What Shape is Your Vessel…this Moment?

Several years ago, while attending a training in leadership, I saw a most remarkable demonstration.   The primary point was profound.  The materials used were familiar.  And the contrast between the profundity of the point and the commonness of the props gave great amplification to the impact of the demonstration.  It was incredibly simple — with straight forward results.  And yet I knew, in a very specific and memorable moment, that I would forever see and experience life differently — from that reference mark forward!

The materials used included two individual, uniquely and specifically shaped clear glass vessels, as well as one large pitcher of water.  The first vessel was about a foot tall and narrow, about two inches wide and square in its cross-section.  The second vessel was short – about six inches tall, pear-shaped and approximately six inches in diameter at its widest point.

Without saying a word, the demonstrator lifted the pitcher of water and proceeded to carefully and slowly pour the water into the first glass vessel.  Read more

A Martial Arts Lesson in Compassion

Compassion…the Magical Key to ONE

Contrary to some popular belief, the ultimate aim of an authentic martial arts practice is to become “one-with” “another” and in so doing there is no basis for conflict, for there is no basis for “separateness”.  The key resource for this expression is “compassion”. Read more

All About Energy

Energy is fascinating!  We have it, need it,  want it, spend it, trap it, hoard it, share it, enjoy it, replenish it, transform it, benefit from it, create with it, destroy with it, love with it, understand through it, expand and contract with it… and through it all exist AS it – Energy…!

The more we understand and experience energy and ourselves and everything else as energy, the better able we are to fully and consciously engage in life.  An authentic martial arts practice provides an excellent opportunity for self-development through exploring and experiencing fundamental principles of energy… Read more

Consequential Sequence: Capability, Humility and Respect

Life is rich with relationships. Give and take, cause and effect and consequential sequencing are among the most prominent relationship models between things, people, factors and entities. Consequential sequencing—the effect or consequence one thing has on another, and the resulting sequence—is the most fascinating.

One of life’s more powerful consequential sequences is the relationship between the qualities of capability, humility and respect. These states of being are often misunderstood individually, collectively, and in their respective relationship to each other. An authentic martial arts practice provides a rich opportunity for them to be experienced, explored, understood and, ultimately, powerfully employed.

The Sequence of Capability, Humility and Respect

Capability relates to developing and then possessing an ability for particular skills or knowledge. As we develop an ability, we begin appreciating our capability and feel compelled to explore ourselves, and life, more deeply. This exploration leads us to realize how vast the universe is, how relatively small as individual entities we are in comparison, and how much more there is to learn and to live—a humbling process. The resulting humility allows us to share our capabilities and benefit others, ultimately earning their appreciative esteem and respect. Capability invites humility, which in turn creates respect.

This sequence can work in reverse, as well. When we are respected by others without using force, our resulting appreciation for that respect creates humility. The sharing and accessible state of humility keeps us engaged in our area of accomplishment/knowledge, thereby sustaining capability. The flow of this sequence, in one direction and then the other, is one of the more powerful and pleasurable oscillations of life.

Although an authentic martial arts practice can provide a rich environment in which to experience and develop and accelerate this consequential sequence, we can start right now with where we are in this moment. . So start today, by practicing and experiencing capability, humility and respect… and discover the martial artist in you!

Q: How should I practice tae kwon do at home?

A: There are many, many ways that one can practice at home.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Work on specific techniques in front of a mirror (if room doesn’t permit stepping, then if it is a hand technique get into the proper stance and employing pivoting – chamber then execute and repeat — being sure to twist and snap everything into place simultaneously.  if it is a foot technique, then step into fighting stance and repeatly kick with the same leg, stepping back into the original stance each time)
  • Practice technique and accuracy by hanging a small target from a string (like a small ball of aluminum foil) suspended (by tape) from the ceiling.  This is useful for both hand and foot techniques.
  • Work on proper kick tracking with props.  example 1:  practice side kick by standing next to a dining table lift kicking leg up with knee high and supporting heel pivoted toward the table and slowly and with smooth control track the kick out above and across the table top and then back slowly and smoothly to re-chamber position.  example 2:  practice round house kick by getting into fighting stance and placing an object like a tall kitchen trash can just in front of the front leg — practice kicking with the rear leg lifting the knee high enough to safely track above the object, stopping at the kicking plane and then finishing the kick with the foot continuing path of travel out in the same line as the shoulder, hip and knee — and then re-chambering and pivoting back into the original stance.
  • Practice your forms and 1-steps in a room with the furniture moved to the edges or outside in the yard.  note: practice ALL of your forms and1-steps!
  • Practice noticing! — at everything!  the more observant you become the better martial artist you will be.
  • Practice stretching, especially parts of your body that are particularly sore or that do not have the range of motion that you would like
  • Increase your strength in your core muscles especially — twisting sit-ups, pilates exercises, leg-lifts, crunches, ect.,…
  • Visualize yourself executing your tae kwon do, whether you do this in the form of forms, 1-steps, sparring, or individual techniques — see yourself the way you would like to be.  The more clearly you can visualize the more you will improve (the brain does not know the difference between clear, vivid visualization and actual physical experience).  This means those few minutes as you fall asleep or come into consciousness in the morning can become your movie theater to the new martial artist you.
  • Teach a family member — as you begin to teach you begin to really learn.  If you are enthusiastic and effective, your family member may eventually join you in class!

There are many other ideas that come to mind.  These are just a few that come to my mind.  There is great value in you creating your own as well…

A Breath of Fresh Air

Breathing is a vital part of an authentic martial arts practice.  There are a variety of different types of breathing that martial artists employ.  Most of these different types of breathing are individually specific to the context of their application.  Following are the four most prominent types of martial arts breathing matched with the way they are best used:

1)      The first includes an emphasis on steady and rhythmic breathing.  This type of breathing supports stamina, keeping the body fueled with a constant supply of oxygen in order to be able to keep pace.

2)      The second is a type of “punctuating” breathing.  This type of breathing emphasizes synchronizing an exhale at the moment of extension or the execution of a particular technique.  This relationship ensures contraction of the diaphragm, protecting the internal organs.  It further concentrates focus of the execution of technique as the simultaneous breathing requires great presence.  Lastly such breathing affords the martial artist the opportunity to “ki-op” (“spirit-yell”) along with the technique creating expression of power with the capability to interrupt and demand reception.

3)      The third type is “ki” or “chi” breathing – slow, intentional breathing for the purposes of cultivating energy for specific upcoming use.  This breathing can be likened to “charging the batteries” with “life force” energy, as basic fortification or in preparation for extraordinary feats.

4)      And the forth type is deep breathing – slow, deliberate breathing used primarily to revitalize the system – either raising the baseline energy of the martial artist in preparation for a hard workout – or – as a reprieve and re-charge after a burst of energy expenditure.

Become aware of the martial artist in you as you employ each of these primary types of breathing…

Steady and rhythmic breathing is useful to keep you going strong throughout your day!  Take notice every hour on the hour.  Check in with yourself.  If your breathing is short and/or irregular – then see if you can re-establish rhythm in your life by developing a rhythm in your breathing.  Once you do, you will notice your “baseline capability” rise commensurately.

“Punctuating breathing” can be used for concentrated tasks requiring great tasks.  Ironically, most people tend to hold their breath in order to concentrate more.  Intentionally breathing, during moments of great concentration, causes and fuels forward movement and progress.  Sharp thinking, keen perception and the ability to communicate with increased clarity are greatly increased with the intentionality of this type of breathing.

“Ki” or Chi” breathing is generally fortifying, physically, psychically, emotionally and spiritually.  While there are a variety of protocols that are prescribed for “Chi” breathing, the details are much less important than the intention to cultivate and draw upon the energy that is all around us at all times — and store a healthy dose.  This type of breathing stimulates all the body’s healthy systems, oxygenates the blood and facilitates the release of endorphins in the brain – a sure-fire, short-cut recipe for a strong spirit, strong immune system and a no-cost “natural high”!

Finally deep breathing can be used to quickly wake-up or recover from over-stimulation and facilitate the beneficial processing of the input from such stimulation.  A couple of deep breaths several times a day will keep productivity high, systems working efficiently, energy up and give opportunity for mental and emotional organization and relief!

Now as you contemplate these thoughts, review your own tendencies, and plan your strategies for implementing these breathing techniques….take just a moment….and …

Brrreeeaaatttttttthhhhh….ahhhhhhh……

Q: Could you clarify if the Chon-Ji Hyung 1-steps should be with a knife hand or closed fist?

A: Great question!  In the student portal, the “proficiency” comments on the left hand side of the page for white belts applies to the collection of basic technical curriculum comprised of both the first form “Chon Ji” and the first three one-steps.

While it is true that the “knife hand” does not show up in the form Chon Ji, it does show up in one form (forward reaching in one-steps 2 and 3 for white belt).   So watch the 1-steps videos for white-yellow belt. When you get to yellow belt you will be introduced to the more conventional knife-hand strike.

Q: What are the Korean commands used at the beginning and during Tae Kwon Do training?

A: Thank you for your question. We appreciate all of them.  Please remember that there is no substitute for real-time learning in class.  If there is anything not understood in class, not only is it permissible, but encouraged – for students to publicly ask questions for the education and clarification to all present.

cha ryuht :attention
choon bi :ready
bah ro :return to starting position
dwi uro dorah :about face
dorah :turn
elosoh :stand
gomahn :stop (also “mum cho“)
geuk gi hyang ha yoh :face the flag
jwa woo hyang woo :face each other
sah bum nim keh :face instructor/master
sun bae nim keh :face senior student
simsa kwan nim keh :face examiner/tester
dobok dahnjung :fix your uniform
dhee dahnjung :fix your belt
hai sahn :class dismissed (also “hae cho“)
jonglee :line up (also “ji hap” and “jung yul“)
kyung nae :bow
ahnjoe :sit
kool o angi :kneel (kneeling)
bah ro angi :sit in lotus position (yoga posture)
bahl bah kwah :switch your stance (switch your feet)
koo ryung op see :in your own time
seijak :begin
shiuh :relax
kalyeo :break (or stop)
kae sok :continue

Tae Kwon Do: Shattering Life’s Barriers

Smashing boards!, bricks!, concrete paving blocks!, ceramic tiles!,…replete with loud screams, contorted facial expressions, wood splinters or masonry particles flying and gasps from witnesses as the martial artist releases her energy burst into and through the objects at hand… Such is the stuff of some of the physical demonstrations performed by martial artists.

So let’s look at what’s going on here.  In order to accomplish these feats, the martial artist combines a collection of qualities and ways of being – all at once:

  • He is clear with his intention.
  • She engages her technique correctly – efficiently and directly
  • He “brings it on” with full power.
  • She directs intense focus – being present in the moment and undistracted.
  • She sees the final outcome before it has happened!
  • And he hits his target! (which is BEYOND the boards)

With all of these elements present, success is virtually guaranteed!…

So you what’s the point of such feats?  On the surface, it’s all about the martial artist demonstrating his effectiveness properly executing that particular technique.  Below the surface however, there is much greater meaning… it’s a metaphor for life!  Think about it…  The boards are obstacles (life circumstances), in the way of a target (a particular goal or desire) which lies just beyond, with onlookers (all our relationships in life) present and the moment of truth (our recurring moments of choice) at hand…  As the practitioner successfully “breaks through” the boards, she begins to realize the profundity of the moment and its correlation to all other situations in life – from the smallest to the largest.

So whatever you want to accomplish in life be it large or small –tap into the martial artist in you and apply the principles of board-breaking!

  • He is clear with his intention.
    • Be clear with your goal
  • She engages her technique correctly – efficiently and directly
    • Take actions that make progress toward your goal
  • He “brings it on” with full power.
    • Act with full commitment
  • She directs intense focus – being present in the moment and undistracted.
    • Be intensely focused and don’t allow yourself to be distracted
    • She sees the final outcome before it has happened!
      • Hold a clear vision of the final outcome – see it already so
    • And he hits his target! (which is BEYOND the boards)
      • Keep going until you reach your destination (going through, around or beyond your circumstances)!

…And watch as all who know you take notice!…And be the example for and give permission to all those around you to do the same!!

Tae Kwon Do: Visualize to Materialize

Visualization is an incredibly powerful tool, an absolute staple in an authentic martial arts practice.  Martial artists visualize detailed scenarios both ahead of time and in real time in order to greatly improve and enhance their performance.

Visualization ahead of time serves as a form of actual practice.  The way this works is fascinating and profound and is only partially understood by modern science.  What is understood is that with clear, detailed visualization, the entire nervous system is engaged.  From the perspective of the nervous system, it is a “real” event!  The amazing result is that all the beneficial results from “actual” practice, also occur from the “virtual” practice of visualization!  In other words, on a neurological level, your brain and the rest of your nervous system, don’t get the difference.  A classic example of this for martial artists is the repeated visualization of breaking boards with a specific technique.  As the execution is visualized over and over again, the necessary and corresponding neural pathways are literally generated to facilitate the “real-world” event.  Additionally, the practitioner has the psychological, and emotional confidence of having succeeded a number of times already.  By the time the event is “realized” in the material world, it is but a continuum in a long series of successes.

Visualization in real time serves to enhance the “real-world” experience as it is actually happening by adding dimension.  A classic example for martial artists occurs during the execution of hyungs or katas (predetermined patterns of movement, against and imaginary opponent, performed individually).  Though the “actual” opponent is not present, the martial artists can visualize the opponent’s presence along with detailed, specific  attacks in order to make the event “real”.  The entire experience is elevated in this case – and if done well, even an onlooker will actually “see” the attacker.

The most exciting part of visualization is that it is available to us all!  It takes very little time.  It can be done anywhere.  It takes no money.  And we need no one’s approval or permission.  Visualization will be effective in any context and can be applied to any thing or idea.  The two most naturally effective times to visualize are in bed, just before falling asleep and then again, just upon waking, before rising from bed.