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  • Writer's pictureSusie Cuseo

Mi Guk Kwan News: August 2023

In this edition:

 

You Do It to Yourself

By SBN Richard Kopf (kopfs@sbcglobal.net)

Many of the things in Tang Soo Do that seem difficult or do not end in the desired result are due to our own improper efforts or thoughts.


There are many, many examples of how misconceptions and mistaken approaches in training end in improper and ineffective technique, and even physical damage and pain. The good news is that repetition and continual practice always leads oneself to the proper endpoint over time.


Even better news is that your instructor has been through the process of discovering many of the pitfalls of developing proper and functional technique and can help to shortcut the learning process for you so that you are not left with just the self-realization process.


In this article I’d like to share three examples of ways to approach certain aspects of your training that I find important.

The first one is balance. If I put a plank on the floor that was two feet wide and twenty feet long and asked you to walk across it without falling off, I’m sure you could do it without any problem. If I took the same plank and put it ten stories up between two buildings, could you still do it? Maybe, but most likely you wouldn’t. The problem is that you’ve already imagined what would happen if you fell off and no matter how hard you rationalized (it’s the same as on the ground, there is no wind, etc.) you would teeter, lose your balance and fall off.


Imagination is stronger than willpower.


When you are performing your hyung or executing a specific technique, you already know where it is that you are apprehensive because you have lost your balance frequently in the past. Changing your perception of that technique and imagining yourself “sticking” that move makes your balance possible. If you do this and practice mentally, you can hold onto the memory of when it happens so it is more familiar to you than losing your balance and then you can do it regularly.


It’s the board on the ground vs. the board in the air.


The second example is for high kicking. If you were to look at a picture of someone

performing a front kick, round kick or a side kick to the head, you would observe that the angle of their legs was not anything more than what you can comfortably do with your legs spread apart in a mild stretch. Additionally, when I was performing surgery and patients were unconscious due to anesthesia, their legs could be manipulated into extreme angles without damaging their muscles or resulting in soreness the next day due to torn or strained muscles. The factor that was taken out of the equation allowing this to happen was consciousness.


When performing a kick, people anticipate that at a certain height a kick is going to hurt. The reason this happens is that as they approach this height they “guard” against going too high, tighten the muscles to resist the motion that is already in play, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and they strain the resistive muscles. An example of this is straining a hamstring muscle by resisting the height of a front kick, when in fact a face height front kick requires less flexibility than a halfway decent front stance.

The key to overcoming this conscious limitation is relaxation. Start by practicing front kicks in a sloppy uncaring manner. Let them swing up to a height that you know does not threaten any pain, and do not feel the need to snap them out or have strict foot position or extension. You’ll find that the kicks go much higher and are much more comfortable. Once you are comfortable that these higher kicks do not induce any pain, you can begin to slowly add in the finish elements of extension and snap to discover that high kicks are comfortable. Then use the same methodology on your other kicking techniques.


The third tip is about protecting your knees. One of the more common complaints students have (especially as they get older) is that their knees bother them. Often times this is the result of irritation of the underside of the patella (kneecap) causing bursitis or some arthritis. Changing your movement bio-mechanically avoids this situation and allows you to continue to perform proper technique and stances without pain. Holding tightness in your quadriceps (thigh muscles) while performing flexion or bending of your knee grinds your patella into the femur (thigh bone) much the same as kneeling on a hard floor does. If your quadriceps are relaxed during knee flexion, this pressure is reduced and the grinding stops. If anterior knee pain prevents you from performing deep stances, then this could be the cause.


Try this…Support yourself with your hands between two chairs and lower yourself into a deep front stance. Lock yourself into the stance and release your hands. If you are able to maintain the stance without pain once you are there, then the grinding motion of the patella on the way into the stance is your problem.


To alleviate this, practice going into your stances with relaxed quadriceps muscles and lock the stance in place once you are there instead of guarding against the movement and lowering yourself slowly. Once relaxation of the quadriceps while moving into stances becomes habit, you will be able to continue to maintain deep stances and any technique that involves knee flexion without pain.


These are just three easy tips to augment your training. As mentioned above, there are many more changes in approaches to your training that can facilitate success and effectiveness. If there are aspects of your training that seem difficult or you are unable to obtain a desired result, your instructor has an answer and is more than willing to help. Just ask, because many times, mistakenly…


You do it to yourself!

 

Upcoming Events


September 12, 2023 – Gup Testing – White through 4th gup upgrade – 6:30 pm – West Haven Dojang.

September 16, 2023 – Kodanja Class @ NMA 1-3 PM – Contact SBN Hoke Nunan: 512.335.1890

September 23, 2023 – Rumble in Humble – Humble, TX– Contact SBN Tripp Davis: 281.812.2811

September 18, 2023 – Kodanja Class – West Haven Dojang – 7:30 pm.

October 7, 2023 – Kodanja Class @ NMA 1-3 PM – Contact SBN Hoke Nunan: 512.335.1890

October 7, 2023 – 56th Region 1 and 2 Dan Shimsa / Clinic – West Haven Academy of Karate, Inc., West Haven, CT – Clinic 9:30 am; Dan Shimsa - Contact KJN Charles Ferraro: 203.932.5335.

October 14, 2023 – Gup Testing – White through Cho Dan Evaluations – West Haven Dojang – 12:30 pm.

October 21, 2023 – 56th Region 9 Dan Shimsa / Clinic – San Diego, CA – Contact SBN Mark Pattison: 760.942.6470.

October 28, 2023 – 56th Region 6 Dan Shimsa / Clinic - The Karate School Fall Creek – Humble, TX - Contact SBN Tripp Davis: 281.436.1000

 

What Takes Place in the Spaces

By SBN Holly Holt

Edited by SBN Susie Cuseo (thecuseos@yahoo.com)


An epiphany arose during my experience of the 27th Annual Kodanja Shimsa in 2023 when Kwan Jhang Nim Charles Ferraro said, “Tang Soo Do takes place in the spaces” many times that week. Every time he said that phrase, it caused me to dive deeper into its meaning. It made me think about the silence or space that occurs throughout many aspects of my life. As a professional musician, I know that the silence or absence of sound makes the music, the expressiveness of it, that engages a listener. Noise can feel like an inescapable part of life sometimes, and I have discovered that in my silent periods, I come up with my most creative ideas and feel a great sense of connectedness to the universe and all the things around me. In Tang Soo Do, I realized that the space between movements is where clarity, emotion and heart take place.

Utilizing silence or space is a technique in and of itself. It creates anticipation and adds drama. It can serve as the build-up of tension or the release of tension. When I am watching or demonstrating a form, I can naturally appreciate the moves that precede or follow a brief pause. I can be more present with what it is I am actually doing. That moment of silence and peace conveys a clear and precise idea of what is happening. It’s where real art resides.


In self-defense, one must know what they are doing. One misstep or move can be detrimental. Practicing the art of self-defense in a realistic way requires a slow and methodical approach which involves the same amount of silence or space. In that space, one can feel the connectedness with the ground, the opponent and one's own body or technique. In this space, one now has the time to step back and ponder questions if they want to or make minor adjustments to their form and posture. A clean and clear pause can only benefit the martial artist.

In music, there is a mutual relationship between performer and listener. The crescendo or decrescendo of sound leading up to a break in sound can either jolt the listener or draw the listener closer. This is very similar to forms, if you think about it. In any performance, space is an act of breath itself. What seems contradictory is actually what gives life and depth to a performance. Think back to a conversation you’ve had with someone who never gave you moment to include your input. This one-sided discussion can cause the listener to feel unappreciated and thus lose interest in what the person is saying. This barrage of words (or movement and sound in that matter) becomes more of a disservice to the relationship rather than an interaction that should involve an exchange of information between both parties. How can one prolong their attention if they are not given a chance to interact with what it is you are saying? This is a question of art. The answer is silence.

Conversation, whether in the form of physical movements in Tang Soo Do, aural signals like music or just a simple conversation between two people, requires an active and passive part. Spiritually, silence can highlight the many things that may be missing in our life or accentuate the aspects we are most grateful for. Let us all take more time to simply be in the silence and presence of space and not judge what takes place. In doing so, we can learn to live more comfortably, peacefully and without limits.


Romanian blogger, author and spiritual teacher Luminita D. Saviuc is quoted to say, “Silence is a precious gift we give to ourselves. In that space between our words, not only do we find ourselves, but we can also hear our own, heart, soul and intuition talking to us.”

 

Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan Studio Profile: COVID Pandemic and its Aftereffect

By Virginia Folger Dan #411 (virginia.middleburymaa@gmail.com)


This studio spotlight will be a little different. Instead of being about one studio, we will talk about all the Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan studios and how they were affected by the pandemic. In March 2020, our world shifted. No one knew what to do and what was ahead of us. What started as businesses closing for two weeks turned into months and years. Although it was different depending on your city, state, or country, COVID impacted all businesses, especially small service-based businesses like our studios.

Pivot to Overcome

One of the Ten Elements of Effective Training found in the Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan Gup Manual states, “Martial arts can be practiced anywhere. Your dojang is wherever you decide to practice.” Once we learned it would be longer than two weeks that we couldn’t have students on the mats, many owners quickly pivoted and added Zoom classes. Although this wasn’t ideal, it allowed us to continue training with our students and gave them something productive and active to do. This was challenging but forced us as instructors to communicate creatively with students so they could understand how to do techniques properly.


Besides the classes, some also added Parent Night In events where the instructors would play games with the kids while parents had a chance to relax. The students loved having a fun activity, but most of all, they told us they enjoyed seeing their friends. In my studio, I also hosted some happy hour events with our parents where they could log on with me and we would all chat as if we were in the studio. Parents appreciated this stating it was nice to see everyone and that they realized they missed our “talks.”


Some studios also have an after-school program, depending on the state; this could have helped schools if they could keep them open and become an option for parents who were first responders and other essential employees who needed to be at work. Other states did not allow after-school programs, so it impacted the number of students on site. Getting together and training in parks and fields also helped students and instructors come together and participate in our martial art in person.


Whether it was Zoom, outside classes, or after-school programs, these helped many of us to retain enough students to keep the studios going.


Comeback

We have all heard, “You don’t know what you got until it’s gone.” Well, this was felt by many. Students and instructors appreciated coming back. Being in the studio and seeing their friends gave the students renewed energy. Never had we seen students excited to do forms because they had space without having to adjust around furniture while they watched on a screen. Parents commented on the differences they saw when their kids were not training. Although some students did not return, those who were committed and came back had a newfound appreciation.


Gone But Not Forgotten

Sadly, not all of our studios could stay open through the pandemic. Unfortunately, Arrowhead Martial Arts out of California was forced to close. A 3000-foot studio with 150 students run by SBN Stephanie Argentine closed on their 10th anniversary on July 5, 2020. SBN Argentine opened the school in 2010. She worked hard for her students and the community. With the families coming from diverse backgrounds, SBN Argentine knew it was important to share her and her students’ passion with the neighborhood by volunteering on many levels in the community. In return, the community sponsored her teams in many ways to allow them to travel and compete at championships in Las Vegas and London. The California Angel Baseball team recognized the Arrowhead Martial Arts team on the field when they came home from London.

Unfortunately, the pandemic was too much to overcome. Having to close in March and re-open in July, the studio had 90% of students who didn’t return. Most of the returning students were Dan members. With the restrictions placed on businesses, keeping the studio open with such a low number of students proved difficult. SBN Argentine knew she had to make the tough decision to close her doors forever. Although the school is closed, five of her black belts still train occasionally and get together wherever and whenever possible. Their perseverance is admirable and we look forward to seeing them continue their training. We may even see one of them open a school one day!


Aftermath

We all went through it, and although I am sure we would all be happy never to hear about COVID again, we must take the time to reflect on the lessons we learned through it. On the business side, we need to remember how adaptable we had to become and how our students and their parents reacted to our decisions. On the dojang floor, we need to remember what we learned regarding different ways to teach or another way to communicate and explain something. Although our students are back in the studio, there are some drills we may have done with them through Zoom that they can still benefit from. We must also remember to be mindful of people and their comfort in working with others.

Impacting the Future

For those of us still teaching, I am sure you are seeing its effects on our younger students. Children were stuck at home with only their immediate family during some of their formative years. We now see them trying to figure out how to socialize and be in class with others. Those not in school or social environments have taken some time to adjust to being back with others.


All of this has dramatically impacted businesses, especially small service-based businesses. We have overcome many obstacles caused by the pandemic and will need to continue to tap into that determination to continue growing our schools and the Mi Guk Kwan.

 

Sa Bom Spotlight: Master Alma Hamilton

By SBN Susie Cuseo (thecuseos@yahoo.com)


“Courage, above all things, is the first quality of a warrior.” This is a quote from Prussian general and military theorist Karl Von Clausewitz. Picture this: you are over 50 years old, a woman and declared clinically obese weighing over 200 pounds. Do you think it takes a huge amount of courage to take that first step onto the dojang floor and start training in Tang Soo Do? This is what SBN Alma Hamilton did. She took the first of the Eight Key Concepts, Yong Gi, and ran with it.


Master Hamilton was born and grew up in Omagh in Northern Ireland attending high school in town but majored in Music as a student at Queen’s University Belfast. She has been a professional musician for several decades since graduating. When she was about 25 years old, she and her fiancé moved to the southern coast of England where he was a pilot for British Airways. His various roles for the company had him spending two years in several locations, such as, Tehran and Bahrain where he worked on the tarmac as a security officer. In 1985 he transferred to the United States but she remained in England where she was expecting her daughter to be born. In 1986 when her son was four the rest of the family moved to Stamford, Connecticut.


Her daughter, at 12 years old, wanted to do some kind of martial arts. SBN Hamilton took her to the Stamford Martial Arts studio which was just a 20-minute walk from home. After a couple of weeks, her daughter admitted to her that she felt uncomfortable being watched and one of the tallest girls in class. Master Hamilton kept coming to the studio with her daughter and then attended a Dan presentation ceremony where three other studios participated and had 40 martial artists in attendance. Master Hamilton noticed that there were only two women on the floor that included SBN Goldberg and another gentleman in his 50’s. She then decided to take up classes and was determined to become a black belt in Tang Soo Do. Within a period of three months she was a different person. She was stronger and enjoyed the freedom of being able to move more fluidly when she lost some of her weight while training.

She had tried all sorts of diets and had come to the conclusion that for her it was constantly moving that allowed her to lose about 50 pounds over her lifetime of going to classes in addition to the fact that she’s been a vegetarian for half her life. She now had more control of her body and unrestricted movement. Her daughter reached the rank of Cho Dan but stopped training at the age of 18 when she started to attend college. Master Hamilton continues to attend classes stating, “It always makes me happy and it has helped my health considerably, as well as dealing once and for all with my weight issues.” She’s had the full support of her family; yet her friends can’t quite believe the change in her physically just from training.


SBN Hamilton enjoys reading, walking, visiting museums and art galleries, as well as writing music, poetry, cooking and knitting. She has been the pianist and organist at St. Leo’s Roman Catholic Church in Stamford for almost 25 years. Her spare time is taken up with vocal coaching and personal instruction with the piano composing,

arranging music and performances. In her early years she dreaded performing or speaking in front of others. She is of the mindset where she puts her all into conquering her fears and overcoming them. She loves to play her favorite instrument to entertain others while it makes her feel proud. She has the same attitude towards competing in forms. She does it to make herself happy; knowing that she can still do it without any hindrances like fear or being overweight.

Master Hamilton has been training for about 25 years where she’s in the studio three times a week and helps teach children of all ranks. At the beginning of 2023 she tested for her new rank of Yuk Dan. She truly personifies one of the Ten Elements of Effective Training: “Marital arts training is free and unrestrictive, the only limitations are those of the individual practitioner.” She did not let her weight hold her back from becoming a black belt let alone a Yuk Dan. She has not let her age deter her from striving to become that rank. She’s overcome her fear of demonstrating in front of others and now basks in the pride of doing it for herself and enjoying it to the fullest. SBN Hamilton says, “I’m a performer. Competing in tournaments is an extension of my daily life.”


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