Martial Arts Related Emails with Friends

On this page are excerpts from emails with friends regarding martial arts. Is there anything significant here? You be the judge.

training and what to focus on ...

An excerpt from a long email conversation with Nicole, a fellow black belt with Vision TKD. This was a reply to several comments of Nicole's in a previous email.

Thursday, April 29, 2004 9:09:12 PM

> I often wonder if I wouldn't just enjoy a summer break from
> Taekwondo. I worry I might not go back if I take a break though.

A break from TKD, or a break from class?

I went downstairs a while ago with my sticks & chuks. Spent half an hour just working the forms. It felt good to do that. Hadn't picked up either in months. I've been a slacker ...

It appears my issue is with the overall ATA approach. The colored belts spend SO much time learning new material that we never had a chance to hone anything. The schedule is designed to maintain interest, but it fails quality assurance.

As black belts we still focus so heavily on learning new material. The three month mid-term schedule reinforces that idea. At the first mid-term we're supposed to demonstrate half of shim jun and half of a weapons form. Both are complicated enough that 3 months really isn't enough time to get 'em down cold.

I skipped my first two mid-term, the first because of illness and travel, the second because two weeks before the mid-term I didn't know my stick form well enough to show it. Supposedly at the first and third mid-terms the weapons forms are not supposed to be polished, but I have a fundamental problem with that. If *I* am going to get up in front of 100+ people I damned sure want to look like I have a clue!

I used to belong to Bailey's, a tournament school in Upstate NY run by a husband and wife team. She was really into forms, and he was really into sparring. They both covered all bases, but emphasized their likes. Given that each taught half the classes, it balanced out nicely.

We had a 4 month testing cycle. During that 4 months we had to learn a *bunch* of basics (like 10-15), one form, and three one-steps. *Plus* remember all previous basics, forms, & one-steps. We had to do all forms at testing, plus all basics, and the current one-steps. Made for a long testing.

Yeah, we got the material in the first month of each cycle. Then we honed them. Stances were down cold by the green belt (equivalent to ATA orange). There was no correctly stances at brown belt level -- LONG before that all stances were perfect.

Each class we worked basics, and got them perfect (well, as perfect as beginners will get 'em!). And we worked forms and one-steps. Every other class we did sparring. Not all free sparring -- we did a lot of drills, like spending 30 minutes on learning to defend against round kicks. REALLY useful stuff. We did a lot of things that taught us to be martial artists, not just forms.

Occasionally we sparred the entire class. Pick a partner; spar three 3 minutes rounds with 1 minute in between. Take a 2 minute break, during which we chose new partners. Spar three 3 minute rounds with 1 minute in between, then a 2 minute break. Do it again. Do it again.

By the 4th partner (sometimes the 3rd) no one was kicking because no one could get their feet up above their own knees!!! :-O

This was endurance training. It taught us to keep going, and it taught us how to fight when dead tired. I had a new respect for boxers who could go 10 rounds. Or even 5.

If you want some interesting reading, check out the news group alt.martial-arts.tae-kwon-do

> I have lost 12 pounds this year (not too much) and would really
> like to lose 50 more and I think I might need to start going to a
> gym for that kind of major change. TKD is just not cutting it for
> me any more.

Adopt a new eating regimen (I don't use the word "diet" because Americans abuse it too much) and start weight lifting.

I'm currently eating 5 or 6 meals per day. Two meals are vegetarian -- I take baggies of veggies to work with me and eat them mid-morning and mid-afternoon. In addition I restrict my intake of non-dairy white stuff -- white flour, sugar, rice, and potatoes.

I did low-carb for 3 months, but high protein diets are bad for the liver and kidneys. Just cut out stuff with high glycemic values, like non-dairy white stuff and beer.

That plus moderate weight lifting will make a difference in 3 months.

> I'd like to learn something new, but you are right about the
> instruction. It is so inconsistent. I don't feel like I am getting
> the attention I am paying for. There is a group of "stars" and
> they get all the attention. That is my big gripe.

[The following comments also apply to me and any other ATA black belt. After re-reading what I wrote I was concerned that it might feel like personal criticism. If anything, it's self criticism.]

Again, you're trained to crave new material. Try focusing on making your current material better. Start with stances. Make then consistent. Middle, front, and back stances should be the same length. Do ANY form and see if you end in the same place you started. If not, fix your stances. THAT will keep you entertained for months!!! :-O

Do you have a video camera? If so, video yourself while doing forms. Watching yourself on video is a sobering experience. I did that for the first time at red belt and nearly quit, I was so unhappy with what I looked like.

Be critical with yourself *without* abusing yourself. Start w/Songahm 1. Make it perfect. Then move to Songahm 2 and do the same. I bet you can keep yourself entertained for a year doing this. It works for me! ;-)

The ATA way is to promote people for time in rank. I don't buy that, which is why I'm 30 months into an 18 month schedule for 2R. *IF* I get satisfied with myself by June I'll test for 2R. If not, I won't. The belt doesn't matter -- it's what I feel about myself. If I'm not feeling like 2R material, then I won't test.

the price of training

A reply to my friend Rob, an aikido practitionery, about the cost of my training with Vision TKD.

Thursday, August 5, 2004 8:45:26 AM

> Just curious, how much do you pay for TKD classes?

Too damned much!

I signed up nearly 3 years ago for a 3 year program. For $91.31/month (direct draft) I can attend as many TKD classes per week as I desired (out of 4), plus sparring class, weapons class, 2 hapkido classes and 2 DCS classes (Defensive Combat Systems, based on muy thai kick boxing).

Prices have gone up since then. Last November I signed the boys up for a 1 year membership. Their membership fee of $88.60/month provides for 2 classes plus sparring class each week. That's regular fee for one person.

Family discount is 25% off the for the second person, 50% off for the second, and all additional people are $10/month. Because of my membership level, I get 33% off the first and 66% for the second, so effectively it's "buy one, get one free". So I pay one "regular" fee for both boys.

The ATA is pushing a "leadership" program. For $230/month it covers the entire family for all of the above classes, plus two "leadership" classes per week. One is more of a special weapons class than anything else. The other teaches instructors.

The $230 was a special price as I was a long term student. The regular price was in the $400 range ...

This, of course, does not include testing fees, which for colored belts are $60, and the testing cycle is two months. For Black belts the testing fee is $200, but they instituted "mid-terms" every 3 months, which cost $65.

There is a discount on family testing fees. The third person pays only $10 for testing, but to get the discount all family members must test at the same testing. Because the boys & I are on different testing cycles (colored vs. black belt) I have yet to see the discount. :-(

Then there is the fact that ALL materials MUST be purchased from the ATA. Sparring gear, chest protectors (mandated in June, $70 each), weapons (including a $65 plastic sword), etc.

I figured it up. If I had signed us up for the 3 year leadership program, including tuition, testing fees, and supplies, my cost per month would have averaged $350. I've never had a car payment over #300 ...

My membership in up in a couple of months, and the boys are up at the end of November. I do not believe we will be renewing, due to price.

Copyright 1999-2008 Bryan Fazekas