November 26, 2014

HOT Topic #13: Servitude

Traditionally, martial art students who have stayed with the program for a few years are "allowed" to assist in teaching by becoming instructor trainees. For this privilege they get no pay, but the school gets free labor. There are many trainees but very few ever get a paying position in the school. In addition, instead of getting instruction from the head instructor, students are paying to get instruction from another student. Is this servitude, or merely an internship?

Check out TKDTutor.com for information about the martial arts.

October 1, 2013

HOT Topic #12: Taekwondo is dead, long live taekwondo

For all you old warriors out there, taekwondo will soon be dead as a martial art and officially become a sport as the ITF merges with the WTF. In this case, merge means the ITF will become similar to the WTF so it may compete in the Olympics. Instead of being a martial art, taekwondo will become known as a variation of Irish stepdancing, AKA riverdance, where the arms are held at your sides while you hop around on the balls of your feet and kick. Traditional taekwondo outcasts will still exist in small organizations that still believe a martial art should be about being able to defend yourself and others against those who would do us harm, not about being a child friendly sport. Read more at Taekwondo Times

May 11, 2013

HOT Topic #11: Another "master" is born


I attended a local Taekwondo school's black belt testing today. It was a detailed and strenuous testing where the students had drilled and practiced everything that they had to do during the testing. This meant that everyone performed the correct technique and the correct time. Students went through all the motions but there was a lack of commitment or understanding of what they were doing and the perfection of technique was lacking. It appeared to be a demo more than it did a testing.

One teenager was testing for his FOURTH DEGREE, a master rank at this school. He had started training at 5 years old. All his hand techniques were just movements of the arms, no hip snap or leg push or power. His kicks were at or below belt level. His round kicks were some perverted front/round kicks that terminated well to the side where the target would be located. He had a perverted side kick and was looking 180 degrees away from the target. His jump kicks were more like hop kicks.

When sparring, he only kicked to the body protector and never used any hand attacks.

Even though he was testing for 4th degree, he only had to break one-1/4 inch board with each technique, and even then, the technique he used was sloppy.

The results: he passed of course and is now a teenage "master" of nothing.

March 6, 2013

HOT Topic #10: Self-Defense and Taekwondo

Taekwondo is supposed to be a martial art, a fighting art, a self-defense art. However, modern TKD, both traditional and sport, has been watered down so much to appeal to the parents of children and the politically correct that defending yourself is only a side effect of training. Taekwondo has become a sport and a business where everything that is taught and practiced is profit oriented. A good student is a paying student, and paying students must be retained even if means sacrificing Taekwondo. Instead of black belts being a people who may effective defend themselves against any attacker who is using any type of weapon, we have black belts who are polite, non-aggressive sports players who do community service projects and write meaningless essays.

Look at your Taekwondo school with a critical eye. How often are realistic self-defense techniques even mentioned? How often are they practiced or required for promotion? Every time a technique is taught, the self-defense aspects of it should be mentioned and practiced. Effective self-defense requires both physical skills, such as the ability to perform a technique under adverse conditions, and mental/emotional skills that allow the defender to stay calm when under attack and be able to use deadly techniques when necessary. Most modern Taekwondo practitioners cry when hit and apologize if they hit. Modern Taekwondo practitioners are not warriors, they are sports players.

When Ronda Rousey was a Judo champion, she was not just a Judo player, she was a warrior who used arm bars to destroy her competition; losing was not an option. Now she a MMA champion who uses arm bars to destroy her competition. If you were a male rapist, who would you rather attack, a typical female Taekwondo black belt or Ronda Rousey.

If you think free-sparring, forms, and breaking will protect you in a fight, you are an idiot. If you are not training in realistic self-defense, fighting techniques in Taekwondo on a regular basis, make sure you are always with someone who will protect you if you are attacked.

February 19, 2013

HOT Topic #9: Child Black Belts

Should a black belt ever be awarded to a person who cry's whenever he or she gets hit, loses a match, doesn't get promoted, or doesn't get his or her way? 

I thought the purpose of the martial arts was to build warriors who are able to defend themselves and others from attackers. Warriors don't cry when get hit; they suck it up, avoid getting hit again, and, if necessary, take action to stop the attacker from attempting further attacks.

Children are not physically, mentally, or emotionally capable of being a black belt, at least not in true meaning of a black belt. Black belts are now awarded for performing "most" everything required in the "curriculum" (not performing perfectly, but just going through the motions), coming to class, participating in events and competitions, and, most importantly, paying an exorbitant amount of money for all of the above. Gone is the hardened warrior who devoted his or here life to living the "way."  Taekwondo no longer means the "punch-kick-way," it now means the "punch-kick-PAY."

Children play football, baseball, or basketball, but they are not awarded professional contracts, no matter how well they play. Genius children may be able to complete law school and pass the bar, but we do not awarded them a law license. You must be at least 16 years of age to drive a car. You must be at least 18 years of age to sign a contract or vote. You must be at least 21 years of age to drink alcohol. Children legally become adults at the age of 18.

No one under the age of eighteen should be awarded a black belt!

September 22, 2011

HOT TOPIC #8: Purpose of testing


I attended a Taekwondo America national testing last Saturday with my nephew and his son, who has recently started training in Taekwondo. I thought it would be inspiring for him to see some high-ranking black belts performing at their best. I was wrong! I don’t know how much of what he saw will affect his young mind, but I was embarrassed at what I saw.

The national testing had over 150 black belts from all over the United States testing for 3rd degree and above, this included those testing for 3rd, 3rd decided, 3rd senior,  4th, 4th decided, 4th senior, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th. Instead of seeing senior black belts demonstrating the highest standards of Taekwondo, I saw, not just fat, but obese people lumbering around the floor going through the motions of Taekwondo, not having clue as to what a martial art is supposed to be. It was similar to going to the Charlotte Motor Speedway to see a NASCAR Sprint Cup race and instead having to watch a group ordinary people drive their minivans around the track. There were a few real martial artists in the group; however, for the most part, it was just people pretending to be black belts.

In the pattern part of the testing, where you are fighting an imaginary opponent while performing perfect techniques and stances, I saw people just performing the movements. There was no power, no focus, and no perfection of technique. If they had not been wearing black belts, I would have thought I was watching group of low-ranked color belts. As usual, as long as they paid the testing fee and performed all the required movements, they passed the pattern part of the testing regardless of how they performed the pattern.

In the sparring part of the testing you demonstrate all you have learned about defending and attacking against another person. This is where you would expect to see high-ranking black belts excel; instead, I saw people slowly moving around, taking turns attacking while trying to catch their breath. No combination attacks, no power and focus, no effective hand attacks, and, no effective kicks (jumping or otherwise);  just people using as little effort as possible so they could make to the end of all the sparring rounds. Any fighter who showed any expertise at all looked like a world champion in comparison to the rest of the fighters. As usual, as long as you did not quit, you passed the sparring.

The final part of the testing was breaking. Breaking is the toughest part of the testing since, if you do not break the boards at only one station, you fail the entire testing. Although breaking the board is necessary for the testing, that is not the primary purpose of breaking. The primary purpose is to demonstrate power, focus, and proper technique against a resisting target, in this case—a board. I saw little of this; all I saw was people just banging boards as hard as they could in hopes they would break.These high ranks had to break using some jump, spinning, and jump-spinning kicks. A hop is not a jump. A turn is not a spin, and turning around and hopping is not a jump-spin. It was pitiful to watch. For hand breaking, most used elbow strikes. This is fine for color belts but these were black belts. Where were the punches? Women, regardless of size, only had to break ONE board, with one station having two boards. The large women simply had to push on a board to break it. The smaller women at least had to use some proper technique to break their boards. The men had to break two boards, with one station having three boards. There was somewhat better proper technique used, but it was still pitiful. Whether it was large men just going through the motions or smaller men using sloppy, simple techniques, it was pitiful to watch.

There were black belts testing for 5th degree that looked more suited to be at a bowling alley holding  a beer and cigarette. There were people with physical and mental challenges testing for high ranks. Kudos to them for the effort, but where are the standards that used to make earning a black belt something special. Lowering the standards to accommodate people with challenges may make the people, and the people who love them, feel good, but it demeans the meaning a black belt for everyone else and for the martial art itself. Marines or Navy Seals do not lower their standards for anyone. As a result, Marines and Seals are held in high esteem throughout the world and they are expected to perform at the highest standard.

What have the martial arts become? There is no martial, and there is no art. The martial arts have become just another thing for people to do, such as play soccer or train in the latest exercise fad. The primary purpose of modern martial art schools is to obtain and retain as many students as possible and to suck as much money from them as possible. One way to do this is to have many belt levels, which means many testings with a high fee for each test, and to have a high pass rate to keep the students in the school and thus bringing in more money. There are a few traditional Taekwondo schools around, but they are in the minority and are becoming rarer each year. I offer my condolences for the passing of traditional Taekwondo, you served us well and will be sorely missed.

Hopefully, I will be able to help guide my young grandnephew to become a Taekwondo martial artist instead of a Taekwondo player.

December 9, 2010

HOT TOPIC #7: Are MMA techniques useful for self-defense?

Are MMA techniques useful in self-defense or do they only work in the ring because the rules limit what a person may do to defend against them?

Check out TKDTutor.com for information about the martial arts.