darren_stranger: (Default)
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I'm still not sure what to do about this grading business.

There are lots of different things i want to do with my training - that hapkido class and refereeing in particular.  Mr Roz said the other night that i should do fight classes to learn to move like a fighter, and when i did some patterns in front of him i was tense and tight, so i probably need to do some pattern competition to get used to doing that under pressure and learn to deal with nerves again.  But i can't do all of those things and also find time to do extra training for this grading as well.

I'm not sure which way to go on this - whether to try to put this grading off indefinitely, while i do the things i want to do, or to just get it done with and out of the way so i can concentrate on other things afterwards without having to worry about it.   I need to decide fairly soon, as i was about ready to contact that hapkido club to see about joining their Saturday class.

--

Edit - Checking out bus and train timetables, it seems there's no way i could get from the hapkido class in Croydon to Doncaster in time for training, which means that every singe class there clashes with taekwondo.  I guess that settles that part of the equation for now. 

Perhaps it is better all round to just concentrate on this grading and put other things on hold until after that's done.  Something like hapkido is a longer term project anyway, and there may be something more accessible on offer at another time. 

directions

Mar. 8th, 2012 09:40 am
darren_stranger: (Default)
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I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about this 5th Dan business and where i'm going with taekwondo in general, turning things over and over in my mind and going in circles, so i think i need to put some of these thoughts down in text to get them out of my head.

In particular, i've been thinking about this 5th Dan grading, what it would mean to me and why i would want to do it in the first place.  The main reason that i come up with is confidence - having a 5th Dan could have some positive effects on my self-image and how i relate to the world.

Apart from enjoyment, one of my main reasons for doing taekwondo is for confidence and the ability to take action, not necessarily in a self-defence situation but for life in general.  One reason people often don't help others who are in trouble is because they lack the self-confidence to act (aka the "Bystander Effect") and i want to be more the sort of person who is willing and able to help someone who needs it, whether it's something like a first aid situation or just someone struggling with their shopping.  One incident that happened back when i was training for 4th Dan showed this perfectly, and gave me an insight into just how martial arts could have a practical positive effect on me as a person. 

But, while achieving 5th Dan might provide a boost to that sort of confidence in some ways, it's also a double edged sword.  While self-defence and fighting skills aren't my main reason for doing taekwondo, the fact that it is a martial art means that fighting is an integral part of it, and having a 5th Dan carries an expectation (in my mind, at least) of possessing a certain degree of ability in that area.  Put simply, to be a 5th Dan who doesn't know how to defend himself, with at least a reasonable degree of skill, would make me feel like a fraud and would undermine any gains in self-confidence that would come from achieving that rank.  That's pretty much it in a nutshell.

Of course, the question is what to do about it.  I can say that i don't want to think about doing the grading until i have a better handle on more advanced self-defence skills, but the question that remains is how do i set about building those skills.  If i haven't learnt that stuff yet, after so many years, then i'm obviously going about it the wrong way and need to change what i'm doing.  One thing i have figured out is that i need repetition - i can't just do something a few times every now and again and have it stick.  I need to do things over and over, week in, week out, in order to remember and become fluent with them.  That's why poomsae is my best skill, because we do it all the time and i can also practise by myself at home.  Self-defence is not so easy.  One strategy i've thought of is to identify certain techniques that i want to master and then just grab another black belt any chance i get and practise them.  Another thing i really should do is talk to Greg and Barry about it and find a way to say "look, the way we practise this stuff just isn't working for me", though that's kind of difficult as it does seem to work for everybody else.

Another thing i've been toying with is the possibility of taking up a class in hapkido, so that i can spend more time working more systematically on those sorts of skills, though that's a more long-term prospect, as starting a new art as a white belt isn't going to enhance my advanced level skills in a hurry.  It is something i'd like to do though, as i think the techniques and principles of that art would be a good complement to taekwondo.  Finding the time would be the tricky part, as the classes near me all clash with taekwondo, other than a Saturday morning class. That one i'll look into, though spending more of my Saturday at training may meet with some domestic opposition.

I'd also like to get back into refereeing for fight competitions.  I was speaking to Bill about it the other week and it seems they are desperately short of referees.  I used to really enjoy it, but stopped doing it years ago when i somehow dropped off the mailing list and fell out of touch with the rules and practices.  I'd really like to do that again, because it's exactly the sort of thing that is good to build confidence, quick thinking, presence of mind and decisive action, all the things i'm looking for from martial arts.  It would definitely beat the hell out of spending a day watching people do poomsae and ticking off minor technical errors one after another.

One other thought also occurred to me this morning:  I should get back into reading martial arts magazines again, just to keep myself inspired and motivated.  Because sometimes, especially when i'm dwelling in these sorts of thoughts and self-doubts, i forget why i even like doing martial arts in the first place.


Edit - Looking back on some old entries, it seems i've been very much in this place before:

http://strang-er.livejournal.com/63083.html

Drills

Jul. 24th, 2011 11:57 am
darren_stranger: (Default)
Some simple but interesting drills from yesterday's class at Doncaster:

On the ground, kicking to the bag:  Ten kicks each leg (knee or groin) then swap holders.  Holder should step in forcefully each time, but keep front knee bent.  Note - when kicking to knee, aim below the knee, so if it slides up it will hit the kneecap.  Doing it repeatedly made me realise that we often just do a couple of kicks each foot then call it done and move on.  Doing more repetition helps get  better feel for it.  Working with Phillipe, i noticed a distinct difference on the side kick when i made a point of hitting with the heel rather than the blade of the foot.  I also noticed on the push kick that it worked better when i did it in a relaxed way, instead of trying to hit hard and tensing up.

Lying flat on the gound:  Turning to foetal cover-up position, to left or right with random calling of "one" or "two".  This lets everyone practise at once, with loits of repetition, and work on speed.  After several repetitions that way, we then worked with partners kicking randomly to head or body.

With the mobility part of the exercise, Greg's approach is to do one kick, with kihap, then get up.  The pros of that are that it eliminates uncertainty about when to get to your feet and also lets you practise getting up more times (Phillipe and i changed attacker each time, which kept things moving and made it a good fitness workout as well).  It reminded me of another exercise that Mr Rosinszky uses, in which you kick the bag five times, side or push, then get to your feet.  Then it's straight down again and repeat, which gets pretty tiring as well.

Later on, Greg showed us a next step after the knee kicking - to grab the attacker's ankle and take him down, or use your foot or ankle to trap his ankle and take him down (he did one where my ankle was trapped by his foot and then he pushed my knee with his other - i went down hard with just a little push).

One other fitness/self defence drill was just hitting the bag for a minute each, with palm hand or knee.  In both cases, the lower straps were held together in the left fist, while the upper one was held in the usual way.  For palm heel, the holder holds the bag at face height and slightly to the side (so it doesn't hit you in the face) and pushes forward constantly while the defender just hits repeatedly with palm heel strike.  If the defender backs away in a straight line, the holder can try to push him or her into a corner.  For the knee strike, the holder holds the bag a little more loosely, while the defender grabs it tight at the top corners and knee strikes repeatedly (same knee or alternating).  Change holder after a minute and repeat until exhausted.

We also did some eye exercise, starting with just hands, then hands and light low kicks (roundhouse or twist kick to upper thighs), then hands, kicks and grappling (no throws).  I was with Clive, and found it hard to get past his mad kung fu skillz, but i did notice with both of us that when we saw a tempting opportunity to go for the stomach or ribs, we'd leave our head undefended and cop one on the forehead.  Worth remembering if it's ever more than light taps coming at us.  One advantage Greg pointed out of the 'rolling' kali-style action is that one hand is always coming up to protect the face while the other is going forward.  It does seem to me to leave you a little vulnerable to swinging attacks hooking in from the side, though Greg favours a crossed-over position of that guarding hand to give a little protection for that (if you're fast enough with your outward blocking action).

On a final note - there's been another change in the closing moves of Taegeuk 8, in that we now turn on the ball of the foot to make the last back stance, while turning on the heel is a deduction.  In other words, back to how we used to do it (and consistent with all our other moves, always turning on the ball).  I'm beginning to wonder if it's even worth trying to keep up with the latest fashions, other than maybe as an exercise in staying adaptable.  Especially when they don't seem technically sound - with any luck, this current fashion of rising up to a straight support leg when kicking will also pass.

*crunch*

Oct. 1st, 2010 09:49 am
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I twisted my ankle at training last night.  We were just doing a basic 'moving off the line of attack' exercise, as part of the instructors' training session, when i tripped and felt my ankle roll under with that awful crunching sensation.  With the wave of adrenaline that followed, it took quite a while for the numbness to wear off enough to feel just how bad an injury i'd given myself.  It turned out to be not quite as bad as i'd first feared, but it's very stiff, sore and swollen today.  Christine (one of Greg's black belts who's a doctor) gave it a once-over and said nothing appeared to be broken, Greg taped it up with elastic bandage and Grant offered me a lift home, where i sat it on ice for much of the night.  Hopefully it won't take too long to recover.

One thing it did teach me is that my footwork is rubbish.  Greg had just pointed out that i was bobbing up and down in the exercise instead of staying low and moving like a martial artist.  The way i tripped suggests that i was both dragging the blade of my foot (a bad habit it's easy to get away with on polished boards) and not moving my back foot first to slide away.  I really need to do more footwork practise, not to mention sparring (other than with white and yellow belts).  One more thing to work on once the ankle's good to go again.

While on the instructor training, Greg outlined an interesting approach to teaching a new skill to someone.  Most of it is what i do anyway through common sense, though not thought about or approached in any systematic way.  One bit that was a new idea to me is step 4 - i usually go straight into breaking it down as a default, without seeing if it's necessary. 

1.  Name the skill.
2.  Demonstrate/show an ideal model (if you can't do it, use someone who can)
3.  Explain what the skill is used for
4.  Try it.  If they can do it right away, move on.  If not..
5.  Break it down into parts, then bring them together.  Provide feedback and encouragement.

It's pretty obvious when spelled out like that, but i hadn't thought of it so systematically before.

One bit i had missed in the instructor training, due to not being able to get there at the beginning, was Greg's take on balancing perfection vs boredom.  I might have to ask him about that, as i could use some ideas.
darren_stranger: (Default)
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Last night at training we spent pretty much the whole class on blocking exercises.

It ranged from the usual eye exercise sparring, the lower/minor/body/upper/outside blocking progression facing each other in horse riding stance, a similar exercise just focussing on repetitions of one block at a time, some slowed down sparring with one person attacking and the other blocking (as usual i find myself doing more evasion when i'm suppoed to be relying on blocks), and some practise just blocking and countering head punches of various kinds.  One new thing that Barry showed us was, from the 'don't want to fight' defensive position, if the person steps towards you, to take a step back and shove your leading hand towards their face, obscuring their view of your head, messing with their depth perception and invading their personal space.  If they do attack, that leading hand can be used to block (as well as leading them to throw a more swinging punch which is easier to block).  It's important to keep that extended arm bent a little, both to allow it to move quickly to block and to lessen the danger of it being grabbed.

While blocking attacks from that position, which worked quite well, i noticed one interesting thing:  Blocking a punch from Charles with my right hand, i found myself without thinking pushing his arm downwards with that hand, grabbing it with my left and then hitting him with my right.  Not having actually planned to do that, i failed to take into account the fact i was pulling him in and promptly smacked him in the face, though luckily it was the back of my open hand i hit him with.  After appropriate apologies, i kept wondering why i hit him with an open hand like that - it wasn't quite a pat-parry-pat, but the motion seemed somehow familiar, like i'd seen it in a kung fu video or something and unconsciously copied it.  It was only this morning after doing my morning t'ai chi that i realised that that's where the move came from (parting the horse's mane, or any of the ward-off actions) and that doing it slowly every day, without thinking of any fighting application, had made it become a natural way of moving for me.  So there's an indication of just what poomsae is for.

One other thing that Barry made a point to mention throughout the blocking exercises was the need to stay relaxed, both to be able move quickly but also to hit harder.  That was a good reminder for me, as i'd been doing some poomsae before class and found myself getting very tired very quickly, which i knew was from being tense.  The importance of staying relaxed as an actual fighting application will probably help me remember that.

weekend

Aug. 18th, 2009 01:06 pm
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That was a busy weekend.

Saturday morning we ran a few errands, including picking up a collection of broken concrete from out front of a vacant building near work.  I'd spotted them during the week and noticed they'd make perfect stepping stones for the side garden, being a couple of inches thick, flat on top and of a darker, rock-like shade of concrete.  I had thought we'd only get maybe half a dozen of a decent size and shape, but by the time i'd loaded up the 'near enough' and 'maybe' chunks, there were enough to almost do the whole path.  Some have raised bits of gravel on the edge, which i'll have to chip off with a hammer, while some are definitely on the small end of useful, but they can be replaced later if i find better ones.  I've already laid them out and put five in the ground in the morning before leaving for work, and it's going to look great.

Saturday afternoon was taekwondo, which i had to do dagging around in a t-shirt as i'd missed packing my dobok jacket before leaving home.  Ah well, at least i packed the pants.  Saturday class is always a good session. It's a pity i've missed so many lately.  In the mixed class i got to teach a pair of white belts for a change, though one was an ITF black belt who's visiting us for a while, so i spent much of the time trying to blend explanations of how we do things aimed at his level with those that would be useful for a new beginner.  His school must be quite formal, as he kept calling me 'sir', which felt a bit odd (especially without my status symbols  props  security blanket  belt and uniform) but i didn't say anything, as it's not really anything 'wrong' to correct.  After fitness circuit (mmm, sweat), black belt class consisted mostly of poomsae and self defence work, the latter of which i paired up with Clive, who was helpfully non co-operative and made me work hard.  It's always satisfying to walk out with sore muscles, red wrists and sweaty hair.  

I also found out that Jessica is leaving for Canada for the rest of the year, only because they had a card for us all to sign.  I really should pay more attention.

Sunday morning was the last of the meditation classes in at Box Hill.  After running late last week, i decided to leave home early in case the trains were diverted again, which of course meant that they were running normally and i got there way too early.  That wasn't a bad thing, as i got to spend some time sitting in the shrine room soaking up the atmosphere.  Remembering what Lillian had said after the first class, i sat looking at the main Buddha statue for a while, not really meditating but just watching my breathing a little and listening to the music they had playing (one of those flowery Namo Guan Shi Yin Pu Sa recordings).  It was interesting to notice the way my eyes got lazy after a while and the focus softened, making the statue seem very 3D.  Of course it is 3D, being a statue and all, but it really seemed to stand out in an interesting way against the similar gold/beige hued background, with the soft light and incense smoke adding to the effect.

As the families started coming in for the children's session, i got up and went down the street to the meditation room.  Lillian had already set everything up, though it was still quite early, so the teacher suggested i sit for a while and do some meditation for myself.  Once the rest of the class arrived, we went through some t'ai chi to warm up before doing some more sitting.  This teacher did a similar set of exercises to what we had done wth Rev. Man Ching, though i noticed a few things she did differently, eg in 'painting a rainbow', the leading foot is turned in the direction you are leaning, while the opposite hand bends in as if patting yourself on the head, which seemed much easier on the back.  She also added in an extra buit to the face massage - taking two fingers and 'brushing your teeth' by rubbing them over the teeth from outside, above and below the lips, and also rubbing the ears with two fingers, which she said is a good way to wake yourself up when tired.  

We sat for about 30 minutes with an instrumental version of the Om Mani Padme Hum music playing, then a few minutes more in silence.  This week it was much easier to concentrate, without the agitation of rushing and also managing not to try to control my breath to match the music (left to its own devices, it blended in of its own accord again).  The teacher had suggested we watch our emotions this time, to see how various thoughts, sounds or sensations make us feel.  The only real feelings i noticed were those of peace and tranquility with the music and stillness after it finished.  Other sounds and sensations, even stray thoughts, didn't seem to have emotional effect on me.  I suspect that was due to fact i was watching for it, in a similar way to how i've noticed my mind doesn't run away on a train of thought when i'm actively watching to see where it runs.  (I guess this is what people mean when they say that a finger can't point at itself).

Then we revisited the tea ceremony, this time trying two different kinds of tea for comparison.  Again she asked us to pay attention to how we feel.  The first was the dragon ball tea again, the smell of which gave me a feeling of freshness and nature, while a second, stronger smelling leaf i could only describe as smelling 'darker'.  It did remind me a bit of the oolong tea i'd had at the tea rooms when i was in the city, which one of the Chinese guys in the class identified it as.  When the tea was made, we again watched how we felt as we tasted them.  The dragon ball tea left me with feelings of lightness and freshness, while the oolong gave a warm feeling, from a vaguely spicy aftertaste (which we later learned was ginseng, which explained why it made me think of Korea).  Over a few more cups, the teacher talked to us for a while about putting aside feelings of like and dislike, building equanimity and extending meditation to everything we do in daily life.  Now that it's five days later (Friday now) as i'm still writing this, i can't remember a lot of what she said, other than noticing that there was a lot more Buddhism in the lessons from the lay teacher than from the Reverend.  We finished by reciting the Four Mottoes from last week again (a very Mahayana dedication of merit and well-wishing for all beings) and there was talk of another course, perhaps a little more advanced, sometime in the future.  So that will be good if it goes ahead. 

After class, Elaine picked me up on the way through to the city, to spend the afternoon at [profile] blind_sublime's place, to hang out and also do some filming for an assignment for Elaine's uni course.  Ange was the cameraperson (and did a fine job of it too), while i got to play a client who Elaine was teaching to cross the road with the walk lights.  It was good to catch up, and the filming was fun for the most part (with some funny looks from the folks outside the old age centre across the road) but frustrating when Elaine's camera decided to delete the wrong clips when we needed to clear space, resulting in much angst and a mad rush to re-film the lost sections before the light was gone.  It was quite late when we left, even later to home and bed, but we got the job done and had a pleasant afternoon together in the process.

Next weekend (well, in reality last weekend, but i'm supposedly writing this a week ago - stupid no posting in work time rule) will be a busy one again, judging the junior poomsae competition all day Saturday - times are set for 9am to 10pm! (though actually it was finished by around 5pm, but i didn't know this when i would have written it last week), then a solo working bee Sunday to clear back the bushes from the side fence in preparation for its replacement, releasing our Rudd bucks into the local economy as intended.

Now if only i can find time to get a good night's sleep in there somewhere.
darren_stranger: (Default)

On Saturday i went to a seminar with Mr Kang in at the netball centre.  While i've had poomsae seminars up to the eyeballs lately, i went along just to train with Mr Kang again, which i haven't done since Korea.  As i do often when passing through from Flinders Street, i stopped outside the Kyokushin dojo in Banana Alley to watch them training for a bit.  Usually, i'm on my way to a competition when i pass that way, and many a time i've watched them doing drills and thought that i'd rather be doing that than going to a competition, so it was nice this time to actually be heading off for some basic training of my own.

As anticipated, the training session was mostly basics, doing drills in horse riding stance or walking, kicks from standing or lying down, then working through patterns step by step.  I didn't come away with any new information on the poomsae, but i didn't really go for that reason.  It was just a good, old-fashioned training session.  The only pity was it that only went for two hours.

I might make note of a few simple drills and warm-up exercises that i found interesting and might use in the future:

drills )


Sunday was the second meditation class in at Box Hill.   I was there fairly early, and chatted for a bit to Lillian, the volunteer i was talking to last week, and Tony, another guy in the class.   I'll try each week to meet a couple more of my classmates and remember names as best i can. 

This session we focussed on counting breaths.  Nothing complicated, just one to ten, counting either in or out breaths as we preferred, going back to one if we missed a count.  I've used this method before, though in the class it was easier to keep focussed and not let the mind wander as much as as it usually does.  The moments where i was able to really be involved with a particular breath gave me a good sense of what i should be doing at home.

Next week, weather permitting, we might go outside to the park form some walking meditation.


To help remember some of the t'ai chi warm up exercises we do at the start of class, i'm going to note them here as i recall them, and hopefully add a couple more each week:

warm-up exercises )

oh yeah..

Jul. 3rd, 2009 03:35 pm
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Just worked out something very basic about ap seogi and Taegeuk One:

Ap seogi's just a walking step, right?  So why don't i just do the first few moves as if i'm walking?  Forget about where to put my feet or how long the stance should be.  Just walk through it.  Suddenly, those first moves, and the whole pattern in general, seem flow much more comfortably and smoothly than they have before. 

Why was this not obvious to me long before now?
darren_stranger: (Default)

Something posted on the girlfighters community, on teaching older kids/early teens:

"oh--other advice: Praise, critique, praise. Praise what they're doing right, critique what they're doing wrong, then praise them when they correct it. As adults, we usually get critiqued and then maybe praised when we correct it and it's hard to remember to not do that with kids. The school I'm in is big on positive reinforcement with the kids. If you praise one kid for behavior you like, other kids will tend to emulate that and want your attention. Believe it or not, I've seen it. We have a "Latch-key" program for after school care and a lot of the kids come from homes where they don't get a lot of praise."

I've heard similar ideas before, but this seems to put it quite succinctly.  Will try to put it into practice.
darren_stranger: (Default)


Last night was another poomsae seminar with Grandmaster Park.  It's apparently the last time he's likely to come to Australia again, so i wanted this time to ask at least a couple of the questions about applications that i haven't been able to find answers on.

I considered asking about the turning kun dol jjogi move in Keumgang, but decided that some moves in Sipjin were more baffling for me, so i saved questions until then in case i didn't get to ask more.  As last time, nobody else was asking any questions and we just went through how the patterns were done, with the odd bit of application here and there to show why an arm should be straight or whatever.  When we got up to Sipjin, i swallowed my nerves and asked if there was any application for the "lifting two buckets" move, but Mr Park just showed how to do the move again.  When we stopped for a water break after that, i asked again, mentioning the word 'hosinsul' in case he misunderstood what i was asking, but he just said how to perform the move again and then walked off, so i guess that meant no.

It was kind of awkward, and i'm not sure he particularly appreciated me asking, but given it's the last chance i'm likely to get to ask the guy who wrote the book, so to speak, it was worth risking an etiquette faux-pas for the possibility of finding something out.

Of what was discussed, there were a few notable points i collected on various patterns.  I'm not sure if they will match with what's specified for competition purposes, but for practical purposes they may be important.

technical stuffs )

All up, it seemed a useful night, even if i left with old questions still unanswered.  At least this time i tried to ask, and don't have to kick myself over wasting an opportunity like last time.
darren_stranger: (Default)
Confidence.  Decisiveness.  Quick thinking.  No second-guessing, hesitation or self-consciousness. 

These are some of the things i want to gain from martial arts training, areas of weakness to be strengthened and improved.

I should remember these things constantly and look for opportunities to put them into practise.

technical

Nov. 17th, 2008 01:27 pm
darren_stranger: (Default)

Yesterday was a poomsae seminar with Grandmaster Cho.

It's always good to go to these things, to benefit from a different store of knowledge and perspective built up on decades of experience.  Nobody seems to have all the answers when it comes to taekwondo, and there's always differences between what different masters teach, but i figure that it's in those differences that you can glimpse another piece of the puzzle to help figure it all out.

technical stuff )

level up

Sep. 22nd, 2008 01:28 pm
darren_stranger: (Default)
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Yesterday David, Tony, Bill and Jamie did their 5th Dan grading.

There had been a couple of changes to the requirements, such as two-step sparring instead of one-step, and a more freestyle self defence instead of set attacks.  The two-step in particular was very good to watch - wheras the traditional one-step routines tend to be about showing off kicks, with the two step format it encouraged a lot more use of hand techniques and much closer distance, lending a bit more realism and old fashioned martial art fell to it.  What really impressed me was the speed at which the techniques were delivered, something the usual one-step routines tend to lack.  The self defence component was a four-way choreographed routine, with each defending and then becoming an attacker in turn.  We'd been practising something similar in our last grading but didn't end up being asked for it on the day, which i was glad of as it had turned out to be a bit slapstick.  David, Tony, Bill and Jamie's routine was a lot more serious and impressive, not to mention physically demanding (at least from watching).  They were supposed to shield up and do their sparring full contact, but that was skipped over and they just did light contact without shields.  After the self defence routine, they were glad of that, though i was looking forward to seeing it.  The breaking after that and poomsae beforehand all went well.  Jamie and Bill both broke with elbow strikes, which is quite unusual, and the power in David's pattern was incredible (we could feel the floor shake every time he punched).

I have to say that was the best grading i can remember watching, not just because of the technical standard (which was certainly good) but also because it seemed just that bit more intense.  One thing i've sometimes thought is that our gradings could perhaps be a little harder, not in terms of a risk of failing - they wouldn't let you try if you weren't ready to pass - but just in being a bit demanding, as a sort of trial or rite of passage.  This grading seemed more along that line.

I'm sure i'll regret wishing for it, but i hope they make it hard for us when my turn comes up in a year and a bit.

And yesterday, for the first time, i actually found myself looking forward to that.

similarites

Jun. 3rd, 2008 09:46 am
darren_stranger: (Default)
Last night we were playing with some self-defence stuff, and David was taking us through some Hapkido style moves he's been practising for his grading.  One, against a firm wrist-grab, involves taking the attacker's balance by pulling the grabbed arm down, using your legs by bending at the knees, then circling up to set up his hand for a wrist-lock.  The actual movement, bending the knees and turning the body slightly while dropping the arm down and out, then circling it in and up as if scooping water, looked remarkably like T'ai Chi to me.  It's interesting to see something like that, as i've noticed before that a lot of the principles of Hapkido seem to echo things from the T'ai Chi classics (be soft where your opponent is strong etc).  I don't know of any direct connection between the two, but it's interesting to see similarities, from an outside perspective at least. 

(Note for future reference, the wrist lock used is a slightly odd one - both hands held like pistols (thumb and index finger extended) with the other six fingers wrapped around his hand and thumb heels meeting on the back of his hand.  The twist itself is done directly in front, just rotating on front of the solar plexus without moving or turning the body). 
darren_stranger: (Default)


I just realised something obvious that i've been doing wrong in my poomsae practice.

For a while, i've been trying to find the right way to perform patterns to best express a sense of power and 'mastery', when doing them with a view to artistic expression over technical precision or martial application.  I'd been impressed by footage of Kim Jeong-Cheol of Spain at the first World Championships, particularly the sense of mastery and control he gives in his performance and body language, and have been trying capture a bit of that style in my own poomsae.  The results have been mixed - while i've managed to get more of a feel for some patterns, in others i seem to have lost the touch i had before.  Taegeuk Five, for instance, just hasn't felt right lately, though i couldn't figure out what was wrong.

Then last night it finally occurred to me what the problem is:  Without thinking of it consciously, i realise i've been trying to apply the same consistent style through all of my patterns, even though i know they're all meant to have their own feel and 'voice'.  It was like i'd forgotten the simple fact that the patterns aren't meant to be the same.  That controlled, powerful style might work well for patterns like Jitae or Shipjin, and does help with some of the difficulties of Pyongwon, but trying to do Koryo or Taebaek like that just feels wrong as they're supposed to be fast, irregular patterns.  In Taegeuk Five, i realised it was the sense of flow and lightness that was missing, lost while trying to express that power and control.

It's a bit of an epiphany - i'm always talking about the different meanings of the poomsae and how they relate to the way each pattern is performed, but in practice i realise i have a tendency to do them all the same.  I might on occasion do Taegeuk Four with the idea of braving a terrible storm or Taegeuk Five thinking about the wind, but i don't think i've properly appreciated the difference in feel that each one has.  I might know that Taegeuk Five should whip and swirl like the wind, but do i feel that in the motions?

I also realise that i've been applying different styles and ideas i come across in a blanket fashion too.  That is, i might watch a kungfu movie and be inspired by the fluid, graceful style of the fight scenes and try putting that feel into my poomsae, or i might see videos of Shotokan guys doing their kata and be impressed by the strength and explosive power in the technique and try to mirror that.  But what i haven't thought of is how those differing styles may fit in with particular poomsae, rather than doing the whole set aiming for a given effect.  It's quite obvious when i think about it - Taegeuk Four feels right done with strong, focussed individual technique (as befits the idea of someone standing strong in the face of a storm), but Taegeuk Three should be light and fast like a flickering flame.  It just feels wrong to do them the other way around.

Which is not to say there isn't room for approaching a session with a certain idea in mind (eg today i want to focus on relaxing, or today i want to work on speed and timing etc) but i think i do need to spend time approaching each pattern as a different entity, with its own style and mood and pace, and to really work out what feels right for each one.
 
darren_stranger: (Default)
 
I did another run home tonight, the first time i've done it two nights in a row (or twice in one week, for that matter).  I noticed as i went that, while i was sweating like a pig and my arms and legs were tiring, my breathing was still quite slow and deep into my abdomen.  Looks like it is improving my cardio fitness at least, and maybe doing all that yoga breathing is helping too.

When i got home i found Elaine was working late, so i stretched for a bit then went up to the reserve to do some patterns.  It took exactly 40 minutes to go through all the patterns i know once each, through the Palgwes and Taegeuks, then Koryo One and Hanryu, then Koryo through Chonkwon.  While tonight i was doing them in the more 'martial' style and going just a little faster (though this time being careful not to kick too hard and jar my joints), i also tried another approach of doing a few moments' standing meditation to clear my mind before a couple of the higher ones (again inspired by one of those Kim Soo articles, mentioning the idea of 'emptying your cup').  That really did seem to give a different feel to performing the pattern, more relaxed and with better presence of mind, and helped me clarify my thoughts about the way we peform junbi. 

There's always something more to learn, and looking into ideas from related arts does give some good insights some times. 

Bet my legs will ache in the morning, though.

Bugger

Sep. 16th, 2007 06:00 pm
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This Friday was supposed to be the national poomsae (forms) championship in Adelaide.  Well, it still is, but not for me.  I managed to injure my back early last week (not exactly sure how, though i have a couple of likely suspicions) and it now looks like it's not going to recover in time to compete.  My physio was initally hopeful that it'd come good after a couple of days, but it hasn't improved as well as he'd hoped and it won't be up to it in time for the competition (not to mention however many hours crammed in a car seat there and back) so i've had to withdraw from that and from Mr Kang's training camp at the weekend.

The good news is that it'll be okay well in time for Korea in six weeks, so i've just got to concentrate on getting it back to 100% so i can get stuck into training with the other guys once they come back from Adelaide.  It's a pity, though - i haven't been to the Nationals before and was really looking forward to it.

Ah well, there's always next year.  And when it comes round, i'm gonna kick (imaginary) arse.  Don't you worry about that.

Clarity

May. 28th, 2007 08:54 am
darren_stranger: (Default)

Just an interesting thing i noticed this morning, that's probably worth remembering, and ties in to the 'silence is golden' post i wrote the other week.

This morning i was doing my t'ai chi form in the little park.  My mind was wandering all over the place and i was making mistakes.  At one time i went from thinking about the mistake i had just made, to the need to stop thinking about other things and concentrate on what i'm doing, to the need to be able to not think while doing poomsae so as not to make mistakes, to how that might apply to a self defence situation, to Xena, Warrior Princess (via "act, don't react"), to things i'd been reading on LiveJournal.  In the midst of all that, i did a move that seemed to flow really well and brought my mind back to what i was supposed to be doing.  As soon as i stopped all the chatter in my mind, i noticed the trees in front of me suddenly come sharply into focus and had a few moments of crystal clarity before my mind raced away again with a thousand distracted thoughts (starting with writing this post in my head).  So the moment was lost, but i figure it's worth remembering as something to aim to recapture in the future.

Like any skill, i'm sure it's something that will get better with practise.

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Mr Rozinzsky turned up unexpectedly at training last night, which of course meant an impromptu Mr Roz workout (and i thought i was going to have an easy night just teaching!).

Only a few people turned up for the beginners class, so Mr Roz took a look at David and I doing a couple of patterns, which ended up as a full hour of poomsae instruction while Barry and Phoebe took the white belts (all the yellow belts seem to be off with motorcycle injuries and the like).  There were quite a few errors he picked up on, so i've got even more work ahead of me with just over two weeks to the selections, but the pointers were really useful (who'd have thought personal intruction from a 9th Dan grand master could be so informative?).

Perhaps the most important point was in turning with a block, and the idea that i should turn my body first, then block, rather than combine the block with the turn.  I'd never heard that before, but once i got my head around it i found it did give more power.  Later, i realised i already do that with the first two blocks of Pyongwon, which have generally been my strongest blocks.  Another point was that my front stances, both long and short, are too narrow.  This was actually good news to me, as i'd been making them narrower as i thought they were too wide, but it never felt right.  So i just have to go back a bit to maybe half way.  I'm also tense in the shoulders (just for a change!) during a lot of the techniques, so i need to keep them relaxed, as well as keeping chin up and face clam (ie stop grimacing).

In more specific terms, the first move of Taebaek needs a little tweaking, to sit down into the cat stance as i do the block, not while winding up, and the elbow strike needs to be squarer (as in Pyongwon).  This also applies to the elbow strike in Taegeuk 7, which i'd never known before, so that will take some getting used to.  The grab before the knee strike in T7 also needs to be shown more, while the final side punch needs to be straighter (i've been keeping the elbow bent so as not to jar it, but i've made the punch look like a hook, so i have to bring it back a bit).  Taegeuk 8 needs work mostly on the final few moves, which are always the hardest.  In Keumgang, i need to watch my hands between the hinge punches, as they're drifting about and often turned up the wrong way during the transition.  Finally, the return to junbi seogi at the end of each pattern needs to be more graceful, shifting the weight with the knee bent then straightening as the hands raise (David also suggested waiting a full second after "keuman" before starting the return to junbi).  This also applies to a step in Shipjin, with the step from side punch to the opposite horse stance with yoke strike needing to be more graceful and formal, though i'm not sure i quite understand that one and will have to play with it a bit.

After an hour of poomsae, we then the joined with the red belt class for a combined session, starting again with patterns, going through Taegeuk 5 to Koryo, after which i was starting to get a bit knackered.  We did one-step for about ten minutes after that, during which i realised i really should start working some new ones out rather than waiting until i have a grading due, just like i'm always telling students.  After that was bag kicking, with some basic combinations then the trademark hopping across the hall kicks on the same foot and back again.  At this point i could feel my heart running a thousand miles an hour and trying to burst out of my chest, but i didn't drop dead so the old ticker must still be in reasonable nick.  The final exercise for the night was in groups of three, with one person defending, one attacker holding a kick bag and the other slapping to the midsection, which was quite a test when already exhausted and, when my turn to defend came, Barry and David intent on keeping me cornered.   I didn't manage to hit the bag with much, but found elbow strikes quite effective in the confusion of the moment, and i did manage to get it in between myself and Barry with a grab and knee strike move a few times, though how i would have fared in a real two-on-one i'm not sure, as they had me well cornered right at the end.  It's an interesting exercise, though the limited range of strikes that were usable made it defferent to how i'd picture a self defence scenario working.

As usual, it was a night for peeling off a sweat soaked dobok afterwards, which is always a good thing.  Mr Roz gave me a lift to the station, which i didn't protest at for once (can't always be so stubborn about being Mr Self Reliance, can i?)

All in all, it was a good night.  But boy am i sore today.
darren_stranger: (Default)
Did my first poomsae practice since the Open tonight.   Seems a few things can slip in a week and a half.  Pyongwon and Sipjin were pretty sharp though, so the extra practice i put in on those two is still making a difference.  Still, i need to get the other patterns up to scratch, or i won't make it through to the last round to do those two.

Tonight i was watching for problem areas, particularly those that are hand or stance related, so i can work on them during the day wthout having to be stretched.  Those i noted were as follows:

Taegeuk 6:  Front stance is off on the last two moves.  Need to straighten this up.

Koryo:  Last line (coming back) still needs work.

Keumgang:  Still wobbling in hakdari seogi - not sure if it was the uneven ground, but should practice more to be sure.  In particular the third time (coming straight from hinge punch) gives me trouble.

Taebaek:  The spear-hand / pull out, backfist combination (as usual).  Work on keeping balance and stepping easily into the following punch.

More if i think of it.

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