Rhythm and Flow

"Bodies have rhythm, techniques have flow."

This concept is something that the we as upper ranking belts have been concentrating on for the past few weeks. Based on what we've discussed in class, here's what I understand the above statement to mean.

"Bodies have rhythm." We each have an inherent rhythm to how our body moves. In a sparring situation, this is a very important idea. When we find our rhythm, we cease the "stop and start" nature of sparring that is characteristic of the student who is learning how to spar. This brings us to flow.

"Techniques have flow." Basically, your techniques are an extension of your rhythm. Combined with timing, the setup of your techniques and transitions (note the plural at the end) become less forced and noticeable to your opponent. None of the "Pause, set up, then throw the technique." No. Rhythm and flow combine to blend all three into such a subtle movement that by the time you see it coming, you're already hit.

More on this topic as I learn more about it.

New Workout Area and Form!

Take a look at my new outdoor workout area!

I bought these puzzle mats (minus the multicolor ones) after becoming frustrated with practicing my forms outside. The concrete is too rough to go barefoot on unless you are very light on your feet -- something that I have not mastered quite yet. On the other hand, practicing in shoes is just not the same. Like I said, I'm not the lightest on my feet, so my shoes are constantly catching on the concrete and messing up my deep stances. It doesn't help that my driveway is at a slight incline either.

My solution to these problems? Puzzle mats! I found a pretty good deal on Amazon: $29.99 for a set of 12 that cover 48 square feet. The only downside? A whopping 18 bucks for shipping! I couldn't find a better deal for the same amount of coverage, so I went ahead and bought them.

It's been raining here for the past several days, so I haven't been able to take them outside until now. Today was warm for a change, with temperatures in the low 40's! Note: Temperatures in the teens and 20's are getting old fast. Summer needs to be here! Anyway, after school, I headed out to the driveway to set everything up.

My practice went very well. Other than the wind gusts that kept lifting half of the mats into an almost vertical position, the mats cushioned my workout area rather well. It was just enough padding to take the shock out from landing on hard concrete, but firm enough that my feet glided easily on the surface.

I ran through a quick warmup, then started with forms back to back. I've come to realize that doing forms back to back like this without stopping for a recovery, is also a good warmup. Add proper snap, power, and the fact that we have 3 basic forms and 5 advanced forms in our system, and forms can really get you out of breath and worn out.

Speaking of forms....for the past week or so, I've been learning and practicing a new form (5th advance) for red belt. I love what I've learned so far. It's so rhythmic compared to the other forms! I need a metronome or something with a beat to practice to.

Now, on to the frustrating and most challenging portion of the form. The jump. I don't like jumps. Why pick  both feet off the floor when you can be balanced in a nice stance? But for this form, that's not to be. Let me explain what the form calls for up to the point I know. I hope I have this down correctly.

1. Turn left foot out so that you're in a back stance. Inside out block followed by a reverse punch.
2. Bring right foot in to meet the left. Stack your hands.
3. Repeat, turning right foot instead of left this time.
4. Slide left foot forward and x-block down, immediately coming up with an open hand x-block at about face level.
5. Slide right foot forward, grab with left hand and punch with right hand.
6. Lift right arm straight up, pick right leg up, pivot, and change directions.
7. Low backfist, then snap it up to starting position.
8. Left arm goes straight out, palm open, at around face level. Back leg crescent kick to your hand.
9. Set foot down.
10. Left foot slides forward past the right foot (so that your feet are almost in a pretzel shape), double punch.
11. Slide left foot back. Double punch again.
12. Bend knees, jump into the air (switching the way you are facing in the process), land on the blades of your feet, right foot over left.
13. With your feet still like this, double punch down.

I was fine up until # 12. When I got to the jump, my right foot complied with my wishes and went up into the air, however, my left foot decided it did not like this idea mid-jump, so it did an awkward half jump and did not lift more than six inches off the ground.

So....the jump isn't going too well at the moment. I kept practicing it, but my mind and my body don't want to cooperate with each other. One is accepting of the jump, the other is questioning landing on the blades of my feet with my full weight.

I had to take a picture of what my feet are supposed to look like if the jump is done properly. It should look something like this:

On Thursday night I told Mr. Mc that this had to be the strangest and most awkward move in any of my forms. He agreed.

Hopefully tomorrow I can get a better idea of what I can do to make it less awkward -- and maybe convince myself that I'm not going to break my ankles in the process.

Teaching and Being a Teacher

This post has been on my mind for a few weeks, but when I’ve sat down to write it, I’ve never gotten but a couple of paragraphs on the subject.

Last Thursday, Mr. Mc talked to me about the subject of teaching and being a teacher. Before I get ahead of myself, let me set this up.

Tuesday night is our formal gi and belt night– our main class. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, our adult class is relatively small, but we have a good core group. We now have two distinct classes One for the kids, and one for the adults. Before, we were all combined into one group.

In the past when there were fewer instructors coming on a regular basis, we would have as many as 15-20 students (most being kids), and most being yellow and white belts. To be able to give more individualized attention to the students, the class was broken up into several groups. The ranking students would take one of these groups while the instructor(s) worked with other groups – then we would switch.

I know that all of the green belts and up have been given the task of taking some new/beginner students and showing them the ropes. Even a few of the yellow belts have had their turn passing on what knowledge that they have. They start out simply. “Show them how to bow in and out of class and the basic commands.” The more experienced we get, the more teaching responsiblity is asked of us.

During this time, I learned a lot about teaching and being a teacher. Teaching forces you to examine your own techniques more closely, but it also tests your knowledge. Not only do you have to be able to explain how to do technique “X,” but you have to be able to tell your students what the technique can be used for, why we do it like this, and a hundred or so other questions that might come up in the process – all in terms they can understand. While beginners do not need an in depth explanation, the higher up in rank they get, they need to deepen their understanding, a responsibility that falls on the shoulders of the teacher.

In the meantime, you have to work on your own development as a student, but you also have to develop as a teacher.

The progression from purely student to both student and teacher can be viewed as a set up stairs, with the height of the steps increasing a little with each rank. The progression from 4th kyu blue belt with stripe to 3rd kyu brown belt no longer remains a step, but a jump up to reach that next level. This is because a brown belt is an “Assistant Instructor.”

Being a brand new brown belt (try saying that five times fast), you can see why the issue of teaching has been on my mind lately.

Last Thursday, Mr. Mc brought up the topic. “Other systems,” he told me, “teach you the basics and when you earn your black belt, you are given a choice. Do you want to focus on becoming a teacher, or do you want to focus on being a fighter?”

Our style is different. You come up through the ranks learning how to balance both.

I think this is a great way of easing a student into a teaching role. I started out my Tae Kwon Do journey as a very shy, quiet twelve-year-old. You literally had to drag the words out of me if you wanted to carry on a conversation with me. It was a painful process. If I had been told on day 1 that I would be leading exercises, showing new students the ropes, demonstrating what I had learned to more advanced students, and eventually leading portions (and on occassions the whole) class on my own, I probably would have run as fast as I could in the opposite direction, screaming from sheer terror. “I can’t do that!” I would have said to myself.

But here I am. Doing most of the above on a fairly regular basis, and I’m not running away screaming. I know that I did not start jumping with joy when I was first asked to lead exercises and then teach, but I warmed up to it. Practice makes perfect as they say.

Today, I feel differently about being a teacher. Now, I know that I still have a lot to learn on the subject – and I’m still not the most talkative, bold person that I want to be, but I have realized something recently. Something that I never thought I would ever say.

When the day comes that I finally earn my black belt, I want to pass on what knowledge that I have as an instructor and teacher. I want to help others grow not only in the system that I am so passionate about, but also grow as a person. What I’m getting at is that I want to become the instructor – the teacher to my students that my instructors are to me, not for profit or my own gain (or because I feel pressured to do so), but because I am blessed to be involved in an art that is not a hobby, but an entire lifestyle.

I still have a long way to go. First, I need to become the proper “Assistant Instructor” that the patch on my gi says I am. Then, on to the next step. Instead of the jump I mentioned earlier, this next step looks like I’ll be needing some rock climbing gear. Guess I better go and pack and get ready for it.

Let's Pause for a Quick Commercial Break

It's 8:42 on a Wednesday night. I am sitting in the living room on the most comfortable computer chair in the house and attempting to write an insightful and comprehendible blog post. It's not working too well. So instead, I put my official post on hold and write this instead.

The past three or so nights, I have been getting between four and six hours of sleep. One night was purely my own fault -- I drank coffee less than an hour before going to bed. Needless to say, I am extremely tired.

Add a 2+ hour Tae Kwon Do class involving partner drills and working on a combination of armbars, joint locks, misdirection of punches -- all leading up to an end result of a takedown, and you have a recipe for soreness.

Also factor in a Monday-Thursday college schedule with classes beginning at 8 am...and the fact that I am the only person in my family who hasn't caught the virus that's being passed around at my house....

Mix it all together and your end result is a mentally/physically worn out and quite sore brown belt.

It's 9:11 now. This night owl is going to bed. A long day full of school and Tae Kwon Do awaits.

My next blog topic is "Teaching and Being a Teacher" and should be finished and posted sometime tomorrow.

Have You Ever?

Have you ever heard the following:

"You need to know you form backwards and forwards."

It literally means that you need to know your form inside out....be able to do it in your sleep, blindfolded, etc., right?

Our sister school came up to our class last Saturday for one of their student's black belt test. During the candidate's test, their instructor invited one of his blue belts onto the floor to demonstrate something different than what any of us has ever seen.

She did one of her forms backwards.

Now can you say that you know your form backwards and forwards?