Grand Prairie Karate


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Entry Posted 2008-07-15

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Entry Posted 2008-09-24

What does it mean to be in the martial arts?

Today, the idea, or image of someone in the martial arts has changed greatly from years ago. Unfortunately, some people still don't know what it REALLY means to be in the martial arts. Years ago, and still sometimes today, the image of someone in the martial arts was someone who could kill with their bare hands, fight multiple opponents, and do amazing physical feats. After many years of training, the above may be true in some cases, but that is not the true meaning. The true meaning of what it means to be in the martial arts is much more than that. Studying a martial art seriously is something really special. Something that a small percentage of people in the world will ever experience. Few people will experience this because staying involved in the martial arts takes dedication and a tremendous amount of hard work, both physically and mentally. Someone who has studied for an extensive amount of time has experienced what it is like to push oneself beyond limitations. Pushing oneself to this extent can only be accomplished with persistence, patience, and discipline. Such training also develops a sense of pride, confidence; and respect for others. A person who has experienced this character development is the image that should be associated with someone in the martial arts.

Martial arts, which one is the best?

An age old question that many will argue until they are blue in the face. The answer is easy. NO MARTIAL ART IS BETTER THAN ANY OTHER MARTIAL ART. Here is why. First of all, we are talking about TRUE martial artists who are all taught the same values and principles such as being a good, humble person who lives a good life (in a general sense, not cheating, stealing... etc.). Martial artists are also taught not to fight. Two people who are taught to never fight, will certainly never fight each other. So actually this is something that will never happen, and we are discussing nothing. Secondly, martial arts today have been around for hundreds of years and have been changed and modified many times over. Each martial art was designed to stand on its' own as all that is needed for self-defense. As different martial arts were introduced they were developed to take on the other arts in existence. As this happened new techniques were added or old techniques were modified in the existing arts to accommodate changes. Again, each martial art is designed to stand on its own, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, none better than the other.

Taekwon-Do, a bad reputation.

Many ill-informed people who study a martial art or arts other than Taekwon­Do have the idea that Taekwon-Do is basically ineffective for self-defense. It is understandable why people believe this way. If someone would only see tournaments and demonstrations, the majority of it is kicking, most likely high flashy kicks. What people don't understand is the purpose of practicing and learning such kicks. The purpose is not for a street situation, the purpose is to develop flexibility, balance, control, and overall physical conditioning. Also, when someone is able to do the high kicks well, their mid to low kicks should be that much better. IT IS IMPORTANT TO UNDERSTAND THAT TECHNIQUES ARE PRACTICED FOR DIFFERENT REASONS AND NOT ALL OF THEM ARE USEFUL FOR STREET SITUATIONS!! Taekwon-Do students also study hand-striking combinations, locks, throws, and joint manipulation, which are useful for street situations.

The point of competition.

Competition is not like a real fight, it is a game with rules. Most people don't understand the point of competition in the martial arts. It is not about winning or being better than someone else. It is about improving oneself. Competition is a way to learn from others. It allows someone to set goals for themselves, and gives someone something to strive for. Competition is not for everyone and it is only beneficial up to a point. If someone becomes too involved with competition, it may have adverse results. Focusing on competition will leave voids in other important aspects of training. If a student becomes involved in competition it is important to remember the purpose and to not get carried away.

Choosing a good instructor.

Choosing a good instructor is not difficult if you know what to look for. The problem is most people base their opinion on the wrong criteria. One thing is the size and beauty of the school. Just because a school is large and lavish, does not necessarily mean the success comes from the great instruction. It could mean that whoever is running it is a successful business man or woman. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a big, lavish school. It's a bonus, although it is no indication of the quality of the instruction. Secondly, just because the instructor is incredible in his/her own skills, it is no indication of how well he/she can bring out the best in others.

So what is the best indicator? There is a saying: "YOU JUDGE A TREE BY ITS FRUIT". How good is that apple tree? Well, it depends on how good the apples are. Same thing goes for an instructor. The students are the instructor's fruit. How do you judge the students? First of all, and most importantly, is the students' attitude. Children: if you walk into a school or are at a tournament and the kids are running around, playing ....not doing what they are supposed to be doing, it says something about the instructor. How about older students: teenagers and adults, what about them? Are they well disciplined? How do they carry themselves? Are they Respectful? Loud? Arrogant? All of these things have to do with the attitude the instructor instills in his/her own students. Also, what attitudes an instructor will tolerate. What about the actual skills? Techniques? First of all, I will guarantee that if the attitude of the students is good, the actual skills will be good as well. The indication for the skill level of students should not be determined by young or beginning students. Skill level should be determined by those students who are older and higher in rank. If the upper color belts and black belts are poor, then, probably, the instructor either isn't a good instructor or his/her standard for belt ranks are low.

You should be able to spot out an incredible instructor before even seeing a single technique. If you meet a few students of the instructor and see their attitude, that is all you should need.

Master of # martial arts.

Today, many instructors open schools claiming to be a master of 7 (or more) martial arts. The school claims to take the best parts of each

martial. art and put them together to form the best martial art program that exists. First of all, it takes a lifetime to MASTER ONE martial art. Those who study several martial arts, each for only a few years may have learned a lot of different techniques, but they can not claim to be "masters" of all of these various arts. There is no way they can understand all of the applications, principles and philosophy behind each art. I do believe strongly in training with various people from different martial arts, but this is something that should be done only after one has a strong foundation in their own art first. I do also believe that one can instruct different arts and be proficient in all of them, but the title "master" should be used very carefully.

What is a uniform (gi) and how should it be treated?

The uniform (gi) is symbolic to Taekwon-Do heritage and tradition. Students are expected to keep it neat, clean, and treat it with the respect owed to his/her art. The gi should only be worn when practicing or performing Taekwon-Do, it should not be worn anytime else. Now since many children would like to change at home rather than at the school, they are to change right before they leave the house and take it off as soon as they return home. The belt has even further requirements, as for it is a symbol of the hard work and dedication a student has put into his/her own training. When changing at home, the belt is not to be put on until they arrive at the school and it is to be taken off before they leave. It would be considered disrespectful to wear the gi to the store, bank, and for children, outside playing, even if it were for only a few minutes before leaving for Taekwon-Do. Really, the belt should be taken off when getting a drink of water, eating at tournaments, and when just waiting at the school in the guest area. These rules are not only based on tradition, but also to teach how to show respect and how to be humble.

One additional note: When wearing your uniform, it is important to remember that you are representing your school, classmates, instructors, and most importantly the art of Taekwon-Do. Nothing can do worse for a school's image than students who are goofing around, playing, and being disrespectful in their uniforms whether it is at McDonalds, the YMCA, tournaments, or out in the street. I have seen all of these instances on several occasions. It is up to the instructors to make clear to their students the extreme importance of how they treat their uniform and how they should act when they are in it.

What is self-defense?

Many people have a misunderstanding of what self-defense is. Self­defense is to use only enough force to stop someone from hurting you. Once someone stops coming at you, and you continue to attack (punch, kick, or whatever), then it is no longer self-defense. It doesn't matter who initiated the situation.

Forms are Underrated!

Many, or most traditional martial arts have forms (pattern, kata, hyung, etc.) as part of their training. A form is a formalized pattern of movements (blocks, strikes, and kicks) that are performed against imaginary opponents. There are countless reasons for practicing forms. Just to name a few: art, beauty, and tradition, to learn proper technique, exercise, developing power, strength, and endurance. This article will only talk about the physical reasons. There are many people in the martial arts, today, who make the claim that forms are useless and that there is no point in practicing them because they are useless in a fight. First of all people who make these comments obviously don't truly understand the different martial arts and the reasoning behind practicing such things as forms. Yes, I have to agree that the forms, the way they are practiced today, are not applicable to a street situation because of their rigid structure. Also, the deep, exact, stances are completely impractical in a street situation. Although the techniques performed in the exact same manner as in the form are not feasible in a street situation, each technique and series of techniques do have a direct application for specific self-defense situations. The only difference is that they are put together as a formalized pattern with the stances being different than what would be done in a street situation. (some series of techniques are more or less practical then others, but that is only my opinion)

Forms are used to introduce new techniques to students as they advanced in rank, but they do much more than that. Forms are a discipline and are where the execution of the techniques are mastered. This is where students develop the proper coordination of their body for each block, strike, or kick. This is also where students develop their power, breath control, and body conditioning.

There are many different Martial art schools out there, and each has there own ways of doing things. We are all ultimately training for the same goal, so please remember that there are many paths to reach one goal, and one path is no better than another.

The Grand Prairie Karate Academy, wishes to thank Peter D. Sorce, of the South Milwaukee Recreational Department for most of the above material.