Allow me to introduce this new type of post that you will be seeing a lot more of on our weblog. From here on out, we, the hagsaeng naebu, will be giving weekly outlines of our own individual practices and training sessions. In addition to giving us hagsaeng naebu and you readers an opportunity to compare what each of us is working on, I think that this activity will also encourage each of us to further explore and develop our own personal practice and training. I’m looking forward to seeing how this all goes. Without further ado, I’ll get down to what I’ve been working on in the past week.
In many ways, I am still returning to my practice of Taekwondo. For those of you who know me well, you know that the past two years of my life have been very full and sometimes chaotic with its direction seemingly switching in huge directions many times. There’s quite a bit of story there, and no one has heard all of it so far, but this is not the time nor place to go into that; the upshot is that due to some other factors in my life at times, I was somewhat off my practice of Taekwondo for my last year in college, and in many ways I’m still coming back from that. Working and social relationships sometimes make it hard to find time to practice, but the more I devote myself to my practice the more I am able to find time to train. Making the time to come down to Cincinnati is part of that. Now that I am making more time for practice, I’m actually able to delve into some more serious training as opposed to just making “ends meet” (aka doing just enough to get by).
So far, a big part of my philosophy on training and teaching in any field is being very strong in “the basics.” I once heard of an analogy made to one’s Taekwondo ability as that to a building’s structural integrity; the building may be composed of many sophisticated techniques, but it is necessarily supported by a foundation of the basic elements of Taekwondo such as its kicks, strikes, blocks, joint locks, throws, etc; without having a strong foundation in these essential elements, the building of one’s more sophisticated Taekwondo ability simply will not stand or stay together. Something that a military trainer said in a video that stuck with me was that “I don’t like to call them basics because basic makes it sound like an unimportant technique ( . . . ) I call it fundamentals, and fundamentals win fights,” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwYeG8etEvs) (pay attention to what falls inbetween 7:00 and 9:30 minute marks). One has to be strong in the fundamentals or one is not strong at all.
Towards that end, in my “coming back” to Taekwondo, I have desired to make sure that I am strong in the fundamentals. During my forms practicing, I have slowed down my forms to enable me to better see if my individual techniques are being soundly executed. I want to be sure that every strike and kick comes from the appropriate starting area, has a correct chamber, involves a correct movement out and accelerated snap on the appropriate target, and then has a proper re-chamber to set up for the next technique. Stances and foot transitions have also been of much interest to me lately – in particular which part of the foot is used in certain turns and movements; this is something that I neglected when I was a color belt and younger dan, so I’m doing a bit of catch up now. Slowing the forms down does force me to think about the detailed movements of each technique, and though I still have much to learn here, I feel as though I am making progress. I think my biggest area that needs improvement is probably my footwork. This has been a good exercise for me so far, and I think I’ll continue to do this until I see more improvement.
Also with the forms, in my current efforts to be more properly humble, I took some time to read over the written descriptions of the physical techniques and transitions in the Taegeuk forms as described in the IME manuals. While I did know most of it, I was surprised by a couple of things like the back stances in Taegeuk 4, several of the stances in Taegeuk 8, and that all the kicks in the Taegeuk forms are to the face (a year is too long a time to take off from Taekwondo). As for the stances, I think I must have either overlooked them before or simply corrupted them through long and continued non-mindful self practice without cross checking; the lesson here I guess is to every now and then check my forms with the manual or Master Pearson just to be sure I’m not changing things without realizing it. Also, I seem to remember being taught some of the forms a bit differently than they were described in the manual; I don’t seem to remember at all learning that the initial stance in Taegeuk 8; then again, this could also be a mistaken memory. Anyway, it was a good experience to dive back into some manuals and come back with some things to work on.
Clearly, I need to get back to the fundamentals. I wrote this post over the course of a few days (I like to take my time and think out posts if I can), and in between the sessions of working on this post and fulfilling intern duties, I had the opportunity to train with some of the masters (5 Dan or up) here, and they also pointed out that for a 3rd Dan my foundation techniques are behind where they should be. They gave me some really good pointers to work on: proper chambering and hip usage among them. Hopefully I can quickly catch up to where I should be. I’ll keep you all posted, so stay tuned!