong!!!

I just wasn't getting it last night, I just wasn't understanding what SBN Bannard told me. But in demonstrating it for myself in slow motion I realized that my elbow moves out away from the hip during punch execution, rather than moving along my side. I have to keep the elbow in -- that is the secret to power! When the elbow comes out of alignment some of the energy moves laterally instead of all being focused in a straight line.

The light bulb just lit! Now it's time for Practice! Practice! Practice!

As a side note, this has really made me a believer in the usage of hip. It's the secret of everything! :-)

16 March 2005

Last night SBN Bannard and I were talking about weapons. I have made bokken (practice swords) for Eric & I out of scrap beadboard. These are straight blades. I borrowed SBN Bannard's bokken to use as a template, although I'm making them out of fun rather than need. I can get a hardwood bokken for something like $8, and one that is covered in 1/4" foam for $12. But I would need to make smaller ones for the boys, as the full-sized ones are a bit too heavy.

In talking about weapons, I mentioned Mr. Wegman, my former instructor. In this journal I've mentioned that I don't care for his and the ATA's business practices. But I haven't really said much else about him, certainly nothing positive.

That isn't fair. I told SBN Bannard about watching Mr. Wegmann doing his double stick form on a heavy bag. It was like watching greased lightning. VERY impressive.

Mike Wegman teaches class with incredible energy. He gets people motivated and pumped. He really gets effort from people. His teaching style certainly isn't mine, but it is impressive to watch or experience.

His technique is sometimes amazing. I liked watching him demonstrate forms. I can recall numerous times watching him snap a side kick at head level, lock it out for just long enough that it was clear it was locked, and then executing the next move. He was my model for how I wanted my techniques to look.

Mr. Gailes' technique was always clean and smooth, but there was a snap to Mr. Wegman's that I've never seen anyone else duplicate.

05 April 2005

Ms. Chavous beat the snot out of us tonight! Well, not exactly. She worked us hard!

We started class with some quick stretching, then went into our "warm-up". What was our warm-up? Kicking drills ...

We did line drills across the dojang and back, repeatedly, without breaks, enough to tire us completely out. It worked, God did it work!!! We did pretty much all our kicks, plus a bunch of combinations. Warm-up lasted over 20 minutes. When we were done I was relieved! Plus drained and wondering if death was really that bad a thing ...

I was the oldest person in class tonight. Everyone else was between the ages of 10 and 14. At the end I was still standing, and the kids were all wiped out. It felt good -- I was tired but roaring to go!

Then SBN Bannard came in and we worked on a hyung. After practicing individually SBN Bannard gave us a pep talk, and talked about how boring hyung can be, and suggested visualizing opponents to make it feel real.

Then he arranged us in an X formation, with me in the middle. Ok? What are we doing???

The idea is to help each other visualizing attackers. I was supposed to do the hyung, and the other students would attack me at specific points, giving me targets for all techniques. Interesting concept. The first couple of iterations were a bit rough, as everyone was figuring out what to do. We practiced 3 times and then I did it again a 4th time. It was VERY interesting to do, and help everyone make sure they knew the form!

Then I swapped out and the next senior student, Sean, took the center spot. I discovered that being the attacker was a bit more difficult, 'cuz I had to place myself so that he could properly respond to my attacks. It took a couple of iterations for me to get comfortable with doing it.

As each student took the center spot, the first time through was rough. No matter how many times we witnessed someone else in the center spot, it was different when we took it. But by the third iteration things went pretty smoothly.

This was a great exercise, and it was a nice cool down after the aggressive warm-ups. I like classes like this -- real vigorous warm-up to get our blood and sweat flowing, then have it gentle down as we work on technique.

That ended the Family class. The kids left and I stayed for the adult class, along with Ms. Chavous. The same theme continued, hyung. Since we were already warmed up SBN Bannard took us straight into practicing our hyung.

Tonight I learned part of a new hyung, whose name I can't quite remember. I'll have to look it up and update this later, but the English translation is something like Seven Stars forms, of which there are seven. Grandmaster Hwang Kee created these hyung to better teach the SBD concepts, something our other hyung don't fully emphasize. This one was strongly influenced by Tai Chi, so we had a lot of slow, flowing moves interspersed with hard techniques.

This is really a cool hyung, although I expect I'll be years in perfecting it. Which is cool -- it gives me something to work towards!

Oh, and doing two classes in a row is exhausting. When I got home I was just totally drained! I'll sleep well tonight!

08 April 2005

In another few weeks I'll be attending the regional Dan testing in Myrtle Beach. Dan testings in SBD are always held on a regional level, so no instructors promote their own 1st Gups to 1st Dan. Having other instructors on the testing panel certainly helps keep quality up.

I won't be testing this time. SBN Bannard told me that I would be eligible to test as soon as I mastered all the Gup material. Instead of the normal 3-1/2 year minimum my previous training would be recognized so the time requirement would be waived.

If the "mastering the material" consisted of memorizing and demonstrating all the hyung, Il Soo Sik and Ho Sin Sool, I'd be ready to test in 6 months. It's a lot to remember, but I've learned so much already that I'm in the learning mode. Memorization is not difficult for me.

But the real issue is quality of technique. As I explain to the boys, it's not just doing the moves, it's doing them correctly. So I figure from this point it will take me 15 to 20 months.

I may be selling myself short -- I may be making better progress than I believe. But I'd rather set a pessimistic goal rather than an optimistic one. I may do better than 15 months, but I'd rather have an internal expectation of 20 months and meet that expectation than set it for 12 months and fail.

At the same time, I do NOT want to just pound through the material. As I've stated previously in my journal, I want to excel rather than just merely succeed. So setting a longer time frame removes pressure and allows me to focus on the material rather than an artificial end date.

A year from now I'll reassess where I am. At that time I may realize that I'm closer than I had foreseen, or I may realize that at that time I need an additional year or more. So I'll readjust expectations and go from there. No stress involved. :-)

Grand Master H. C. Hwang will be at the Dan testing. I'm REALLY looking forward to meeting him. He will be leading a workout before the testing, so I'll get a chance to experience him in person. This is cool!

22 April 2005

SBN Bannard has me learning the first three Chil Sung hyung. Chil Sung translates as "Seven Stars". These seven hyung were created by Grandmaster Hwang Kee to represent the central core of SBD. The other hyung we learn (Ki Cho Hyung, Pyung Ahn Hyung, and others) are adapted from other styles to fit the needs of SBD. The Chil Sung Hyung were created specifically for it, similar to the Songahm forms were created by H. U. Lee for Songahm TKD.

So while I'm working generally on 7th Gup material, which includes Chil Sung E Ro Hyung, SBN Bannard taught me Chil Sung Il Ro Hyung, and Ms. Chavous showed me the beginning of Chil Sung Sam Ro Hyung Tuesday night.

Chil Sung E Ro Hyung is the second one, but it is taught first in the curriculum. This is 'cuz it's a LOT easier than Il Ro! E Ro is very similar to some of our previous forms, meaning it is all hard techniques (well, hard for SBD). Il Ro is a mixture of fast and slow, incorporating Tai Chi type movements. It is definitely more difficult. Sam Ro is also a mixture of fast and slow and has some quite difficult moves. These are going to take time to learn and perform properly!

At the end of class Tuesday SBN Bannard demonstrated the value of the Tai Chi type moves. I'll admit that the first one mystified me. It involves spreading the arms wide, then turning to the left, pulling the left arm in as if holding a basketball against my solar plexus, and pushing the right hand down as if pushing a ball into water. I had NO clue as to any practical value for this.

So SBN Bannard got me up and had me throw a face level punch. He trapped it with his right hand and pushed it down over the left. From there he could hold me, break the elbow, or dislocate the shoulder. YOW! The visualization makes practicing easier!

Last night we did Il Soo Sik training. At the test in two weeks I'll need to demonstrate #3 through #6, and I already knew #7 & #8. The senior students worked all the way up to #14. Thirteen & Fourteen involve sweeping the leg at the end. I realized last night that I had NO clue how to do it the SBD way. We worked that a LONG time, and although I understand how to do it, it's going to take time to get it right.

The other ways I've learned to sweep legs all take more effort. The SBD way is more difficult to learn to execute, but works better.

I worked with a new student, Eric, who had trained in SBD back when it was called Tang Soo Do. He's a bit bigger and heavier than I am, and I like that. Much better for practicing than with the kids. While working with the kids builds control, I don't really have a chance to fully execute techniques. I enjoyed working with Eric.

Then we did free sparring at the end. I expected to spar one of the kids, but I got Ms. Chavous instead. THAT was a match! She is fast and strong, and the only thing I had on my side was size. That was the kind of work out I needed! She told me after the match that it was fun for her, for pretty much the same reasons as mine.

At the very end I tried a SBD E Dan Dollyo Chagi (jump round house kick). It was probably the best one I've ever executed! SBN Bannard complimented me on it afterwards. I was a happy camper.

Interestingly enough, while with the ATA I never tried jump round kicks in sparring. I was never all that satisfied with my jump round kicks and didn't practice them all that much. Not that I've been really concentrating on them, but the SBD way of doing it so FAR more powerful, and for some reason (which I can't really explain now) it is easier for me. This is strange as it is definitely harder to do. I'll have to ruminate on this one ...

29 April 2005

Over the years I've noticed how amazing it is, the way we have highs and lows in our training. Recently I've had some real highs! For instance, I've NEVER been able to do an E Dan Dollyo Chagi (Jump Roundhouse Kick) with the back leg to my own satisfaction. It just *never* seems right.

But last week I got the SBD way of doing it. It was *very* difficult at first, 'cuz I was SOOO used to using the energy of the snap to power the kick (which helps explain my failure in my first try for Songahm 1st Dan Recommended). In SBD the kick chambers to the side and I have jerk my whole body around to the front to execute the kick. It really takes a lot of effort, but when done right is a knockout kick, something that a roundhouse kick without that effort certainly is not!

Last week I used that kick when sparring Ms. Chavous, and SBN Bannard complimented me on the technique, telling me it was the best I've ever done. Granted, from the wording that might not have been a real compliment (<G>), but he appeared very pleased with my execution. That was a real nice high!

This week? I think I've got the bone density of my skull set on max ...

I seem to have some difficulty with some of the most basic techniques. I had to be corrected numerous times on very basic stuff. Other things I wasn't corrected on, but I realized I just wasn't *quite* doing it right.

Part of this is probably me being FAR too hard on myself, one of my many character flaws. SBN Bannard has spoken several times regarding my eventual promotion to 1st Dan. Basically, when I learn all the material he'll submit a letter to the testing board, requesting an exception to the minimum training time requirement due to my previous training. Assuming it's accepted (and it probably will be) I'll then test at the next regional Dan testing. No time period has been set -- it's all a matter of my learning the material and getting myself ready.

I believe that SBN Bannard's expectations regarding me are fine. It is MY expectations that are causing me problems. I think it's the fact that I'm first Dan in Songahm TKD that is causing me mental problems. SBD is something entirely new and subconsciously I'm expecting myself to come up to snuff on it instantly. That just ain't gonna happen!

So I need to relax and just concentrate on the material rather than pushing myself harder than is realistic. It would also help if I practiced more. I've been putting in maybe two 30 minutes sessions for myself each week, plus time spent with the boys on their material for the testing on 7 May. This past month or so I've just not put the time in for myself, which explains why I don't have the first two Chil Sung hyung down cold yet.

So the answer is ... make the time for myself. They boys are comfortable with their material, and to be honest, I'm also fully ready to test for 7th Gup. But SBN Bannard is expecting more from me (which is fair, given my rank and experience) so *I* need to put the effort into it.

Tomorrow morning I'll be at the Dan testing in Myrtle Beach. The workout before the testing, led by Grandmaster H. C. Hwang, should be fun. I'm hoping I'll get something new out of it. If nothing else I'll get to meet him and some of the other seniors. This is gonna be cool!

And this week I'm going to make sure I put in 30 minutes each night for me. What I'd like to do it spend a full hour Sunday afternoon on the Chil Sung forms (30 minutes each), and 30 minutes Monday night on the Ho Sin Sool and Il Soo Sik. We're missing class Tuesday because of the boys' end of season soccer party, but if we can go through all our material on both Wednesday and Friday, we'll all be fully set for the test.

I'm glad I wrote this. I've now got a plan and am feeling pumped. There isn't really much I need to do -- I just have to focus on it and do it!

04 May 2005

I attended the regional Dan testing in Myrtle Beach this past weekend. It was a VERY interesting experience, one I'm glad I had. I've decided to add two opinion articles (menu items in Martial Arts | Opinions ). The first article will be my impressions of the Dan testing, and the second will be my impressions of Kwan Jang Nim H. C. Hwang, whom I met and had dinner with after the testing.

The following section was originally the last section in the opinion article "Bryan's Impressions of Soo Bahk Do Dan Testing". I decided that it really belonged in my journal, so it's been moved here.

In thinking about everything I witnessed, I'm not sure I want Master Donnelly on my testing panel. On the positive side he's a guy who is passionate about his art, standing out in a group that are ALL passionate about Soo Bahk Do. If he passes me I KNOW I deserve my rank! [Anyone who's read my journal knows that my feeling that I deserve my rank is of extreme importance to me.]

On the negative side, Master Donnelly is passionate about his art and I'm already scared to be up in front of him! ROFL!!!

Nope -- not laughing at a joke, just at the irony of a single attribute of a single person simultaneously pleasing and scaring me.

I don't believe that anyone, especially SBN Bannard, is going to cut me any slack when I get up to test for Chodan. If anything the Soo Bahk Do Dan testing system prevents it. Nor do I want slack. I want to be judged fairly on my own merits, and SBN Bannard is not going to let me get that far unless he's positive I'll succeed.

In that respect I'm already scared to get up in front of any of the masters. They're all VERY passionate folks when it comes to Soo Bahk Do, and having any of them staring down at me (much less seven together), judging my performance and finally asking me difficult questions -- well that is scary!

But this is a good feeling now! Why??? Because my fear of failure will keep me on track, helping me to ensure that I know my material inside and out, and that I'll pass not necessarily easily, but with a comfortable margin.

The one thing I really like about this testing system is that no one school owner can pass his own Dan members. All Dan candidates MUST be passed by a group of instructors from across the region. This helps enforce standards and keep the quality up. Everyone wearing the Midnight Blue has passed the muster with a widely ranging group. I think this is the fairest way to do it ...

In the above sections I originally used the word "serious". I've replaced it with "passionate" following comments SBN Bannard made in class. He uses the word "passionate" in describing his own feelings about SBD, and interestingly enough, that was one of the concepts taught in the ATA instructor training curriculum. To my mind, one can be serious about something without being passionate, but one cannot be passionate without being serious.

10 May 2005

Today I checked my last edit of my impressions of Kwan Jang Nim H. C. Hwang, and amended my impressions of the Dan testing. Both were impacted by something minor that SBN Bannard said Saturday at the Gup testing, and I got around to publishing them today.

Look in the menu on the left for either of my opinion articles:

Martial Arts | Opinions | Kwan Jang Nim H. C. Hwang
Martial Arts | Opinions | SBD Dan Testing

SBN Bannard spoke of passion for SBD. That makes a lot of sense. In my initial description (in my impressions article on the Dan testing) I described the senior Dan members are "serious". While that is an accurate statement, it doesn't go far enough. They all have passion for SBD. While one can be serious about something without having passion for it, one cannot be passionate without being serious.

That's all I'll say here. I've already said it in the article ...

On to the Gup testing. Patrick & Eric did a fantastic job. Both knew their material well and demonstrated it well. I was so proud of both of them. Both did have a problem with breaks -- neither could do a front kick break. Eric managed to do a side kick break, but Patrick couldn't.

It hurt a lot to watch him fail at the break. He felt really embarrassed 'cuz he couldn't do it. But unlike with the ATA, I don't believe it will affect his promotion. He knows his material overall, but was hitting the board with a blade of the foot rather than the heel. <sigh> We'll work on improving his technique for that before the next testing. Also on the SBD front kick for both boys.

*I* didn't do as well as I expected to. I managed to screw up Chil Sung E Ro by consistently doing three high blocks instead of three side punches in the middle of the form. I was so concerned over messing up Pyung Ahn Chodan that I confused Chil Sung E Ro with it. I really felt like a dummy.

I think I did everything else well. I knew my il soo sik and ho sin sool well, and think I acquitted myself well in basics and combinations. Just screwed the form up ...

SBN Bannard made the comment to me that I shouldn't be so hard on myself. He's absolutely right, I shouldn't be. I know that's a personal fault, and I see that my sons have it as well, being too hard on themselves over things.

In my case I've been doing it for 42 years now, and while I've relaxed a bit in recent years I doubt I'll ever lighten up THAT much. But I can work with the boys on it. It's tough, teaching them to do their best and hold high standards, while not beating themselves up for perceived failures to meet that standard. I suppose that if I could teach myself that one it would be easier to teach the boys.

Maybe if I can demonstrate it to Patrick & Eric it will be easier to teach them. Sheesh! I don't seem to pick easy goals! <G>

18 May 2005

Last night's class was interesting from several points of view. Primarily we worked on advanced SBD techniques. I'd try to repeat the names here, but I'd just butcher them. :-)

We started out with various combinations of cap kwan and kwando techniques. These we had worked on previously, and I think I'm starting to execute them correctly, as well as understand the "whys" of the techniques.

Then we moved onto another technique that we worked on last week. This involves an upward and downward movement of the fists, respectively. The goal, at least in one application, is to break an attacker's arm, or at least damage it severely. Think of having your fists out in front, one low and one high, and an attacker's arm horizontally between them. Then switch fist positions! Pop goes the arm!

This technique involves executing it once, then executing it again with power coming solely from the hips -- ZERO arm movement. Previously I did the arm movement, but I didn't honestly have the hip power into it. It was all arm movement.

Last night, after a couple of repetitions, I think I got the hip motion. At least I got the rudiments. I felt pretty good!

Then we moved onto another technique that I wasn't sure I'd ever get. For this one we chamber like an inside-out block, lead arm low, back arm high, elbows crossed. Then step forward into a front stance while the arms both snap forward, similar to a double punch with the lead hand high.

Assume I'm leading with the left side of my body. At this point the left fist is high and the right fist is low and I'm in a left front stance. For the next move I pull the right hip back and snap it forward, moving the right hand high and the left hand low, again, a double punch. This is ALL hip, no shoulders at all!

Finally pull the right hip backwards and snap it forward again, punching high with the right hand while punching backwards with the left hand, requiring twisting the body all the way round! Keep in mind that I'm still in a left front stance! Try it, as this is MUCH harder than it sounds, and it doesn't sound easy. :-)

First time I did this I did it all wrong. The fifth time I did it the results were identical to the first. I could tell I was doing all shoulders, but just couldn't figure out how to do it with just the hip ...

After that it started to sslloowwllyy make sense. By the time we finished that exercise it started to feel really good. Although I realize I've got a LONG way to go to master it, I was honestly putting the hip into it and minimizing the shoulder.

SBN Bannard was standing next to me, his back to me while he helped Maria with that same technique. I completed the sequence, snapping the punches. His head snapped around, and with a big smile he said, "You did that right! It sounded correct!".

I have NO clue what sound it made that he picked up on so quickly, but I imagine that if I'm still capable of doing this 30 years from now I'll understand! ROFL!

In any case, it made my day!

Some times I get frustrated with the apparent density of my skull. It sometimes seems like I'm just not getting it. But tonight things really came together for me.

I think it's a matter of reaching a critical point, and at that point things just come together and it all starts making sense. Like when I took linear algebra in college. I attended 13 weeks of the class, getting good marks on the quizzes but not really understanding how it all really worked, and how things fit together. Then in that 14th week of classes everything just clicked! It all made perfect sense!

So it appears that SBD is working for me in the same fashion. I think I just needed a critical mass of hip techniques and practice before it all started really making sense.

20 August 2005

A LOT has happened since my last journal entry. Been keeping myself busy but just haven't had the urge to write to my journal.

[Side Note, 01 Sep: I wrote several journal entries starting on 20 August, planning to publish them all at once. Unfortunately I managed to trash the file, so I'm rebuilding the entries as best I can.]

Today Eric & I tested for 6th Gup. I think we did well -- Eric certainly shone! It's safe to say we passed.

Patrick, sadly, stopped studying SBD at the end of June. He decided he didn't want to do it any more, because "it is too hard". Lorraine & I disagreed on this one -- I was going to make him stick with it longer, and Lorraine overruled me and said he could stop. I chose not to argue about it, but if I had it to do over again I'm make him stick with it longer.

21 August 2005

Part of what SBD does is clinics prior to testings. This warms us up while teaching us something new. Yesterday we did low and high X blocks (can't remember the Korean for this -- I'll have to look it up).

Unlike the ATA equivalents, which use all arm action, the SBD versions of these blocks uses the hip. [Not that this is a surprise.] For the Low X Block we chamber both hands to one side and execute the block using an offensive hip.

The hip used by the High X Block is a bit different. It, too, starts with both hands chambered to one side and uses the offensive hip. But the hip is different, kind of a cross with the drum beating method (don't know the Korean name for this, but it's a technique for trapping & breaking the arm, handy when attacked with a knife). For the drum beating method the hips thrust forward and up, providing a lot of energy.

In the High X Block the action is a combination of offensive hip and what I just described. I was quite pleased with myself to make the connection, as the plain offensive hip didn't seem to do it.

25 August 2005

We got the official word today -- Eric & I passed the test! We're now 6th Gups! Yayyy!

Yeah, this wasn't a surprise, but it's nice to have it official, AND it's good to not be too confident.

I'm not too worried about the lower and middle Gup material. There is a basic emphasis on memorization, with increasing emphasis on usage of the hip. Granted, for me there is more emphasis on the hip than for the average 6th Gup (due to my previous experience), but it's still not that difficult to provide an adequate performance.

However, SBN Bannard has stated that he will recommend an early testing for me as soon he thinks I'm ready. This means that instead of having to train for another 2-3/4 years I may test as soon as I've got the material memorized and have a sufficient grasp of the usage of the hip.

06 Sep 2005

Last night SBN Bannard taught us all but the last 2 moves of Pyung Ahn Samdan. The beginning of the hyung is fairly standard, but there some tricky moves near the end. Standing with our hands on our hips, feet together & knees bent, we have to execute an outside inside kick (defensive style). Then, keeping the leg in the air we have to simultaneous execute a stomp kick and a block with the lead leg shoulder. Finally we execute a hammerfist with the lead hand. All while using proper hip ...

This gets repeated three times. Needless to say my first 8 or 10 repetitions were pretty ugly. Not that I expected grace, but it was a bit daunting. :-)

Today I re-started my weight training, planned for MWF right after work. Today I did my weight training then spent a few minutes reviewing the hyung by myself. Then Eric & I worked together.

Eric's memorization is FAR better than mine, but then again, his head is filled with less garbage than mine! :-) But at the end of 15 minutes practice I've got the basic memorization down. So class tomorrow night, if we practice Pyung Ahn Samdan, I'll be ready for it.

Now to apply myself in large time blocks to tightening my memorization of my other hyung. That is next on the agenda. After that Eric & I need to concentrate on our il soo sik and ho sin sool. I've been taught all 18 il soo sik and need to beat them into shape, memorization-wise. Once that is done I can refine technique.

Last spring I thought I might be able to test for Chodan in about 15-20 months. Right now I have NO clue when I'll do it. But testing has become less and less important -- I'm focused on learning proper technique. Testing will come when it comes. If I don't anticipate the time will pass all the faster.

08 Sep 2005

I'm currently wrapping up a first draft of the Fall issue of The Connection, the SDBMDK Federation's national newsletter.

Oh, yeah! I forgot to mention, I'm taking over as editor. :-)

Well, I think I am. I still need to make sure the workload is not more than I can handle, but so far it appears fine. If that holds true I am taking the position. Right now I'm working with the current editor, SBN Catharine Minichino, to put the issue out.

Last spring I volunteered to help with the newsletter, and edited one long article for it. Apparently SBN Minichino was impressed enough with my effort that she recommended me has her replacement.

This is a serious "WOW!".

I was not expecting this when I volunteered. But I'm cool with it. I was the editor of the American Wine Society's national newsless in the early 90's, so I do have experience doing this.

It should be interesting, possibly fun, and I'll have a chance to meet some of the Federation's luminaries. I'm looking forward to it.

22 Sep 2005

The last few classes have been eye-openers, for various reasons. Last week we did exercises designed to help make us react faster. We've done various exercises over the past few months that were like this, but last week Sa Bom Nim Bannard explained more about why we were doing what we were doing.

Sa Bom Nim Bannard is the FIRST instructor I've had that intentionally taught me things to make me faster, at least when I was aware of what the purpose of the lesson was. I've had a WIDE variety of training, but this is a first.

SBN Bannard has also taught us breathing exercises, and exercises to build chi. Again, no one has ever specifically addressed that before. Tuesday night we did some exhausting physical exercises, then we spent 10 minutes doing breathing exercises. When we were done, as SBN Bannard predicted, I had more energy than when I started. WOW!

Tonight at the end of class we worked on Chil Sung Il Ro. We did just the first seven moves, but we worked it, and worked it hard. Just before that we practiced Chil Sung Ee Ro, and during that we addressed stances. SBN Bannard worked us VERY hard on stances, and really explained what we should be doing, how it felt when we did it right, and WHY we should do it.

I've had good instructors teach me a lot of important things but I learned more about stances in 10 minutes than I have in the past 22 years! More importantly, SBN Bannard helped me find the incentive to work hard at doing the stances correctly.

I want SOOOO much to be a top quality martial artist! Part of me feels that I've all my previous training was wasted time -- what I'm learning now eclipses everything I learned previously. But at the same time, if I hadn't had the previous training I would NOT appreciate what I'm learning now. It would be so much beyond me.

We have a white belt in class, a young woman who I don't believe has ever trained before. Much of what we are doing goes right over her head. I'm not insulting her -- she works very hard and is doing very well. But she doesn't have the frame of reference to really understand much of what SBN Bannard says. That will come with time and practice.

Eric, who has 3-1/2 years of training under his belt, doesn't understand a lot of it either -- more than she does but no where near as much as me. Some of that is his age (he's 9), but some of it is based upon his relative training level. Eric really shines, so this isn't a negative reflection of his effort and ability. It's merely a statement of what is required to understand the full depth of what SBN Bannard is teaching.

It may sound like I'm blowing my own horn. But I'm not -- I've trained, some times inconsistently, for 22 years and have trained steadily the last 7+ years. The breadth of my training in many styles and the length of my training give me a perspective that those who have trained less time don't normally have. It's a matter of having the time to learn things, research things, and reflect upon both. Nothing gives us that except time and practice.

It gives me a deep appreciation of what SBN Bannard is teaching us.

But not necessarily full understanding! As much as I'm understanding things that others in class are missing, probably as much or more is still going over my head. A year from now I'm going to re-read this entry, and if previous experience is any indication I'm going to have a hearty laugh at myself!

One of my favorite personal traits is my ability to laugh at myself, and that I don't take myself too seriously for too long a time. ROFL!

02 October 2005

Thursday night's class was a killer. SBN Bannard stated that we are going to work harder to build our bodies stronger. He started out with "squat and kick". From chunbi stance drop into a squat with hands in a guarding position. Stand back up and execute a ahp cha nugi (front kick). Then do it again, 19 more times. Then switch feet.

This is Sunday and my legs have NOT fully recovered. I need to practice that one on my own if I'm going to survive doing it in class!

Then we did another exercise with a partner. Partner 1 drops down on one knee, and the Partner 2 puts a leg on the partner 1's shoulder, assuming a dollyo chagi position (round house kick). From that position Partner 2 twists and touches the floor, then comes back up and assumes a guarding position.

OUCH!!!

It was brutal!

Then we did free sparring, working on specific techniques. The lesson I think SBN Bannard was trying to teach me was to make combinations flow. He attacked me and I was supposed to block and counter quickly, with the counter coming immediately on the tail of the block, so it all appeared as one move.

Needless to say my rendition of it was a bit off from true. One more thing to work on ...

12 November 2005

A lot has happened in the last month. Last Tuesday Eric & I tested for 5th gup. I think we passed -- we did everything well except ho sin sool. THAT the class as a whole bombed!

So Thursday night we worked on ho sin sool. I suspect that will be a focus for the next few weeks, and we'll do a "make-up" to demonstrate that we understand it.

Of note at the testing I did a break I've never done before -- Yuk Soo Do -- ridgehand strike.

I'll admit I never thought of breaking a board with that strike before. My choices were that and hook kick, which I've never broken with before. I held while Maria did that ridgehand strike -- she blew straight through the board. That impressed me enough that I had to try it.

I went through that board like a hot knife through butter. My success, like Maria's before me, was totally due to proper technique. If either of us had tried to muscle it through we'd have failed. But with proper use of hip our entire body weights were behind our respective strikes.

It was cool!

Eric's break was a back kick. He aced that one -- and he did it on a full sized board, NOT a smaller board normally used for children. I was SO proud of him!

We'll get our results this week, I expect. As I said, I expect we passed since we did everything else well. But it's poor form to get over confident, and time will tell. :-)

08 December 2005

As I predicted, Eric & I passed the November testing. We did everything well except the ho sin sool (self defense) so it was likely we passed. Again, not being arrogant; just recognizing a reasonable likelihood.

Also of note, I've started teaching the 6PM Little Dragons class. This class is for kids aged 5-9. Eric is assisting me, which is really useful, and it's good practice for him.

I haven't taught a class of this age in several years and it's taken a few classes to get myself back into the right mind-set. It's a 30 minute class (shorter than the normal hour class), and it has to be geared for children with relatively short attention spans. It also has to be fun, using that "fun" to teach SBD.

The first class I taught last week was a bit stiff. I wasn't really prepared for the change in mind set, and to make it more interesting I had two 1st class beginners, a 5 yo and his father. Upon reflecting I don't think I made it all that much fun, but the boy apparently enjoyed it.

Tuesday's class was much better. One student has been with the school for months, while the two girls recently started. I shifted things a bit, changing from basic SBD instruction to fun stuff, and back again. Then tonight I had the father-and-son again, and made the class far more enjoyable for the boy while managing to teach SBD.

SBN Bannard's last patient ran way over so I opened the adult 6:30PM class, and ended up teaching a large part of it. It was an interesting mix, because I had a green belt & a red belt; a white belt of a few weeks' training, and the father-and-son beginners. I broke the class into three parts and later condensed it into 2. I think it went well ... WHEW! That is good training for me as an instructor!

SBN Bannard "snuck" in at some point while I was working with the white belts. [He had visited the class previously and we had recognized him, so I don't think I violated any SBD protocol. :-) ] Suddenly I realized he was working with the upper belts, then he collapsed us all back into a single group for some final basic instruction. [SBN Bannard is normally there for the beginning of the 6:30 class, although he occasionally has a patient that runs over, so I warm-up the class for him in these situations.]

He did something nice -- he recognized to the class that I had "sacrificed" my training time to teach class in his absence.

I made it a point to mention to him after class that I hadn't sacrificed anything. One of my goals is certified instructor, which I can test for after I earn my 2nd Dan. So tonight made excellent training for that particular goal! :-)

09 December 2005

I realize why the Federation requires 2nd Dan as a prerequisite to test for certified instructor.

From my previous experience in martial arts along with the last year's training in SBD I have a great deal of practical SBD knowledge. In addition I have extensive experience in teaching, both in martial arts and in the business arena. This all helps me recognize that my current experience level qualifies me to teach basics to white belts, and maybe orange belts, but I have SOOOO much more to learn before I'm ready to teach those of higher level.

SBN Bannard's ability to explain things is far beyond my own. Which makes sense -- he's a 6th Dan who's been training for 30+ years in one art. If he can't do better than me there's something seriously wrong! Due to his experience level his knowledge is almost instinctive.

This is not to belittle my own accomplishments. SBN Bannard has spoken several times about an acceleration of learning, where we reach a certain level (or critical mass of understanding?) after which things seem to take off. The past few months have demonstrated that in me. Things that just didn't feel right suddenly do feel right; my understanding of usage of hip has taken a quantum leap.

The ATA accepts instructors into their training program as low as green belt, about 8 months of training. For the people in the program, it's a fantastic boost to their own training. Learning something well enough to teach it requires extra effort on the part of the instructor and instills better understanding of the material. I was in that program and it made a huge difference in my learning.

At the same time, those who don't truly understand the material always teach it incorrectly. With the ATA I had two different 1st Dan instructors teach me different ways to perform a technique, and then later the chief instructor taught me yet a third way (which to my understanding was the correct way). This generates confusion, as I've previously noted in my journal.

I've been taught by a variety of levels, from people barely above my own level to those way above me. As a general rule, those of higher level understood the material better, and therefore taught it better (allowing for teaching skills). The obvious point is no one can teach something better than they understand it.

When the Federation requires 2nd Dan before testing for certified instructor, it enforces a minimum level of knowledge, understanding, and experience in its candidates. That, added to periodic refreshers from the Kwan Jang Nim to all his Dan members, keeps us all performing our techniques the same way. I have confidence that I can go to just about any SBD studio in the world and perform my techniques as they do.

That is why I have to wait until I earn Eedan before I can test for certified instructor.

31 December 2005

Ahhh! My last journal entry for 2005! Before I formulated this entry I wondered if I had anything profound to say in my last journal entry for 2005. I surprised myself, because I do.

I learned more about the use of hip in the last three classes than in the last year of training.

That's an interesting statement to make. It could easily be taken negatively, either in terms of the the quality of the instruction I receive ("what was wrong with the instruction that you didn't learn this in the last year?"), or in terms of *my* ability ("why didn't you learn this in the past year?").

The reality is that it's a commentary on the learning process. I spent 2-1/2 years earning my Dan in Songahm TKD, only to discard that training and start something new upon beginning my training as a Black belt. There's no way to short cut that process. Some people will shorten it, due to innate ability or additional effort, but the Gup training is necessary prior to beginning the Dan training. There is no way to just start with Dan training, because the student does not have the proper frame of reference to learn the material.

We spend a year in kindergarten, mostly getting ready for elementary school. Then we spend 6 (or 5) years in elementary school preparing for middle school. Then we spend 2 (or 3) years in middle school preparing for high school, and then 4 years in high school preparing for college. THEN we earn our bachelor degree preparing us either for the work force or an advanced degree.

Regardless of what we learn at each level (and it's a LOT), we spend as much time prepping for the next level.

So I spent the last 1+ years learning enough to prepare me to learn the lessons that SBN Bannard has taught me in the last 3 classes. If that isn't profound I don't know what is. :-)


Copyright 1999-2008 Bryan Fazekas