Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Value of Traditional Taekwondo Training

by Chosun student Julie Cheshire
Belt Promotion Test essay - May 17, 2015

     Traditional taekwondo training focuses on self-defense and “the way” of living a life of virtue. It is in traditional taekwondo that my interest lies.  While I respect the competitive sport of Olympic Taekwondo, it is the traditional martial art that I seek for myself and my children.
      The traditional art includes il su siks and ho sin sools, essential self-defense movements. These are empowering moves that if studied, provide practical ways to save yourself and others from a violent attack. The mere knowledge of these moves provides confidence and power within.  This internal strength can be enough of a force to prevent an attack from happening in the first place.

      Internal strength results not only from knowledge of moves, but also in an understanding of “ki”. Ki development is another focus of traditional taekwondo that enables students to tap into and harvest their internal energy.  While this is a new concept for me, I have experience firsthand how using techniques to harvest its power enable me to perform my breaks successfully.
      It is this focus on the internal that attracted me to taekwondo in the first place. The five tenets provide virtues that will prepare my children to become successful and benevolent. For adults, revisiting the tenets helps focus our daily lives and provides the inner strength to incorporate them. The tenets are not merely recited, they are experienced and promoted through example and lessons at Chosun.  Newcomers are welcomed, patience is extended, and children are expected to treat each other kindly.  Many sports focus on character development, but one is hard pressed to find a sport that emphasizes character development to the same degree I have experienced at Chosun.  Athleticism is nothing without strong character.  In fact, it can be dangerous, especially when a student has become proficient in defense skills.
     Meditation is another traditional component that I find invaluable.  While I still feel like a newcomer to meditation, I have improved. Western cultures have begun embracing meditation for its benefits for health and mind.  Quieting the mind has never been an easy task for me.  My mind is awash with responsibilities and concerns.  Ironically, using time to quiet the mind is often more constructive than trying to get ahead (or catch up) with thoughts of productivity.
     Traditional and sport taekwondo are two separate but related practices, both worthy exercises. However, traditional taekwondo is the only one that meets my personal and parental goals. I have little interest in competitive sport. I find value in the focus on “the way” set forth by the guiding principles, ki development and meditation.  I find value in the empowerment that self defense furnishes. It is the traditional aspects of taekwondo that I value most.

The Benefits of Meditation in Taekwondo

by Chosun student, Brian Parkinson
Belt Promotion Test Essay May 17, 2015
     Taekwondo can be literally translated as the way of smashing with the hands and feet.  Although the ultimate goal of Taekwondo is to imbue the practitioner with the skills necessary to defend oneself, the sheer brutality of some of the techniques taught to that end cannot be mistaken for anything other than what they are: a means to inflict serious physical harm on another.  What role can a passive and tranquil activity such as meditation have in the practice of a martial art?  The answer stems from the last part of the name Taekwondo: Do or The Way.
        Do or The Way refers to the moral part of Taekwondo.  At the end of every class we recite the five tenets: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, and Indomitable Spirit.  These are not simply words to be painted on a wall and recited with the hollow ring of rote memory but instead denote an overarching value system to the practice of
Students meditating at Chosun 
Taekwondo.  Without these values guiding our actions our training would have no other goal than to imbue the practitioner with the ability to do harm.   Meditation helps us cultivate this aspect to our training.  By forcing us to quiet our minds and learn to discipline our thoughts we are cultivating more than the ability to do physical harm, we are cultivating the wisdom required to know when to use force.
         Meditation does much more than to aid in our moral development as marital artists.  There are many physical benefits associated with the practice of meditation.  Anxiety and tension are greatly reduced as a state of deep relaxation pervades the body during meditation.  The regular practice of meditation has been shown to have profound and long lasting positive effects on one’s overall health and well-being.  In addition to the immediate and long term physical benefits of meditation, it also aids us in our training.  Our daily lives are fraught with distractions of every kind.  A distracted mind cannot focus wholly on the tasks at hand.  One of the main goals of meditating before class is to clear these distractions from the mind, allowing yourself to become wholly absorbed in your training and thus amplify your technique.  For me, this is the most vital reason to meditate.  My mind is constantly racing in opposing directions.  It is only through the sincere practice of meditation before class that I am able to purge my mind of all these competing thoughts, leaving a clarity I otherwise would not have.    
        Last summer I was fortunate enough to travel to South Korea as part of the Chosun Korea Tour.  One morning after some training on the hotel’s rooftop, we proceeded to a Buddhist temple just around the corner from the hotel.  I am not a Buddhist and had never entered a temple before.  I felt more than a little out of place as the morning practitioners filled the temple.  I didn’t want to miss this opportunity though and was very glad I didn’t allow my trepidation to interfere.  As I sat there on a blanket with my legs crossed and the smell of incense filling my nostrils, I could feel the intensity of the place and the sincerity of those within it.  I forced myself to purge all thought and focused only my breathing.  It reminded me of an experience I had at the beach many years ago.  While floating on my back, I dipped my ears beneath the water and focused on nothing but the sound of the ocean.  It was a very transcendent experience.  I felt a part of the water and of all of the life around me, dissolving into the sea affecting a complete dissolution of self.   Meditating in the temple that morning I had the same feeling.   I might as well have been a wisp of incense smoke for all the thought process that was occurring in my mind.
         Certainly anyone could learn the physical components of Taekwondo without meditation.  Punches, kicks, stances and blocks have little to do with the physical benefits associated with meditation and can be learned simply through repetitive practice.  This would reduce the study of Taekwondo to a purely physical activity and would rob it of the do component so crucial to the maturity of a marital artist.  The benefit of mediation in Taekwondo simply stated then is:  to bestow the practitioner with clarity of mind enabling improved technique, to improve the physical health of the practitioner and to provide a vehicle of self-discovery whereupon the Do aspect of Taekwondo can be cultivated and explored.  


Belt Promotion Test Essays by Young Chosun Students

Indomitable Spirit
by Chosun student, Aidan Morrison 
Chosun Belt Promotion Test May 17, 2015
     In Taekwondo, indomitable spirit grows in students as they move up through each belt level. The more forms and techniques and discipline a student learns, the more unconquerable they feel.
     When I earned by blue belt, I felt unconquerable because blue belt is the first
intermediate belt. At that point I knew I would make it to black belt. Having indomitable spirit lets a taekwondo student have perseverance.
In school I try to have indomitable spirit so I can persevere at schoolwork. When I grow up, indomitable spirit will help me be successful in going to a good college and getting a well-paying job that I really like. That is the meaning of indomitable spirit and how I apply it in my life.

The Meaning of Perseverance and How I Apply it in  my Life
by Chosun student, Gregory Saucedo 
Chosun Belt Promotion Test May 17, 2015
     An important tenet of taekwondo that I am learning to apply in my everyday life is perseverance. Perseverance means to never give up and to have a set of goals in mind that one wants to achieve. Without perseverance, one would not be able to overcome the everyday challenges that are present in life. Learning to persevere through challenges teaches us that we can achieve anything that is really important to us. Perseverance helps us continue to try to do something even though it may be very difficult at times. 
     Some examples of how I apply perseverance in my life include the following. In school, I am able to complete my schoolwork by focusing and setting goals that allow me to deal with my challenges. I have patience and I ask questions if I don't understand something. I study and work hard to maintain my excellent grades.  Most importantly, I always try to finish what I start.  I do not give up if something hard presents itself.
     At home, I practice playing my saxophone several times per week. Sometimes I would much rather go outside and play, but I try my best to focus on persevering so that I can become much better at playing my instrument. I also practice all the skills and techniques that I am learning during my Taekwondo classes. It takes much practice and determination as I know that at time goes by I may be faced with some challenges in improving my technique and applying everything that I have learned thus far. Through perseverance, however, I know I will continue to strive and achieve all of my goals.
     Perseverance is the path to success in life. As long as you are determined and willing to never give up you can achieve whatever you set your mind to do. My mom and dad always remind me that if you fall, you must get up and dust yourself off and try again. Once a person learns to persevere through hard times it only becomes easier to pick yourself up and become successful.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Paying Respect, with Marigolds

The Chosun Taekwondo Academy Leadership Team
There’s a charming wooden gazebo in the Warwick Town Park, surrounded by colorful flowers, with an engraved marble bench next to it that catches many a shade-seeker’s curiosity.“It has long been my dream,” the bench reads, “that one day Americans of all ages, creeds, and colors, will be practicing taijiquan in the parks of this nation as they do in China. The result would be a tremendous improvement in mental health and physical well-being. It is my hope that we can work together to revive taijiquan which is fast becoming a lost art.” What is taijiquan? And who is this enigmatic Master Jou Tsung Hwa, “scholar, teacher, author, dreamer?” Taijiquan, it turns out, is tai chi, the slow-moving martial art you see old folks practicing if you ever take a stroll through Chinatown in the morning. Master Jou was a world renowned teacher of the art, and the creator of the 103-acre Tai Chi Farm on Route 94 – an international mecca for tai chi practitioners and a landmark in Warwick. People came from around the world to practice and live on his property. The era of the Tai Chi Farm came to a close in 1998 when Master Jou died in a car accident. Even though he was in his 80s, Master Jou was still full of life and energy, and his death took the community by surprise. His disciples came together to build a gazebo in his honor. Over time, though, the flowers planted around the perimeter began to wilt. Students from the Chosun Taekwondo Academy, who practiced in front of the gazebo during the summer, took notice. This was a job for the Chosun Taekwondo Academy Leadership Team! The team consists of dedicated young martial artists who are cultivating leadership skills and enriching the lives of our citizens through selfless service to the community. The members of the team worked hard to gather donated plants and set out to fully refurbish the area. It was a huge success and a great way to not only add to the natural beauty of the area but to help honor Master Jou and preserve a valuable part of our local history.“The area was just transformed ,” said director of the team, Chosun 4th Dan Master, Cheryl Crouchen. It’s turned into a tradition to clean up around the gazebo every spring to honor Master Jou. Early on a Sunday morning in May, The Chosun Leadership Team and families happily weeded, raked and planted annuals, keeping this mystical piece of Warwick’s history alive.

A version of this article, written by Ashley Smith appeared in Dirt Magazine July 2014

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Chosun Black Belt Essays by Lisa Ehrenreich and Elissa Maynard

The Unbreakable Chain of Taekwondo Knowledge and Wisdom
Excerpt from 4th Dan Black Belt Essay by Lisa Ehrenreich
"From the moment I stepped in front of a class it felt good, it felt right, it felt like I had to do it - for myself, for the students, for Chosun and for the future of Taekwondo.   It was a huge responsibility but one I had to take on.  My goal as an instructor is not only to learn the entire curriculum (still working on that), and not just to teach good technique - but also to share how Taekwondo can become a metaphor for life at every turn. I want to share how the focus, patience and perseverance needed to execute a proper low block (ari maki), a knife hand (sonnal) or a front kick (ap chagi) can be the same focus, patience
Path to the Stone Buddha Golgulsa Temple
perseverance needed to achieve all your greatest desires and dreams. I believe we must make a concerted effort in our lives to live in the present moment, which is really all we have.  So often our minds are reliving the past or contemplating the future.  Traditional Taekwondo allows us the practice of being fully present."

The Difference Between Practicing Martial Art and Martial Sport

Excerpt from 2nd Dan Black Belt Essay by Elissa Maynard

"By removing some of the dangers that self-defense driven Taekwondo training offers, sport Taekwondo produces fast, natural, reflexive movement by emphasizing speed, technique, and completion of techniques which can help in self-defense situations. In this controlled and competitive environment, the practitioner learns how to react in difficult unpredictable circumstances. These situations can prepare the martial artist for similar situations in real life and enable them to realize and expand their potential as martial artists.

It is important to understand that sport Taekwondo competition is not the same as a fight in the CVS parking lot but is closer to a combat situation than any other style of training. These benefits only hold true and are effective if the practitioner doesn't lose sight of the true goal, which unfortunately is most often the case. When that happens, winning and losing becomes too important and interferes with the training process. In addition, as a result of point driven competitions, techniques that are deemed “ineffective” are soon abandoned and the focus shifts to skills that can procure points. This is a major downfall to the sport side of Taekwondo because so many useful skills are left behind."

Friday, May 8, 2015

Youthful Defenders - Children and the Martial Arts

by Master Doug Cook
     September ushers in the cooling days of autumn and, along with it, the first few days of school for many youngsters across America. Subsequently, parents eager for their offspring to resume a structured routine following the dog days of summer frequently look to the martial arts for a solution. Of all the disciplines currently available to the public, taekwondo, the national Korean martial art and Olympic sport defined as “the way of defending with feet and hands”, is considered by many to be the most prevalent.[1] What is it about the art of taekwondo with schools found in strip malls and on street corners all over the nation that elevates it above other martial disciplines in offering a program genuinely capable of nurturing a child’s mind, body and spirit?
The Ultimate Demonstration of Respect
     Could it be that taekwondo contains empty-hand and foot techniques with proven effectiveness as an authentic means of self-defense? Or is it the philosophical aspects of the art that attract those seeking more than just a simple, physical workout for their children? Or, perhaps it is the fact that in a constellation of many martial disciplines, taekwondo shares the spotlight, along with judo, as being the only two recognized by the International Olympic Committee thus having the exclusive privilege of participating in the Olympic Games. Either way, it is clear that taekwondo has taken its place as the fastest growing, most popular martial art in the world today.  
     Certainly gymnastics, dance, wrestling and other sports played out on the gaming fields, coupled with a nutritious diet, will satisfy the aerobic and physiological requirements intended to build strong bodies in adolescents. Likewise, series like Odyssey of the Mind and academic clubs, along with similar programs, will clearly stimulate intellectual awareness and mental acuity. Moreover, leadership and life skills involving courtesy and compassion bolstered by self-esteem and confidence can be sparked by membership in various religious and secular groups such as the Boy and Girl Scouts. Yet can any of these worthy pursuits taken in isolation, or in tandem for that matter, truly be expected to instill essential qualities that benefit all aspects of a meaningful life and promising future? For many, the traditional form of taekwondo, if taught sincerely with integrity, will satisfy many of these desirable goals. Yet, how is it possible for a pursuit that superficially resonates with potential physical violence to meet these lofty expectations? And, if they so desire, how does one become involved?
     There are many martial arts schools in existence today; most very good, some outstanding and others, as with many ventures aggressively seeking commercial success, of questionable repute. So it is important for a parent to diligently examine the many possible options readily available. This is especially true with something as polemic as the martial arts where tactics clearly brutal in nature must be offset by honorable principles governing their use. Most martial ways or disciplines followed by the suffix “do” – taekwondo, tangsoodo, karate-do, aikido - adhere to this doctrine through the use of a moral code supported by an ethical philosophical foundation. If this model is to prove effective, however, then it is the responsibility of the instructor to present a balanced version of taekwondo when transmitting its virtues on to eager youngsters. Instructors then should be fairly scrutinized by concerned parents before any commitment is made. Similarly, it is wise to determine early on if competition or life enrichment and self-defense skill is a priority. Oddly, for various reasons, martial arts schools in general do not necessarily meet both criteria. If the parent is hoping to have their child develop a greater sense of discipline, self-control, compassion, perseverance and integrity for instance, then a school featuring a traditional taekwondo curriculum would be desirable. Conversely, if sport and physical fitness as a worthwhile pastime is the ultimate objective unhindered by academics, possibly as a replacement for baseball or football, then a martial arts school cultivating athletes rather than authentic martial artists should be considered. These establishments will focus on competitive, tournament preparation, forfeiting many defensive techniques forbidden in the ring due regulatory restrictions. Even though traditional taekwondo and sport taekwondo are considered two sides of the same coin so to speak, it is rare to find a school that treats both components simultaneously with the concentration they deserve.
     As indicators of a worthy curriculum, any taekwondo class should commence with a brief period of meditation, allowing youngsters ample time to wind down the mental chatter after a challenging day at school. The practice of meditation fosters a tranquil mind capable of increased awareness and can be applied in all aspects of the student’s life where supreme focus is required. It is a time to express what is referred to as the horse mind, the serious, disciplined state of mind as opposed to the playful, carefree monkey mind. Meditative practice is frequently followed by flexibility exercises and calisthenics in preparation for the rigorous kicking, blocking and striking routines that are unique to taekwondo. These individual techniques represent the vital tools of self-defense and are ultimately strung together into patterns known as poomsae – a series of formalized movements intended to repel imaginary opponents attacking from various directions. Poomsae practice lies at the core of the traditional taekwondo syllabus permitting the student to practice coherent defensive strategies in a safe yet dynamic manner. Training is rounded out with drills aimed at deflecting offending strikes and diffusing an assortment of grabs coupled with light or no-contact sparring where students express free-style proficiency within the confines of traditional technique.
     As described, the traditional taekwondo curriculum instills respect, discipline and self-control in adolescents through an appreciation for the implied danger associated with martial arts technique and a pronounced deference towards senior belts, instructors and, by extension, parents and elders. It imbues practical self-defense skill urging students of whatever age to walk life’s path with confidence, heedful of but unhindered by its daily perils. Moreover, from meditation, children learn to cultivate a spiritually tranquil mind in stressful situations. Finally, a familiarity with Asian philosophy and culture in conjunction with a working knowledge with the vocabulary of taekwondo technique in Korean, its native tongue, adds a crucial academic element to physical training.
     In short, the practice of traditional taekwondo promotes excellence and a healthy balance between mind, body and spirit – the holistic triad of human experience – in adolescents willing to strive for nobility. For parents with insight seeking to develop courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable will in their children, there is no better vehicle. But the thoughtful parent must be patient and seek wisely; choose a school that is certain to meet your expectations since, once involved, traditional taekwondo is a extraordinary discipline that can last a lifetime.           

Master Doug Cook, a 6th dan black belt, is head instructor of the Chosun Taekwondo Academy located in Warwick, New York, a senior student of Grandmaster Richard Chun, and author of four best-selling books entitled: Taekwondo…Ancient Wisdom for the Modern WarriorTraditional Taekwondo - Core Techniques, History and PhilosophyTaekwondo–A Path to Excellence, and Taekwondo Black Belt Poomsae - Original Koryo and Koryo co-authored with Grandmaster Richard Chun, all published by YMAA Publication Center, Inc. He can be reached for lectures, seminars or questions at or


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Chosun Sunrise

by Chosun instructor Jake Garrett
The dojang is silent in the early morning light, a student practices poomsae, several others stretch in solitude, another chooses to sit in meditation. If any words are spoken they are in whispers. Students have learned to keep their minds in the morning state of clarity, the time before the mind and body fully engage in the days activities, by maintaining this quiet passive state of mind they are already preparing for the next hour.

The Master steps onto the mat, quickly and efficiently the students line up standing behind meditation cushions. Joombi is spoken by the Master, the senior student brings the class to attention, opening commands are given, the sunrise class has begun. This is not a tale of training in Korea, this occurs every Wednesday morning here at Chosun.

There is something different about training early in the morning, your body is fresh and strong, your mind is calm and receptive, a perfect time to begin a 15 minute meditation. Often, Ki development techniques follow the meditation, and on occasion the Qigong form Eight Brocades is performed as a warm up. This classic and ancient practice of moving meditation is a soft technique providing a balance in Ki development to the hard style techniques yet to come in the early morning training. Poomsae practice is sometimes performed in a slow detailed style with deep breathing accenting Ki, this method allows the student to focus on proper technique, balance, and starting each move from tanjun with relaxation and power. Every Chosun student should experience poomsae in this manner and add it to their own discipline on occasion.

Don't think that sunrise class is always a silent, contemplative, totally Ki oriented class, it isn't. Many times we leave class drenched, from poomsae, kicking drills, Il Su Siks and Ho Sin Sools performed in a deliberate manner under the observation and explicit direction of Master Cook that is allowed in a relatively small class.

We are fortunate to have such a full weekly schedule of classes, the diversity of classes allow a student to experience the many facets of traditional taekwondo. Take advantage of this diversity, attending the same classes all the time isn't providing you with the all around training that is available at Chosun. Certainly, 5:30 in the morning can create family and work scheduling conflicts, however, consider that on occasion altering your schedule could provide you with a unique training experience, that will enhance your outlook and understanding of traditional taekwondo. If it is just a matter of the early morning hour, well on occasion just get out of bed! You will be surprised of the energy  that will stay with you on that day, the day you choose to attend sunrise.
Hope to see you at sunrise. (Wednesdays at 5:30am)

Instructor Jake Garrett

Chosun e-newsletter Archive Volume 6 #5 May 2015

Dear Martial Arts Enthusiast,

Welcome to the April edition of the Chosun Taekwondo Academy
e-newsletter! As the seasons change and we are finally treated to some warm weather, CHOSUN will experience a new beginning in the next few months! As many already know, after 15 years at our Main Street location, CHOSUN will occupy a larger facility at 62

Galloway Road. (Across from Park Ave. School) Although we don't have an exact move in date, work on the site has begun in earnest and plans are being made to accommodate our new home... onward and upward!

View the 2014 Chosun Taekwondo Academy Retrospective Kamsahamnida,
Patty Cook, Editor
Happy Mother's Day

Chosun Taekwondo Academy celebrating 18 years!

Read entire newsletter...
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Friday, May 1, 2015

A Retrospective of my Training in Taekwondo

Excerpts from five Black Belt Candidates' essays
First bi-annual Chosun Black Belt Test of 2015
officiated by martial arts pioneer, Grandmaster Richard Chun

"When I earned my Brown belt, I practiced even harder than before. I learned my new requirements and I earned my stripe.  Then we started practicing our breaks. After I tried out my break, I talked with Mrs. Pyke. She said that she thought I was ready to break a one inch thick board using a "palm heel strike." She encouraged me to do it. I was really nervous about this, but I talked to Master Cook before the test and he told me to speak with Instructor Garrett. Instructor Garrett held for me. I broke the one inch board with a palm heel and earned my High Brown belt. I was so excited."
by Julius Radakovits, First Dan Black Belt

"When I got my yellow belt it was great but that wasn't the only thing I got. I also made a new friend and his name is Sean. He was the greatest friend I ever knew. I sometimes pick him for Il su sik and sparring. This was a great day."

by Jose Martinez, First Dan Black Belt

"Knowing now that the black belt test is about a month away, I feel nervous that one of the biggest days of my life is coming so quickly. When I come to class I work hard and try to make my forms the best as they could be. I think the hardest part of being a bodan is that you need to remember all of the previous requirements and forms, but I know with practice you can make that easier. In my opinion the best part of being a black belt will be that I know now that I am strong enough to protect myself and others around me. Also I will be proud that I have received this high rank. I will know that if I put my mind to something I will be able to accomplish anything I work hard for. I look forward to going deeper into Taekwondo and seeing the true meaning of "foot-hand-way."
by Jonathan Vargas, First Dan Black Belt

"Now that I  am a bodan, testing to be a black belt, I am proud of myself and the work I have done to get here. I am also proud to be testing in front of Grandmaster Chun on the 60th anniversary of taekwondo. Someday, I hope to get my 9th Dan black belt, just like Grandmaster Chun. To do that, I must first get my 1st Dan. That is why I am so happy to be testing today. I would like to thank Grandmaster Chun, Master Cook, all my instructors, my dad, Instructor Klugman, my sister, Olivia, my mom, and my twin, Ella. They have all supported me and I love them all very much."
by Noah Klugman, First Dan Black Belt

" My favorite memory of all, so far, was when I got my trophy for Outstanding Achievement for the May 19th, 2013 belt test. I was a green belt, testing for my blue belt and I sparred with Sammy. I was scared when my name was called because everyone was staring at me. I feel taekwondo teaches me to not be a bully but to know how to defend myself against bullies. Taekwondo has taught me to not give up, keep on going and don't stop trying."
by Amelia Barravecchia, First Dan Black Belt