Saturday, June 1, 2024

Benefits of Approaching Training as Fun --- Chief Instructor's Blog June 2024


Martials arts is a serious practice.  Han Moo Kwan is meant for self-defense purposes, so when training and learning you should approach it with seriousness.

So, what I am about to say may seem contradictory to that statement.

While it is serious, you should also approach your training as fun and enjoyable.  This does not mean laughing and joking and not focusing, but coming with the mindset that you are thoroughly enjoying what you are doing, especially when learning something new.

You may still be wondering what the heck I am getting at.

There are many studies are out there about the optimal learning conditions and environment.  Many of these studies have shown that when we are under stress, we do not learn as well and memory performance declines. Therefore, if you come to train feeling stressed or anxious, you are less likely to retain the what you’ve learned.  If you are learning a new form and frustrated or stressed because it seems like a lot to learn, then most likely it will take longer to learn.

On the flip side, we learn better when we experience joy and having fun.  Scientific research has shown that dopamine plays a critical role in formation of new memories and improving cognitive functions.  Research has shown this is partly why children learn so quickly and learn better while playing. That joy from playing and having fun releases dopamine which helps retain the memories and the learning.

So, if you approach learning and training with the mindset, you are having fun and it is enjoyable, then you should be able to learn faster and retain what you learn longer which is key when learning something new.


Let the fun begin.





“The joy of learning is as indispensable in study as breathing is in running. Where it is lacking there are no real students, but only poor caricatures of apprentices who, at the end of their apprenticeship, will not even have a trade.” ~ Simone Weil (1909-1943), a French philosopher, mystic, and political activist

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

Is Martial Arts a Complete Workout? --- Chief Instructor's Blog May 2024


Have you wondered if you should be doing more than practicing martial arts or is your martial arts training a complete workout in itself?  

Practicing a martial art can be a complete workout in and of itself, but it depends on several things if it is a complete workout for you and if you should/ need to augment your training.

First thing to consider to determine if you need to augment your training is how often and how long you are practicing martial arts.  To sustain your skills, you should be practicing a minimum 2-3 times a week for at least 2-3 hours.  Less than that you definitely need to add either more martial arts practice or augment your training with other activities or add more martial training sessions.

The second thing to consider is if there is an aspect you need more attention on: muscular endurance, aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise, power/ strength, speed, coordination, balance, flexibility, mental focus.

You can definitely use martial arts practice to focus on these aspects, but if looking for other activities to augment consider some of the following:

  1. Running, cycling, hiking, walking, swimming, jumping rope, and interval training can all improve your muscular endurance, aerobic endurance, and/ or anaerobic endurance.
  2. Sprints, resistance training, and interval training can help improve your speed
  3. Yoga or Pilates can improve your muscular strength, balance, flexibility and mental focus
  4. Weight lifting / strength training can improve your strength and muscular endurance
  5. Pull ups/ pushups are good and can improve your strength and muscular endurance
  6. Sit-ups and other core exercises, like planks or using a balance board can help improve your balance and coordination
  7. Standing march, jumping jacks, swimming, jumping rope. lunges (walking or lateral), overhead squats, single legs squats can improve coordination
  8. Lunges (walking or lateral), overhead squats, single legs squats can improve balance 
  9. Yoga, Pilates, and many stretching exercises can improve your flexibility
  10. Meditation, visualization, and practicing active listening can help you improve your focus

Another thing to consider is if you are healing from an injury.  In that case, adding exercises from a physical therapist or an expert trainer can be very helpful in maintaining your martial arts skillset.

I for one, do many of the items above to not only augment my own martial arts training but also because it allows me to vary my routine, connect with other people, and focus on areas which need more attention.

What I will say is that all these alternatives can help augment your training, but by themselves they will not improve your martial arts unless you are putting the minimum time in actually practicing martial arts and focusing on all the attributes listed above as well.





“The athlete who is building muscles through weight training should be very sure to work adequately on speed and flexibility at the same time.  In combat, without the prior attributes, a strong man will be like a bull with its colossal strength futilely pursuing the matador or like a low-geared truck chasing a rabbit.” ~ Bruce Lee, (1940 –1973) American-born Chinese Hong Kong martial artist, actor, and founder of Jeet Kune Do

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Mind, Technique, Body - Which Is More Important? --- Chief Instructor's Blog April 2024


In last month’s blog, I discussed the traditional Japanese learning process of mastery.  And while there is a learning process to mastery, there are also pillars of mastery that I have described in various blogs over the years: Mind (or Spirit), Technique, Body.  The Japanese phrase for this is Shin Gi Tai.  For each of these pillars there are several different aspects to each of them.

Shin – The Mind (or Spirit)

There are three main characteristics to this pillar.

One is being focused to the learning process itself.  This includes not wavering even when you are challenged in learning a particular technique or concept. Trying to learn faster or thinking you must learn faster can actually end up resulting in you taking longer to learn. 

A second aspect is training to have a strong mind that allows you to push through fears, physical limits, or anything else that might hold you back from learning.

Shin also refers to your consciousness and being aware of how you are performing the techniques (e.g., are you aware where your elbows are at all times).  It is also being aware of your body, its strength and limitations.

If we get caught up in just training the mind, though, we may have the mental fortitude but will lack the skill or physical capability.

With all this said, if you do not have a strong mind and unwavering desire to learn and to stick with the learning, then it is easy to stop.  So, of the three, I would say the Shin is the foundation to build the other two pillars on. 

Gi (The Technique)

There are three main attributes to this pillar as well.

Mastery of the technique refers to performing the techniques precisely, so they are most effective and efficient.  This is the skill aspect of the pillar.

Mastering the technique also refers to understanding of why the technique works.  This is the knowledge aspect of the pillar.

Gi also refers to adapting techniques to your body and making them work for you more effectively.  This is the experience aspect of the pillar.


Tai (Body)

There are two main aspects to this pillar.

One is the physical aspect and developing the endurance, physical balance, flexibility, power, agility of the body to perform the techniques.

The second is to integrate the movements with the technique so you are utilizing the entire body and not just focused on one piece of the body.

In the beginning we tend to focus on the technique over body and this is important since performing techniques with a lot of power, as an example, without the techniques being solid can lead to injuries. However, if we focus too much on the details of the techniques and not pushing the body, the techniques will never be truly effective or mastered.

While each of these pillars are important to master none are more important than the other.  Without all three, mastery cannot be obtained.  Some of us are drawn to one pillar over the other, or during our training we can get interested in one of these pillars over another and get hyper focused.  And it’s okay to focus on one over another for a brief period of time, but in the end, all three pillars are necessary to master a martial art and not one is not more important the other.




"A one-sided martial artist is a blind martial artist" ~ Unknown

Saturday, March 2, 2024

The Three Stages of Mastery --- Chief Instructor's Blog March 2024


I came across a term I was not familiar with: Shu-Ha-Ri.  It is based on traditional learning process in Japanese culture of traditional arts including martial arts.  It describes the phases to mastery.

Shu is the foundational phase.  In martial arts this is where one learns all the foundation to be technically proficient.  It consists of learning all the techniques and details around those techniques exactly as taught.  This is a time to absorb and learn, repeat, and perform mechanically exactly what is being taught.  During this process you should be able to mimic exactly what is taught, every motion, every inch of a technique, have a mental model that can clarify each of those details and that continues to refine that mental model until know all the fine details.  One article I read stated, traditionally one would spend 3 to 5 years of training in this phase. In the modern world of training a couple of days a week, it is 5 to 10 years.  In this phase, it is mainly repetition of techniques, being mindful of how one is performing them and make the corrections one is told.  When one can start self-correcting, then one also knows one is progressing in this phase. The exercise to write down how to perform techniques and the hyung is a good exercise to support one in and through the Shu phase.

Ha is the understanding phase.  In the Ha phase, a student of martial arts learns and understand the application and principles of the techniques.  In this phase, one comes to understand how and why techniques work, how one technique relates to other techniques, and in what situations (when) the application of the technique is most effective. In this phase, one starts to learn all the variations of techniques and applications and not be stuck in one way. This is an exploration stage and one must be willing to try and see what works, work with multiple partners to gain deeper understanding of the why, how, and when techniques work.  In this phase, one will be able to determine what techniques are best for the individual and under what situations. One article I read stated, traditionally one would spend 5 to 15 years of training in this phase. In the modern world of training a couple of days a week, it is 10 to 20 years. 

Ri is the mastery phase.  In this phase you embody the principles and express them.  In this phase, one will be able to use any and all techniques as needed and react without thinking.  In this phase, one is in complete control of any situation physically, mentally and emotionally.  This phase can take a lifetime to master.

These phases are a journey.

There is a famous story about Yagyu Matajuro, who was a son of the famous Yagyu family of swordsmen in the 17th century feudal Japan. He was kicked out of the house for lack of talent and potential, and sought out instruction of the sword master Tsukahara Bokuden, with the hope of achieving mastery of the sword and regaining his family position. On their initial interview, Matajuro asked Tsukahara Bokuden, “How long will it take me to master the sword?” Bokuden replied, “Oh, about five years if you train very hard.” “If I train twice as hard, how long will it take?” inquired Matajuro. “In that case, ten years”, retorted Bokuden.





"Learning a technique is not the end in itself, it merely indicates where you need to start." Masaaki Hatsumi (1931-present), Togakure-ryƫ, a historical tradition of ninjutsu, grandmaster

Thursday, February 1, 2024

How Can You Incorporate Practice in your Day to Day Life --- Chief Instructor's Blog February 2024


In my previous blog, I said you should practice every day.  You may think that is impossible or you do not have the time.


There are so many things you can do every day to incorporate your martial arts practice in your daily life, especially keeping in mind that martial arts, at its core, is a physical, mental, and energetic/spiritual practice.


Here are some examples of ways to incorporate practice the physical in your day-to-day life. 

  • Practice cat stance while you are brushing teeth or in line at a store.  This does not mean have to be a deep formal cat stance, but the practicing principles of weight shifted onto one leg and little to no weight on the opposite leg.
  • When moving heavy items, use horse stance and use your hips.
  • Use a knife hand to push through a door or a front kick motion to push through a heavy door.
  • Use a Spear hand or a knuckle punch to open boxes (at the seams).
  • Sliding feet like attack stance if walking in a dark room (also lets you avoid tripping on things).
  • If at the gym and running on the tread mill or riding the bike, you can practice upper body techniques (I actually do this sometimes when I am out hiking).
  • Always walk grounded. Always be grounded. 


Here are some examples of ways to incorporate practicing the mental aspects in your day-to-day life.

  • While watching TV shows or movies (or news clips or YouTube videos of altercations), analyze the situations on what they did well or what they could have done better.
  • Instead of watching TV, mentally go through the basics, hyung, sparring.
  • Instead of watching TV, mentally go through various scenarios of what you should do under what conditions (what if a family member or friend is with you? What if you are blocked in?  what if you are injured?
  • Always be aware of your surroundings.  Situational awareness is the key to self-defense.


Here are some examples of ways to incorporate practicing the energetic/spiritual aspects in your day-to-day life.

    • Practice deep long breathing in any physical activity you are doing (running, swimming, biking, hiking, yoga, etc.).
    • Be conscious of your energy (and energy body) and consciously choose a form that is appropriate for the situation (e.g., direct or indirect; hard or soft; hot, warm, cold; normal, extended or collapsed, or combinations).
      1. If needing to make a point at work or with family, you may choose direct or hard.
      2. If you are trying to comfort someone or be sympathetic, you may choose warm and soft.
      3. If at a crowded mall, you may choose to extend so people felt it and get out of your way.
      4. If late for that meeting with executive leadership, you might choose collapsing your energy to slip in unnoticed.
    The above are just examples. What have you come up with to practice every day?   If you have not, or if you have just been focused on one aspect of martial arts, I encourage you to come up with actions you can take to incorporate martial arts in every aspect of your day-to-day life.  Because in the end, the true essence of martials arts is not something you do, it is a lifestyle.




    “Kung fu lives in everything we do. It lives in how we put on a jacket and how we take off a jacket. It lives in how we treat people. Everything is kung fu.” ~Mr. Han, played by Jackie Chan (1954-presnt, Hong Kong actor, filmmaker, martial artist, and stuntman) from the movie The Karate Kid (2011)

    Monday, January 1, 2024

    How Often Should You Practice? --- Chief Instructor's Blog January 2024


    How often should you practice?  Answer:  Every day.  Yes, every day. 

    Does that mean you need you need to go through the basics and hyung every day?  Will you lose your physical skills if you do not practice every day.  No, not necessarily.  

    There are lots of studies out there on how long you can take a break before significantly losing or see a reduction in physical attributes.  Most studies are consistent in that you will lose significant physical attributes like strength and endurance if you take weeks or months off.

    You may think I am talking out of both sides of my mouth, because I said you should practice every day.  Something keep in mind is that while you may not lose significant strength or endurance in weeks, there are many other attributes like balance, coordination, timing, reactions speed, etc. to consider.  Also, if you need to use your martial physical skills, most likely you will need to be ready in an instant.  This is not something that you will be able to do if you do not practice consistency.  So, unless injured or ill, I would suggest you include the physical practice every other day at a minimum. 

    Also, remember martial arts is a way of life and it is not just about the physical.  The mental and spiritual side of the martial arts should definitely be part of your day-to-day life.

    Gichin Funakoshi said it very well in his eleventh precept “Karate is like boiling water: without heat, it returns to its tepid state.” from his book, The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate.  Master Funakoshi states: “Only in continual training will you be able to obtain, in mind and body, the fruits of the Way.”

    And, if you also think about it, it actually takes less energy to keep water boiling once already boiling or already hot compared to starting from warm or cold water.  So, a little every day is easier to maintain then starting and stopping after days or weeks.

    As we enter 2024, I encourage you to find a way to include some aspect of your training (physical, mental, spiritual) daily.



    “Learning through practice is like pushing a cart up a hill: if you slack off, it will slip backwards.” ~ Japanese proverb

    Friday, December 1, 2023

    Why Should You Continue to Practice The Kibon Series --- Chief Instructor's Blog December 2023


    It is nice to learn something new.  And sometimes we think if we are learning something new (e.g., technique, concept, principle, hyung, etc.) we have mastered a technique or hyung and are ready to just move on.  This is most likely not the case.  You should not sacrifice practicing the details and gaining more depth of skill of known techniques for something new.

    In fact, the basics are not as basic as you might think they are.  It can take years to become effective even with what appears to be the most basic of our techniques or hyung and even longer to master it. 

    As an example, to master any one hyung, you will need to be able to do the following every time:

    1.      Perform each technique and transition mechanically precise

    2.      Perform each technique and transition linearly

    3.   Maintain ground throughout the form, including during the transition of stances

    4.   Focus your energy and movements in one direction at all times

    5.      Perform each technique (including transitions) such that each micromovement has a purpose and can cause damage

    In addition, for each hyung there are specific, unique challenges to master.  The below table lists those challenges in the kibon series.


    Challenges to Master

    Kibon Hyung

    • Effectively turn in Attack Stance
    • Make use of a turn in an Attack Stance

    Kibon One

    • Effectively rotate and turn in cat stance
    • Make use of a turn in a cat stance
    • Linear transition from Cat Stance to Attack Stance
    • Lower the Cat Stance to match the height of the Attack Stance

    Kibon Two

    • Linear transition from Cat Stance to Attack Stance
    • Staying level in the transition from Cat Stance to Attack Stance

    Kibon Three

    • Make use of a turn in a cat stance
    • Maintain set in Cat Stance
    • Keep shoulders and hips square
    • Control and manage the power of the kicks outward and retracting

    Kibon Four

    • Control the rear leg kick and set it into attack stance

    As you can imagine, the items above can take quite a bit of time to master.

    So, am I suggesting not learning anything new until you have mastered the previous techniques or hyung you have been taught?  Not at all.  What I am suggesting is there is still a lot to master even with what appears to be simple like kibon hyung.  You should always continue to practice what you have already learned and not just move on to new techniques or hyung.




    “In the past, it was expected that about three years were required to learn a single kata, and usually even an expert of considerable skill would only know three, or at most five, kata.” ~ Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957), founder of Shotokan Karate