Friday, October 30, 2015

Breathe through it...

by Patty Cook
Article published in the November, 2015 issue of Dirt Magazine

Living in the land of plenty where anything from minimalist fitness to pole dancing exists, there is no excuse for not being physically fit. No time to work out? Not any more with the proliferation of 24-hour gyms. Even with the plethora of opportunities to stay in shape, according to the President’s Council on Fitness, Health and Sports, more than 80 percent of American adults do not meet the guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening

So why is it so easy to find a fitness regime that seems to satisfy our desires, but so difficult to stay the course? Part of the answer may be lurking in the lament, “The mind is willing but the body is weak.” We might gain some insight into this self-defeating phenomenon by turning the phrase around.

Unless we are disabled or injured, we all possess the strength, stamina and energy in our physical bodies to persevere and accomplish great things. But how many times have you heard that voice in the back of your head saying, “No, you just don’t have what it takes”? How do we quiet the mind and trust our body’s innate wisdom?

Sometimes it is as easy as taking one (or maybe two) more breaths. Breathing is the universal language of the body and goes hand in hand with any form of physical activity. When we find ourselves in doubt and can’t seem to move past a barrier in our physical practice, it might be worthwhile to pause, breathe, and reflect on our intentions. For instance, try taking in a very deep, full breath, pause for a moment then deliberately slow down the exhalation. In addition to focusing the mind, this ratio breathing technique has an overall calming effect on the body. Afterwards, when we return to our routine, we are fortified by our renewed sense of vitality and can stand strong and confident in our own true center. It is here that we find a wellspring of physical and spiritual stamina.

Any good fitness program will present challenges to the practitioner; that is what makes it valuable. How you approach and potentially overcome these mental obstacles will, in the end, say more about you than the routine itself. As they say, “A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step” – and maybe one or two more breaths.

Yoga at CHOSUN "Isometrics"

October 28, 2015

Chosun Taekwondo Academy & Hatha Yoga Center 62 Main St. Warwick NY 

Wikipedia states that  isometric exercise involves the static contraction of a muscle without any visible movement in the angle of the joint; meaning that the length of the muscle and the angle of the joint do not change, though contraction strength may be varied. Think of a holding a plank pose and you get the picture! The practice of yoga uses these strengthening exercises to put "good" stress on the bones and joints. On a deeper level, these movements "fine tune" our instrument by teaching the mind how to effectively communicate with specific areas of the body. This week in our standing class, we will further explore the exacting use of isometrics to enhance our practice.

Join us for sustaining strength...

You are invited:
Sunrise Harvest Meditation/Qigong Class
Wednesday November 25, 2015
5:30 am - 6:30 am

Join black belt instructors Jake Garrett and Hal Pyke for our 17th annual Harvest Sunrise Meditation/QiGong Class. This mindful, special session, for teens and adults only, is aimed at focusing students, friends and community members on the goodness of life rather than merely the hectic preparation for the holidays. Begin your holiday with a calm and focused mind. ALL WELCOME / NO CHARGE / NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY. REGISTRATION REQUIRED. Email us to reserve a spot at: , or call 845.986.2288. See you there!
Join the event on facebook!

Chosun Taekwondo Academy & Hatha Yoga Center
62 Main Street Warwick, NY

Yoga Class Schedule:
Tuesdays     9:30am
Wednesdays     6:30pm
Saturdays     9:30am

First Class is Free

$15 per class / $130 for 10 classes

For more information:
(845)986-2288 or

Beginners Welcome!   Bring a Friend!

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Retrospective of my Taekwondo Training

Bodan Essay by Brian Parkinson  October, 2015               

    It’s January 30, 2013 around 5 o’clock in the morning and I’m about to embark on an amazing journey.  One year of waiting has come to an end.  Today is the day I start training in Taekwondo.  I get dressed in my dobok for the first time, wrap my white belt around my waist and head out the door.  When I arrive at the dojang, I am confronted with a scene I am unaccustomed to.   When I bring my children for the youth classes, the dojang is a flurry of activity.  The training floor is usually crowded with students and the sitting area with
108 stone steps at Golgulsa Temple
parents.   I have never seen the dojang as it is before me now.  The lights are off with only a few corner lights to provide some illumination.  There are no crowds of children off or on the floor and the sitting area is naturally empty.  Not that I expected the dojang to be crowded at 5:30 in the morning, but the tranquil scene before me contains a power and serenity I don’t think I could have been prepared for.   I am very nervous at this point as the class consists of only a few black belts, one bodan and, I, a white belt.  It doesn’t take long for me to embarrass myself.  Master Cook has us each in turn punch a target to count.  Of course I kept punching after Master Cook stopped counting.  I felt foolish, incompetent, and of course embarrassed.   No one makes a big deal about it though, just a reminder to pay attention and not anticipate.  I remind myself to not be so hard on myself and this was a valuable lesson as I have embarrassed myself several other times over the course of the last two and a half years.
  Master Cook often says that crossing the threshold of the dojang is the hardest part of training in taekwondo.  That doesn’t mean that the rest of it is easy.  Training in taekwondo is hard.  Trying to fit it into a busy work schedule at the time I started was even harder.  The weekly sunrise class was the only class I could attend when I began my training.  I barely had time to practice outside of the dojang and after a couple of weeks I thought about giving it up.  It just seemed to be too much to learn.  I wanted to do it but I thought maybe I just couldn’t fit it into my schedule after all.  I rebuked this notion and pressed on.  After a couple of months I was invited to test for yellow belt.  So much consternation and trepidation surrounded this first belt test that I feel the cathartic sense of elation when my fist smashed through the board would be hard to beat. 
                I advanced to yellow belt with a new-found confidence and determination to train.  I remember enjoying this belt cycle.  New techniques like back stance and side kick were of course challenging to learn but I never felt overwhelmed as I did at white belt.  I attended class regularly and after three months successfully tested for orange belt.  Orange belt is considered one of the more difficult color belts.  Many people realize at this belt level that taekwondo is not for them and quit.  I had resolved to never quit unless I had to for health or financial reasons at white belt, so that was never a concern for me.  I loved orange belt.  Its many challenges felt right somehow.  Progress in taekwondo often comes slow, sometimes almost imperceptive but at orange belt the progress felt tangible and this only spurred on my desire to train.  I was even graced with an award for outstanding achievement at the belt test.  Every time I look at that award atop my entertainment center in my living room, I can’t help but smile.
               The green and blue belt cycles were probably the hardest for me.  My wife had surgery during my green belt cycle and I found myself taking on just about all of the household work she normally does.  This left me physically drained but I tried to never show how tired I was on the floor.  Once I step on the floor of the dojang, I feel all other concerns must be set aside.  If I made mistakes, I vowed to practice more instead of making excuses due to fatigue.  It wasn’t easy though and I struggled through the entire green belt cycle.  At blue belt I had to take my own hiatus from training to have a cyst removed from my back.  My dermatologist forbade me to train for three weeks, unless I wanted to rip out my stitches and risk further infection.  Three weeks felt like three years.  I couldn’t help but feel disconnected from taekwondo which of course let all the demons of self-doubt run rampant.  I marked the date of my return in my appointment book and anxiously awaited its arrival.  When I was able to return, I had just enough time before the belt test to feel ready.  Blue belt came to end with my foot smashing through a board with an ax kick.
               Without a doubt purple belt will always be the most special for me.  It was during this belt cycle that my entire family traveled to S. Korea on the Chosun Korea tour.  I am not well traveled.  This was only the second time I had traveled outside of the United States.  I think I am still processing all of the ways in which that tour has affected me and my training.  From all day training with Master Ryan An to touring the brand new Taekwondon, I think I could write a separate essay just about Korea.  Of course there are some standout moments.  Performing poomsae at Tong-Il Jeon Shrine was a very powerful experience.  I can’t help but feel that a part of the Hwarang’s martial spirit came home with me.  Our last training session was with Grandmaster Gyoo Hyun Lee.  Although I didn’t get to train personally with Grandmaster Lee as he took the black belts, I was given a Master instructor, Master Lee, by Grandmaster Lee.  I was informed that Master Lee is a champion in Taeguk Oh Jang.  My disappointment over not getting to train with Grandmaster Lee evaporated immediately.  He personally assigned a master instructor who had won competitions in my form-what more could I ask for?  Although my wife and I tried as hard as we could, we struggled with the changes to the form and the language barrier.   Master Lee’s frustration was evident.  Master Lee was so frustrated with us at one point that he simply walked away from us.   I was reminded of Gichen Funakoshi performing the same form all night to the point of humiliation for Anko Itosu.  I refused to give up.  I kept performing the form.  Master Lee noticed that I continued even though he walked away and came back over and continued to teach.  When we posed for a group picture later on, he came and sat next to me for the photo, an honor to be sure.
               Shortly after returning from Korea, I successfully tested for my red belt.  Red belt is known as danger within the Gup system for the practitioner is in possession of advanced techniques at this point, but not necessarily the discipline required to use them wisely.  For me, red belt felt like turning a corner.  There are many new techniques at red belt like the first use of a strength motion in a poomsae that clearly set it apart from the earlier belts.  I remember Master Wynne teaching me Palgwe Oh Jang and stopping me after only the first few motions.  “Stop.  Go Back.  You need to show a better back stance”.   I did.   “Stop.  Your knife hand is pitched wrong.”  Good thing I had been through this with Master Lee in Korea.  I was undeterred.  I know Master Wynne was only trying to help me improve so I kept at it.  I don’t think I’ll ever start that form without thinking of her.
 The next two belts:  brown and high brown seem to have melded into one long period in my mind.  When testing for brown belt, I encountered a new problem.  The required break is a hop-step hook kick.  Even though kicking is not my strong-point, I felt confident about this break.  I stepped forward and unleashed the kick only to feel my foot bounce off the all too solid board.  As a lower belt, this would have undoubtedly rattled me a great deal.  Instead of allowing my initial failure to deter me, I reset and performed the kick again breaking the board easily.  Afterward, watching the video my son took of the break, my wife and I noticed that we had both done the exact same thing.  We both failed on the first try, reset and then broke the board.  At brown belt my Korea training again benefited me.  The first stepping basic for brown belt is cat stance.  Every Korean master began our training with a review of all stances so I didn’t feel as confused by this new stance as I probably would have been had I not trained in Korea.  On test day I went home with a high brown belt wrapped around my waist.  The first appearance of black in a belt let me know that this was it.  I was entering the home stretch of the color belt cycle.  The next belt test had me advancing to bodan with a spinning hook kick as the required break.  I don’t think I had been so nervous about a break since white belt but somehow I did it on the first try. 

               The last six months as a bodan have been very different.  For one thing, there is very little new to learn.  Palgwe Pal Jang is the only requirement that is truly brand new.  Since I have been practicing and reviewing the entire color belt curriculum all along, I never felt pressured to remember all the past techniques.  Instead, I have been trying to focus on all of the details and improve upon them.  Just because I learned back stance all the way back at yellow belt, doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.   As a result, I initially found bodan to be a fun belt.  While everyone else was confused at the beginning of the belt cycle by the new techniques they were learning, or stressing the upcoming belt test at the end of the cycle, I just had to keep training.  However over the last few weeks, I can feel a subtle and undeniable change occurring.  Much the way someone who has stayed up all night can sense the approaching dawn, I can sense a change occurring in my training.   I have always taken training in taekwondo seriously but now as I approach black belt I feel there is a responsibility to the art that wasn’t there before.  Master Cook often says that black belt is a license to learn and not a permit to quit.  I can’t agree more with this sentiment.  Being a black belt doesn’t mean resting on your laurels.  I feel that when that black belt is wrapped around my waist it doesn’t mean that I mastered the color belt curriculum.  It doesn’t mean that I have nothing else to learn.   It does mean that I persevered through the color belt curriculum and have now proved myself worthy of further instruction.  I am looking forward with great enthusiasm to exercising my license to learn.

A Retrospective of my Taekwondo Training so far

 Bodan Essay by Bryce Parkinson  October, 2015                                                            
   I’ve heard it said that life is not made of up of weeks, or months or even years, but of moments. In looking back on my time as a color belt at Chosun, I know this in my heart to be true, for it is most definitely made up of many special and memorable moments.
   Recently, during a Tuesday evening all belts class, not long after the belt test while on line for ill Suk Si I took a minute and looked around the dojang. As a bodan , I already knew what my belt level requirements were while the rest of my classmates were just learning
Pond at the entrance to Bulguksa Temple
theirs. The room was busy with activity. Students of all ages and ranks were with instructors learning new forms and one step sparring. The energy in the room was electric with the collective desire to learn Taekwondo and the eagerness of students with new techniques to work on. In that moment, the dojang was alive with the spirit of Taekwondo, strong  and vibrant , and I was a part of it. I know that that energy will stay with me forever, inspiring me to always meet new challenges with enthusiasm  .
   Throughout   my training in the past two and a half years, there have been so many of those memorable moments. And with each one Taekwondo has revealed to me new things about myself that sometimes I didn’t even know I had within me. At my first test for yellow belt, I was so sick I should not have been on the floor. I couldn’t even do my stepping basics right. It took me a long time after the test to trust that even with my mistakes, I had earned that yellow belt, and I needed to take credit for my achievement. Recognizing my achievements is a lesson I’m always learning and has remained one of the hardest issues for me throughout my training.
At my test for orange belt I was awarded the honor of student of the month and had to read my essay in front of the whole school. That day I learned that I am not afraid to speak in front of large groups. As an orange belt, it took me weeks to learn how to do a double knife hand block. I was increasingly confused and frustrated with every class. It seemed I would never learn it, no matter how hard I tried. Then one day, after weeks of practice, it  clicked. I was finally able to do it. The sense of accomplishment I felt was incredible and I learned that I indeed had perseverance.
   I was a green belt for six months, due to health issues. It taught me that patience is a vital part of my training. It was almost torture watching my family leave to train while I had to stay home and recover. Stepping back on the dojang floor was an incredibly rewarding experience. I felt like I had come home to where I needed to be. I remember actually crying when Master Ehrenreich handed me my blue belt. I absolutely loved being a blue belt. My training truly seemed to be taking shape, the sense of constant confusion I had was dissipating and I could see progress within my techniques. It was during that time that my family and I decided to join the Chosun training tour to South Korea.
   My husband Brian and I tested for our purple belts in May 2014.   In July 2014 along with our two sons who were  bodans at the time, and around thirty other students of all ranks and ages, we boarded a plane at JFK to South Korea. Now those “other students” are affectionately known as “Korea Family”. I had never been out of the country before. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to go to South Korea. From the moment we committed to going,  it became one of the most memorable experiences of my life. I was challenged and rewarded in ways I could never have predicted. Recently I was telling a friend about one such challenge. I was walking  at the bottom of the mountain trail at Seokguram Grotto and all of a sudden I began to feel extremely ill. I was dizzy and felt incredibly sick. Later on I would come to find out I had Vertigo.  I had to send my son Dylan  to get my husband who had walked on ahead of us. At that point my friend interrupted me, asking me if I had my husband take me back to the hotel or at least back to sit on the bus. I was puzzled, and told them that no, with my husband and a friend’s help, I went up the mountain and saw the Buddha and came back down with the group. I might have been last going up and coming down, but I did it. I realized that it never occurred to me to not go up the mountain. Korea showed me without a doubt that I have indomitable spirit. And that was only one part of one afternoon there.

A month or so after returning home, I became a red belt. It was then that a member of my “Korea Family” asked me a very important question. One that has stayed with me almost every day since he asked it. How had my time in Korea changed me ? Every time I ask myself that question , I come up with a new answer. From a better cultural and historical understanding of the land that Taekwondo originates from, to a better understanding of myself, and why I train, the answer is continually unfolding to me, even a year later.

By brown belt I had been volunteering on the Leadership Team for a few months, and found that I truly loved working with the children. I knew then that I wanted to become an assistant instructor, and that I wanted to specifically work with our youth population. That is another new thing Taekwondo has taught me about myself. I love working with children. Soon my belt went from brown to high brown and that first appearance of black in a belt came in. I became even more focused on training, knowing that soon I would become a black belt candidate.

   When I finally became a bodan, everything about the belt was different than my previous belt ranks. While my classmates were learning new techniques, I was perfecting ones that I had learned over the past two and a half years. I also had more time to reflect on those special moments that made up my training   so far. Like learning to fall with the Garretts or working with Master Ehrenreich for twenty minutes to get the first step of Plagwe Oh jang right. Or meeting Grandmaster Chun for the first time.
  As my time as a color belt comes to a close, I realize how much I am going to miss this important time of my training. I have been blessed with extremely knowledgeable and compassionate instructors, and a very supportive group of peers. While I know that these things will not  change once I become a black belt, I also know everything will change. That this is a first milestone along a lifelong journey. A journey full of revelations of all kinds.  Training in traditional Taekwondo at Chosun has changed my life forever. It has taken me places, physically, spiritually mentally and even literally ( Korea !) that I never dreamed possible.

As Master Cook frequently says: “Upwards and onwards!” 

A Retrospective of my Taekwondo Training

Bodan Essay by Thomas Lennon  October, 2015

            When I first heard the essay assignment we were tasked to do, I thought to myself, BODAN ESSAY? A  Retrospective of training through the color belts?  WOW, I could not believe how fast my training through the color belts has gone! Master Cook was absolutely right when he instructed us to enjoy the color belts while we are in the moment. It goes fast, and before you know it you will all be Black Belts! I guess the old saying holds true, time does fly when you are having fun. 

     When I first started training as a White belt, the road looked long and complicated ahead. I could barely stand in a good front stance. I remember being so proud of my new Dobok that my wife and I stopped at a beautiful scene in Waywayanda State Park to take pictures. I look at those pictures now and we both kind of chuckle and pick out all the deficiencies in the block and stance. Those pictures were taken only a few short years ago. Now we are performing Poomsae with cat stances that we throw front kicks from. It is simply amazing to me the progress we have achieved at Chosun!  
     Master Cook tells a story about how proud he was when he first got his yellow belt.  He would walk down the street with his head held high and his chest out. I have the same feeling he described every time I advance, even a little bit, in Taekwondo. That’s what Taekwondo training does for me. It keeps me humble, trying to learn new techniques and it rewards me with a sense of pride and accomplishment when I perform well, never mastering always learning to perfect my performance. Taekwondo never lets me down. The Poomsae are always teaching me something I can do better. 
     As far as a retrospective of my training here at Chosun, it goes without saying, I would not have advanced even from the first step of Alle Makki Ap Koobi without the hard work and dedication from Master Cook and the sincere training that his instructors give to every one of the students that cross the Dojang door. I can make a case that if it weren’t for the patience of instructors like Mr. Garrett and the “coaching techniques” of Master Klugman I may not have made it passed Orange belt. I owe a great deal to all the instructors at Chosun, and of course Master Cook for giving my wife and I a new life in Taekwondo! 
     Only a few short weeks ago I was questioning myself, “was I ready to become a Black belt … was I worthy?”  I was a color belt and proud of it.  “Is it too soon to advance?” I thought about this for some time and realized the curriculum at Chosun was designed by much higher powers than myself, and if I am being told I’m ready by the experts, who am I to doubt their judgment.  So here I am at the end of one more important lesson from Taekwondo, ready to take another humble step!  Kamsahamnida Chosun!

A Retrospective of my Taekwondo Training

 Bodan Essay by Patricia Lennon                       October 2015

It’s all about the journey

As soon as I became a Bodan, I felt that I should somehow be “different”.  I was a little nervous at first – wondering “what” exactly should be different about me.  Soon, I began to notice some changes.  A small “error” in class felt “humongous” to me!  How could I do that?  I am a Bodan!  Then, something kicked in.  Maybe it was the beginnings of an indomitable spirit.  I responded to my error, with tenacity and determination – I would not let a misstep throw me off.  Instead, I trained harder.  I was almost glad I had made a
Gyeongju Plains-Home of the Hwarang Warriors
mistake, because it gave me the opportunity to strengthen my “will”, and focus my mind.  In martial arts, we are taught that our focus needs to be in the moment, mindful and aware.  You have to move on to the next moment, the next move, maintaining the positive energy that we call Ki.  Ki is the energy that flows through us – giving us an indomitable spirit.

As I move closer toward Black Belt, it seems that three specific martial arts concepts seem to be unfolding for me.  They are the basic martial arts teachings of “mindfulness”, “Ki development” and the “indomitable spirit” that we are called to internalize during our recitation of the five tenets of taekwondo.

Reflecting on these concepts, it becomes clearer to me that this is a life long journey – a process, which does not happen overnight, and which demands that I have patience - with myself, and with the training process.

A journey requires patience, and, I believe, patience requires courage.  Therefore,  I en-courage myself!  I remind myself that I will be a black belt soon!  I accept the many responsibilities that come along with this process – two of which are to train harder than I think I can, and to show good spirit!  I know that the “good spirit” that we are encouraged to show is more than a loud kihup, or throwing hard punches, blocks and kicks.  I believe it has more to do with “taking full custody of one’s life”, which is the journey we are on.

The journey is a personal one.

I suspect the changes in the transition to Black Belt will be subtle, gentle stirrings - 
felt subjectively, before becoming externally apparent.  We train for ourselves, first and foremost.  Not for outward appearance or appreciation.  The journey is a personal one.  Although we train together – and we do form bonds – we have a common purpose, and that is reason enough for such bonds to form.  We encourage each other, sincerely and enthusiastically, passionately and compassionately – always reveling in one another’s progress. 

We are truly “team mates” and “school mates”, yet always on our individual journeys.  Like a family, its members bound by many things - yet always and forever - walking their own paths, learning their own lessons, in their own ways – struggling, facing road blocks, overcoming them, mentally, physically and spiritually – challenged, and strengthened by the challenge.

Each small hurdle overcome adds another small muscle to one’s memory – until it becomes unforgettable – forever a part of us.

We are people on a very similar journey - kindred souls, lovers of an art – one in which the artist moves into - and flows with - at their own pace – an art that moves the body.  I am sure dancers and yoga practitioners must reap similar rewards.  Martial Arts, Yoga, Dance – they are all artistry in motion!

Taekwondo is an art form that puts you in touch with your strength – your inner ki strength – and your outward physical strength.

My authentic spirit yell

I think that finding your own kihup, your personal, authentic spirit yell, is part of this path we are on.

When we visited Chosun Rockland to participate in their women’s self defense class, we encouraged the women to “kihup” when they hit the target.  I noticed that some of the women were noticeably quite uncomfortable with yelling out the word kihup.  I understand that this, in part, could be because they’ve never done it before.  They may never have spoken the word “kihup”, no less yelled it, loudly, in front of a group of strangers. 

I remember the first time I let out a loud kihup.  Up until that day, I had probably whispered my kihups.  As white belts, we were taught that we needed to kihup in order to get more power into our moves, and in addition to this, it “showed good spirit”.  And our training had much to do with “spirit”.  After all, an indomitable spirit is one of the 5 tenets of Taekwondo.   So I would try to kihup, but I really didn’t know how.   I loved the translation of the word – “spirit yell”.  I really wanted my spirit to yell.  And I noticed that some people had louder spirit yells than others.  I had a feeling that it didn’t matter so much how loud my kihup would be.  But I still had some apprehension about it.  On this particular day, I did actually kihup quite loudly.  I remember that I was quite surprised about what had just come out of my mouth.  Just then, one of the black belts that I had been training with regularly, Master Sammy Testa, gave me a “thumbs up”, and ‘a look’ that said something like “you go girl!”.   She had witnessed my very first real kihup!  I won’t forget that day.

One Buddhist teaching says – you are already what you are seeking to become.  With this in mind, I think that the ki energy and indomitable spirit is already in me.  And that Taekwondo is a path which can lead me to this energy, this life force.

It reminds me of the art of photography.  The photographer sees something, and wants to savor it.  It’s already there… in its natural state.  The photographer snaps the photo… and goes back to the dark room … and develops the film – at first it appears that there isn’t anything on the film – but slowly – the image starts to appear – and, as if from nothing, there is it.  It was always there – the photographer just had to develop it.  And so it is with my ki.  And my indomitable spirit.  I am slowly but surely developing these aspects of myself – through my training.  Uncovering what is already there.  I look at Taekwondo as a true art form.  I realize it is a form of self defense – but for me, on a daily basis, as an integral part of my life, it is also an art form.  And in this way, it is much like music, or sculpture.  Artists have said that the music, or the statue – was already there – in its entirety – the image of it was in their mind’s eye, and they just needed to uncover it. 

And so it is with my spirit yell – not so much the actual yell that comes out of my mouth, but more, the place where the indomitable spirit within can find it’s voice, and express itself, authentically. The voice within that yells out – I have trained really hard!  I am a Martial Artist!  I am a White Belt! ... a Yellow Belt!......I am a Bodan!  I am a Black Belt.  Finding that voice is the source of my training -- developing my martial arts voice - my ki -  my indomitable spirit

The Warrior’s Path

Since I am practicing the Eastern tradition of Taekwondo, it follows naturally to investigate some of the philosophy at its foundation.  Zen is a basic philosophy behind the martial arts.  The Samurai warriors practiced Zen as a way of life. 
“Mushin” is the essence of Zen.  It is Mindfulness.  Mushin is a peaceful state of mind – one of pure mental clarity.  This is the way of the martial arts warrior.  It is, indeed, a peaceful way, and we are “defenders of the peace”. 

We encounter other warriors on the trail - humble warriors, who walk softly on this path – ever mindful of past travelers, and future ones.  In some, their “Ki” is almost visible.  And when you speak with others, their “spirits” practically yell out.  It is not the “kihup” sort of  “yell” that I am referring to, but a more subtle kind - an indomitable spirit, which has truly developed with much hard work, perseverance, and passion for their practiced art.

Our pilgrimage begins at the Dojang.  As with any traveler who dares to take a road less traveled, it will not be smoothed, nor tamped down by previous travelers, because there are relatively few. 

We are all homeward bound warriors – and when we meet our fellow “HoBo Warriors”, we humbly bow to one another – out of respect, and comradery, and reverence for the noble cause that we are all defending, and recognition of a similar spirit. 

We are martial artists, we continue to train, journeying from the dojang, to a place within ourselves, growing in strength, developing our martial spirits, and then, journeying back again, to the dojang, the place where we, together, strengthen our spirits. There, we gain strength and courage, and fine tune the balance - between strength and gentleness, courage and humility.


Yoga at CHOSUN "The Little Things"

       October 21, 2015
Chosun Taekwondo Academy & Hatha Yoga Center 62 Main St. Warwick NY 
"The Little Things"

One of the great gifts that yoga gives us is the time and space to notice things about ourselves that might otherwise be overlooked. In our busy and often hectic lives, these small moments of self-awareness can have far reaching benefits for our lives. In your practice, you may have done the same pose dozens of times but this time something is may be a weight shift or a different use of a muscle but the effect is that your experience has evolved and your practice has been transformed. Respect these moments because they are the "little things" that lead to big changes!

Join us and tune in to yourself...

Have you let your yoga practice slide? Now with summer behind us, Fall is a great time to re-new your practice. If you purchased a class card, no worries,  there is no expiration date. So don't waste time...
join us on the mat soon!

Chosun Taekwondo Academy & Hatha Yoga Center
62 Main Street Warwick, NY

Class Schedule:
Tuesdays     9:30am
Wednesdays     6:30pm
Saturdays     9:30am

First Class is Free

$15 per class / $130 for 10 classes

For more information:
(845)986-2288 or

Beginners Welcome!   Bring a Friend!

Want to find out about Chosun sponsored events?
Sign up for our FREE monthly e-newsletter
like Chosun's facebook page
get a FREE yoga class coupon

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Serendipity of Change

by Master Doug Cook
Totally Taekwondo Magazine March 2015 Issue #73
     Several years ago, my daughter Erin completed a 200-hour instructor training course at the Kripalu Yoga Center located in Lenox, Massachusetts. My wife and I went to pick her up one beautiful, autumn day and while walking up a stairway I noticed a poster on a wall. In it was a photo of a woman sitting on a bus with a caption reading: “I was only trying to get home from work.”
Rosa Parks
      For those of us old enough to remember, the precipitous event that produced this antiquated photograph represented a world of change.On December 1, 1955, in segregated Montgomery, Alabama, USA, after a long, hard day at work, a seamstress named Rosa Parks headed homeward. Dog tired, she took a seat in the front section of a city bus. After a few stops, the bus driver demanded that she give up her seat to a man of European descent - she refused. Shortly after, she was arrested, convicted of disorderly conduct and, subsequently, lost her job. The response of one woman to this unreasonable command inspired the 381-day Montgomery Bus Boycott. Ultimately, it helped end segregation in Alabama and is a testament to the fact that the actions of one person can have a profound effect on the fabric of humanity at large. Later, when interviewed, Ms. Parks said: “I was only trying to get home from work.”
      Rosa Parks literally changed the complexion of racial discrimination in America without any premeditated intent whatsoever.Today, as martial artists, as modern warriors endowed with an ancient wisdom, we endeavor, by example, to live a life of virtue as dictated by the Five Tenets of taekwondo: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control and Indomitable Spirit. We set our sights not on elusive perfection, but on a path to excellence both physically and ethically. As living vessels of these moral principles, we possess the power to influence change for the better whether it be at work, at home or in school. Yet, when we awake in the morning, just as Rosa Parks did one December day in 1955, we never know where our daily path will take us.
      During a recent promotion test at my school, the Chosun Taekwondo Academy, a ten-year old girl rose to read her required essay on the topic of indomitable will. By the conclusion of her reading, there was not a dry eye in the audience. I feel it is safe to say that not many adults could have enunciated this virtue as well as this child did. She is small; a little wisp of a thing, yet she spoke of her confidence and how, regardless of how her peers might attempt to discourage her, she would diligently press ahead with her adolescent dreams and, eventually, with those that will flesh out her adult life. Both she and her parents attributed this sense of self-assurance directly to her taekwondo training. Who’s to say what this youngster might accomplish in the decades ahead? Might she one day change the world simply by returning home from school or work?
      Fortunately for us today, the great martial arts masters of the past chose to imbue their hard-earned disciplines, no longer as viable in a world of advanced weaponry, with meritorious codes of honor in an effort to survive cultural upheaval within their society. Evidence of this trend manifested itself in the creation of Funakoshi’s karate-do and Kano’s
Master Cook (right) training at the Kukkiwon
judo. Rather than teaching techniques primarily intended to devastate an enemy on the field of battle, the original intent of the root disciple was altered, particularly during the early 20
th century, for the benefit of elementary and college level students in Okinawa and Japan. For the first time in memory, martial training methods were instead utilized as a vehicle for physical fitness and character enhancement. Later, following the liberation from Japanese imperialism in 1945 that coincided with the conclusion of the World War II, Korean masters returned to their native land, continuing this tradition. We, as taekwondoists of the 21st century are the recipients this time-honored practice.
      Granted, practical taekwondo was initially developed as a form of self-defense for soldiers in the theater of combat. However, by recognizing the necessity for an ethical framework intended to govern and balance the destructive power we as martial artists
Chosun Taekwondo Academy Leadership Team
possess, our predecessors fashioned an environment where altruism eclipses apathy. By way of example, the Chosun Taekwondo Academy Leadership Team - a group of active, young students whose mission it is to serve our local community under the and train with diligence – year after year generates a vast amount of revenue for the Lions Club International and provides Christmas gifts for underprivileged children. Likewise, I personally attempt to gainfully influence fellow martial artists of all ages and creeds, by teaching with integrity and by sharing my knowledge of traditional taekwondo globally, through the written word, international seminars and by exposing practitioners to seminal skills by arranging training tours to Korea - the epicenter of the taekwondo.
      Nevertheless, I am certain that my students are not unique in their pursuit of virtue through the practice of traditional taekwondo even though our comprehensive curriculum clearly emphasizes the philosophical elements of the art. Many of the schools I have visited across America and abroad can easily boast of members equally as devoted to leaving a positive stamp on their communities. A casual glace at the news section included in this magazine will verify this belief. In fact, since the promotion of ethical qualities in the practitioner has become a tradition in taekwondo, we at Totally TaeKwonDo would welcome hearing your stories spotlighting the beneficial contributions you as an individual, or your schools have collectively made within your community.
      Yet, regardless of the source, it is often the deed that occurs unlooked for that resonates most through humankind at large just as in the case of Rosa Parks or my young student who stands ready to create a climate of benevolence whenever necessary. Given the blueprint set down by previous generations of masters and grandmasters, the important work of cultivating an elevated lifestyle wrapped in virtue becomes less a chore and more a gratifying reward. Therefore, as modern day martial artists, we must strive for ethical consistency through the disciplined, virtuous practice of taekwondo so that if called upon by fate, we will be prepared to affect positive change anywhere, anytime or anyplace, as best we can…even if we are just trying to get home from work.

Master Doug Cook, 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 Warrior, Traditional Taekwondo - Core Techniques, History and Philosophy, Taekwondo–A Path to Excellence, and Taekwondo Black Belt Poomsae: Original Koryo and Koryo, co-authored with Grandmaster Chun along with its companion DVD. Master Cook can be reached for Korea tours, seminars, workshops or questions at or

Ki: The Fuel That Amplifies Technique

by Master Doug Cook
Taekwondo Times "Traditions" Column March, 2015

      The practice of traditional taekwondo requires the student to become proficient in a multitude of blocks, kicks, strikes and sweeps. However, in order to amplify these techniques far beyond the limitations of the physical body, one must introduce an element not easily definable in common terms. This element is referred to as Ki in Korean and Chi or Qi in Chinese. Grandmaster Richard Chun, a true pioneer and practitioner of traditional taekwondo states that, “Ki is the cosmic ocean in which everything exists.”    Ki development is an essential component of martial arts training that is often overlooked in all likelihood due to the metaphysical issues it raises. Nevertheless, teaching traditional taekwondo
Master Cook teaching Ki development exercises
without offering the practitioner exercises in Ki development is tantamount to sitting someone behind the steering wheel of a car, but telling them nothing of the fuel that powers its engine. Ki is the elixir that amplifies technique and triggers great strength; it is the force that shields the body from harm while maintaining health and a sense of well being when in balance.
     For centuries, since the publication of the Nei Jing Su Wen, or the Classic on Internal Medicine, by the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di (2697-2597 B.C.), Asian culture and traditional Chinese medicine in particular has recognized the existence of a force within the human body essential to the maintenance of life.
Today, the relevance of Ki is appreciated by millions of people who practice the discipline of taijiquan, benefit from the flowing postures unique to qigong, and find relief from pain through the treatment of acupuncture. Each of these therapeutic arts in their own way relies on some form of Ki manipulation. Besides the martial arts, use of Ki is common to other disciplines unique to Asian culture: calligraphy, the tea ceremony, and the arrangement of flowers, call on some form of ki management in order to advance their practice. Still, the structure of this vital life force remains a mystery in no small part due to its evanescent nature. Studies have been conducted in an attempt to confirm the reality of Ki but at present, even though energy fields surrounding the body have been measured, no concrete clinical evidence is available to support its existence.
     Physically, Ki can be thought of as a bioelectric current. Subsequently, the martial artist can use this energy to short circuit another’s malevolent energy causing it to betray him in the process. One basis for this assumption is that everything in nature is composed of matter vibrating at different energy levels; molecules are composed of atoms bound together by electrons orbiting a minute nucleus, all with negative and positive charges. If the practitioner can cause his adversary’s kinetic energy to flicker, even for a moment through the use of Ki manipulation, then he has gained the upper hand even before a blow has been dealt. Again, while this effect, defined as combat Ki, is unsubstantiated by science, it stands as the cornerstone of many classical martial disciplines such as hapkido and aikido that rely on yielding to an opponent’s negative intentions.      
To understand Ki and its movement through the body, it is helpful to visualize systems in nature that we are familiar with. In doing so, both the human circulatory system and an ordinary electrical circuit come to mind. Both require a physical pathway for transportation. Arteries, veins and capillaries carry blood. Copper wire transports electricity. What, then, conveys Ki? Ki is thought to travel through a series of channels or meridians that span the body. The two grand meridians, located on the front and back of the torso, feed a complimentary series of channels. These pathways known as the twelve regular meridians are associated with specific organs of the body as follows: lung, large intestine, stomach, spleen, heart, small intestine, bladder, kidney, pericardium, triple warmer, gall bladder, and liver. An additional eight, grouped in pairs, are known as the extraordinary meridians and perform a separate function.
     Nevertheless, all of these meridians are invisible to the eye resulting in great skepticism concerning their existence. However, it is these very meridians and their related pressure points that the acupuncturist stimulates for therapeutic purposes and the martial artist activates to amplify technique. By removing blockages in the meridial system, which can cause illness and in extreme cases, death, the practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine has the power to cure a variety of diseases. Conversely, the taekwondoist, by striking one or more of the many acupoints that dot the body, can incapacitate an attacker. Metaphorically speaking, these pressure points are similar to stations along a railway. Yet, rather then bearing the name of a town or village, they are designated by a number and the anatomical organ with which they are associated. The meridians mirror the tracks while Ki itself would be the engine traveling along the rails. This analogy, while simplistic at best, crudely describes the method of how Ki is distributed throughout the body.
     Located two inches below the navel, the Ki center (tanjun in Korean, or dantien in Chinese), represents the reservoir from which Ki radiates. In Chinese, dan is defined as crystal or the essence of energy, while tien is translated as the area for the essence of energy. It is here that Ki is stored after entering the body. According to Reed, the tanjun is best described as the “one-point, a tiny star, or vortex sucking in immense amounts of energy from the universe.” 
     There are many theories regarding the tanjun, the foremost being that it is the physical, cellular center of the human anatomy from which the body develops outward from conception. It is also considered ones natural center of gravity around which the extremities move. This concept becomes all the more evident when we view the contrasting outlooks between Eastern and Western culture in regards to the hub of human intent. In Western society, we often say that we “think from the heart”; heart ache, heart break, and heart-felt thanks are all conceptual indicators of this principle. Conversely, in Eastern thought, intention is said to emanate from the hara in Japanese, or, as we now know in Korean, the tanjun. This fundamental difference in belief reflects the conviction that the vital life force is distributed from the body’s center and, thus, can be stored, channeled, manipulated, and amplified to promote health and intensify technique in the case of the martial artist. Hence, it can be said that Ki not only projects, but protects. 
    Yet, before one can knowingly utilize Ki to their advantage, they must first acknowledge and trust in its existence. This requires a leap of faith for many Westerners. Ki is benevolent in nature and, therefore refuses to be abused. Through it, the martial artist can dominate, but not terrorize. If the practitioner of qigong, acupuncture, or the martial arts attempts to
Master Doug Cook
manipulate Ki for selfish or malevolent purposes other than cultural tradition, therapeutic value, or self-defense, it is sure to fail them every time. Called upon properly, however, with respect, dignity, and benign intent, it will focus intention, heal, nurture a sense of well being, and amplify traditional taekwondo technique far beyond the limitations of the physical self.  

Master Doug Cook, 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 focusing on taekwondo. He has been a TaeKwonDo Times columnist over fifteen years. Master Cook can be reached for seminars, training tours to Korea, workshops or questions at or


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Yoga at CHOSUN "Anatomy of a Breath"

September 30, 2015
Chosun Taekwondo Academy & Hatha Yoga Center 62 Main St. Warwick NY 
"Anatomy of a Breath"
We can live a fairly long time without food or water but without breath, life will end in a matter of seconds. Breathing is something we naturally take for granted and really don't think about too much... and that is a good thing! If we had to "think" about how to breathe, we wouldn't. On the other hand, this fundamental life force deserves some attention because if used to the fullest, it can increase our vitality and even serve as a vehicle to direct energy in our bodies. This week, in our seated class, we will explore just how the breath works and look at the ways it enhances our experience.

Join us and  focus on your breath...

Chosun Taekwondo Academy & Hatha Yoga Center
62 Main Street Warwick, NY

Class Schedule:
Tuesdays     9:30am
Wednesdays     6:30pm
Saturdays     9:30am

First Class is Free

$15 per class / $130 for 10 classes

For more information:
(845)986-2288 or

Beginners Welcome!   Bring a Friend!

Want to find out about Chosun sponsored events?
Sign up for our FREE monthly e-newsletter
like Chosun's facebook page
get a FREE yoga class coupon

Yoga at CHOSUN "Hold that Pose"

September 16, 2015
Chosun Taekwondo Academy & Hatha Yoga Center 62 Main St. Warwick NY
"Hold That Pose"

I like to tell my yoga students about one of my first yoga classes and the pose that did it for me! Seated on the floor, the instructor asked us to bring our legs together and extend  them forward making a right angle with the torso using our arms for support at our sides.  This common yoga posture is Dandasana or staff pose. At first I thought, "This is easy... after all I have been dancing and exercising all my life..." Well, after a few moments, my ego balloon burst and all I could think of was "when is she going to tell us to stop!" Holding any yoga pose is not easy but a valuable experience. It is here that you confront yourself, train your body and mind to stay present and cultivate compassion and mindfulness. These are the intangibles that with consistent practice we carry forward in our everyday lives.

Join us to find strength in stillness...

Chosun Taekwondo Academy & Hatha Yoga Center
62 Main Street Warwick, NY

Class Schedule:
Tuesdays     9:30 am
Wednesdays     6:30 pm
Saturdays     9:30 am

First Class is Free

$15 per class / $130 for 10 classes

Yoga at CHOSUN "Your Body, Your Teacher"

September 9, 2015
Chosun Taekwondo Academy & Hatha Yoga Center 62 Main St. Warwick NY
"Your Body, Your Teacher"

In the practice of yoga, we are really our best teachers. Even though we might participate in a formal class with an instructor in front of us, through diligent practice and attention, we become more and more self-aware. This, in essence is the yoga journey. On the outside, a typical yoga class might consist of executing various poses but if the practitioner pays attention to breath, energy and observes what is happening on the inside, valuable lessons are learned.

Join us and engage in self-discovery...

Chosun Taekwondo Academy & Hatha Yoga Center
62 Main Street Warwick, NY

Class Schedule:
Tuesdays     9:30 am
Wednesdays     6:30 pm
Saturdays     9:30 am

First Class is Free

$15 per class / $130 for 10 classes

Friday, October 2, 2015


by Pamela Pyke, Chosun 3rd Dan instructor

    Cooking in a Ttukbaegi is great fun. Ttukbaegi are the beautiful brown glazed bowls that so many soups, stews and bibimbap come in. One of my favorite dishes to make in my ttukbaegi is Gyeran-jjim, steamed eggs.
    Just imagine the most fluffy and bubbly scrambled eggs you’ve ever had.  This dish is so easy to make. Set your Ttukbaegi over a medium high flame and add either a chicken, vegetable, or  anchovy kelp broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Beat your eggs with chopped scallion and a touch of fish sauce. Lower the heat and stir in your eggs. Cover and simmer for 5-8 minutes. Lift off the lid to reveal this yummy delight! Drizzle on some sesame oil and you are set. Traditionally you would serve this with rice and Gim(toasted seaweed).

    One morning I woke with a deep yearning for this dish. I got everything ready and then realized I did not have any sesame oil. As far as I’m concerned I cannot eat Gyeran-jjim without this last little touch. I’m a little out of my mind and absolutely refuse to spend $5-$6 dollars on a measly 4 oz. bottle of sesame oil from the Shop Rite, so off I go to Woo Ri, my favorite Korean market. It’s only an hour drive down to Northvale, N.J. where I can get a ½ gallon can of sesame oil for $15.00 and be back by ten am!! It was the best Gyeran-jjim I ever ate! So worth the effort.
I’ll write about Woo Ri next month, but this is where you can buy a ttukbaegi in all different sizes.
Remember if you really want to take the leap in preparing Korean cuisine get yourself a copy of Maangchi’s Real Korean Cooking and all her recipes are executed on her You Tube page.
Haengbog meogneum!!

Mrs. Pyke

photo pam 2When it comes to researching Korean cuisine I follow two amazing Korean women who have shared their love of good home cooked Hansik (Korean food). Go to You Tube and check and omma's

We would love to hear from you... send comments or questions to

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Chosun e-newsletter Archive volume 6 #10 October, 2015

18th CHOSUN Annual Awards Banquet
& Dinner Dance

Saturday December 5, 2015
6:30pm - 11:00pm
Black Bear Golf Club
138 Rt. 23 N. Franklin, NJ 07416

Get into the holiday spirit and join your fellow Chosun students and families for an evening of celebration and goodcheer for the whole family! This annual event is a time to take a moment to reflect on the past year and recognize the efforts and dedication of the Chosun family. Invitations were sent out in the October invoices and are available at the dojang. Please invite family and friends and make this a night to remember! RESERVED SEATING FOR ALL...
Contact Mary Suleski at:

NEW THIS YEAR... A silent auction of goods and services to offset the cost of new training equipment for the NEW dojang!

Click image to join event on facebook

Read entire newsletter...