Thursday, November 3, 2011

TaeKwonDo Times Traditions Column by Master Doug Cook-November, 2011

The Promotion Process
Approaching a Belt Test with Enthusiasm and Passion

Six months ago, I had the supreme honor of testing for my 6th dan black belt at an examination officiated by martial arts legend, Grandmaster Richard Chun. Looking back, the first time I stumbled into Kwanjangnim’s world was as a newly-minted yellow belt when I first read his always inspiring book Tae Kwon Do: The Korean Martial Art. Since then, I have trained under this man and his instructors for many, many years. And so, it was a distinct privilege to perform before him on a pleasant, spring day last June.
I have always been excited about the prospect of testing. I approach these events, now long in between, with great anticipation and when the welcomed day finally arrives, I do my utmost to exhibit enthusiasm, precise technique and authentic martial spirit. I always treat the process as a celebration of my hard-earned skills rather than with the apparent stress that characterizes a typical test in its truest sense.
Still, not everyone agrees with this outlook. Many view a belt test, especially impatient parents, as an imposition of significant proportions. Why not simply present the student with a new belt during class when the instructor deems them ready? Why consume four or five hours out of a weekend, usually four times a year, when the average individual can barely find the time to attend weekly classes? Naturally, there are pros and cons to any process of this nature. Yet, depending on how the event is administrated, to most students of the traditional martial arts, the benefits far outweigh any inconveniences that might materialize.
Read entire column

TaeKwonDo Times Traditions Column by Master Doug Cook - September, 2011

One Divorce Too Many
The Loss of a Black Belt Student Can be a Disheartening Experience

One spring day in 1997, just before beginning a vigorous training session at the Richard Chun Taekwondo Center in New York City, I sat with Grandmaster Chun in his office discussing several issues relating to school ownership. Being the benevolent and forthcoming man that he is, Grandmaster Chun was never one to hold back valuable information from his disciples.
The conversation on that warm afternoon centered on my question as to why he chose not to display photographs of his many black belt students on the walls of his Upper Eastside dojang. The root of my query evolved from observations I had made while visiting various schools here and in Korea, the homeland of tae kwon do. At one dojang locally, I had noticed a cluster of color photos depicting what appeared to be the location’s entire population of black belts; there wasn’t many, but they all seemed to be represented, including the master instructor. Likewise, while training at the Korean National University for Physical Education or KNUPE, in Seoul, South Korea, as well as other noteworthy training facilities in the “land of the morning calm”, I was impressed with row upon row of proud, young black belts frozen in black and white images that stared down at me from frames firmly secured above the mirrors that ran the entire length of the dojang. Tributes of this sort seemed to add an air of heritage and permanence to not only the institution itself, but also the sacred training floor upon which we were about to stand. And so, almost two decades ago, shrouded in my naiveté’, I was confounded as to why my kwanjangnim did not share in this practice.
Without ever meeting Grandmaster Chun, one could not be familiar with his humble, gracious demeanor. He is unyieldingly courteous and disarmingly kind in his approach; except, of course, when he is standing in class before a large group of students. It is then that his ferocity and passion for tae kwon do quickly becomes apparent. Nevertheless, sitting at his desk across from me that day, he paused seemingly in deep reflection before answering. I trust that I am not breaking a confidence when I share his reply. Kwanjangnim looked up and said “If I were to mount photos of every black belt that I have graduated across the years at this school alone, not only would they fill every available wall, but a real danger exists that I would weep for those who have left.” With that statement, I truly began to understand the deep and singular relationship that exists between a worthy master and his loyal students.
Read entire column

The Evolution of Tae Kwon Do Poomse, Hyung and Tul

Long before the advent of sport sparring and the invention of modern safety gear, in a time when to fight meant to defend one’s life from almost certain death an ingenious method of transmitting martial arts skills from venerated master to loyal disciple was developed. Legend has it that experienced warriors returning unscathed from combat, a testimony in and of itself to their martial prowess, mimicked techniques used to vanquish opponents on the field of battle for the benefit of those less qualified in the ways of war. This ritual may have been practiced around a campfire, in secret gardens or in the incense-filled halls of ancient Buddhist temples lending credence to the notion that the dynamic practice of formal exercises has existed for centuries. Several examples demonstrating this concept can be traced back to antiquity with roots found in primitive works of art and ancient yogic postures originally intended to promote health and core strength in sedentary clerics.
Today, poomsae, hyung or tul - all culturally-specific terms for Korean martial arts patterns - can be defined as choreographed sequences of techniques aimed at defeating multiple attackers originating from various directions. They can also be thought of as “quality shapes of strength” representing the comprehensive catalog of Traditional and Kukki Tae Kwon Do skills. Moreover, poomsae demonstratively symbolize the essence of the art and can be distilled down into two discrete categories – those created in modern times as opposed to those tracing their pedigree to primordial practices.
In an effort to quantify the significance of this division, we must first appreciate that the formal exercises found in Tae Kwon Do today were not created in a vacuum. Rather, an analysis of the historical evidence at hand reveals that empty-hand fighting arts, in conjunction with their associated formal exercises, developed naturally across continents as various cultures adapted to cope with the dangers posed by increased trade and human aggression accompanied by imperialist desire. Still, the need to practice prearranged chains of combat tactics in a relatively relaxed environment devoid of mayhem and death was apparently universal.
In his book, Moving Zen, Shotokan karate-do practitioner C.W. Nicol describes forms practice as “a dynamic dance; a battle without bloodshed or vanquished.” He further goes on to say that, “we are somehow touching the warrior ancestry of all humanity” and that “of all the training in karate, none is more vigorous, demanding or exhilarating than the sincere performance of kata.” From this we can see that poomsae training, if approached in a traditional manner, not only cultivates defensive and offensive proficiency coupled with ki (internal energy) development, but establishes a profound link with masters of the past who clearly did not perform formal exercises merely for physical fitness as some would claim, but as a means of collating hard-earned martial skills often fostered on the field of battle or in the supercharged atmosphere of some distant training hall, for the benefits of students across the centuries.
Read entire article

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Chosun e-newsletter archive Volumn 2 #11 November, 2011

Dear Martial Arts Enthusiast,

Welcome to the November edition of the Chosun newsletter. The Chosun Taekwondo Academy wants to extend and invitation to you and your family to attend our:

14th Annual Awards Banquet & Dinner Dance

Saturday December 10th, 2011 6:30 - 11:00 pm

Black Bear Golf Club, 138 Route 23 North, Franklin, NJ 07416

DJ and dancing, cash bar, awards presentation, and a visit from Santa!

Adults: $49 / Children:$39 / under 4 years: FREE Make checks payable to Chosun Taekwondo Academy. Remit to Chosun Taekwondo Academy PO Box 721 Warwick, NY 10990
Reserved seating available: contact Chosun at
Patty Cook, Editor
Read entire newsletter