Saturday, March 4, 2023

Getting Out of Our Comfort Zone --- Chief Instructor's Blog March 2023


As we have been discussing in class, practicing basics and hyung precisely are important and have benefits, but you must also get out of your comfort zone to ensure your techniques are effective in all practical applications.   If you can only perform techniques one way and move one way, you will be limited in your ability to defend yourself and could actually mentally get stuck and freeze. 

By doing things similar but different it helps create new neuropathways that allows us to move more freely.  Some of the exercises and drills that force us to move differently, perform techniques on different sides, and/or makes our brain make different mind-body connections include (many of which we have practiced in class) include:

·         Performing hyung mirrored (i.e., start to the left, versus the right) 

·         Performing hyung with reverse strikes. 

·         Practicing various basics at different heights (low, medium, high) and in different directions (downward, upward, outward, etc.).

·         Practicing combinations using different stance transitions than normally practiced in basics or hyung (e.g., transition from a side horse to a cat stance)

·         Practicing techniques and hyung at different speeds and cadences

·         Practicing techniques, hyung, combinations imagining different scenarios

·         Practicing techniques while imagining targets at different distances (i.e., close in, kicking range, just outside kicking range). 

In addition, by continuing to push ourselves outside our comfort zone we are less likely to become complacent.  While it is great to feel comfortable in performing techniques and feeling proficient in hyung, if we do not continue to explore ways of doing things differently then that complacency can lead to laziness.  One of my favorite quotes is by Norman Augustine (United States Under Secretary of the Army from 1975 to 1977 and chairman and CEO of the Lockheed Martin Corporation), “There are no lazy veteran lion hunters.”   

Imagine what it felt like the first time you performed a basic side kick well.  If you stopped there and never tried to improve it and perform it differently, how much more competent would you feel performing that technique?  When we get lazy, we stop growing and learning.  When we practice outside our comfort zone and practice the new ways, we not only improve our competency but also our confidence which will lead us to continuing to be open to trying new ways of practicing.   



“Karate is like boiling water: without heat, it returns to its tepid state.“ ~  Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957), founder of Shotokan Karate

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Han Moo Kwan Club 50th Anniversary Reflection - - Chief Instructor's Blog February 2023


Over fifty years ago, a chance meeting between Mr. Bob Rainie and Mr. Ui Jung Kim at a gas station in Campbell led to a demonstration and then the birth of the Han Moo Kwan Club in Sunnyvale in February 1973. 

Since then, over a 1,000 people joined the Club.  Of those, our records indicate, 619 have tested and reached at least the rank of Green Belt.  Of those, 67 have reached at least the level of First-Degree Black Belt. 

While Mr. Kim and some of his original students have since passed, most notably Mr. Bob Rainie and Mr. Gary Murray, along with one of our past Chief Instructors, Mr. Jeff Burgess, the Club carries on.  Maybe the numbers are not what it once was and currently we do not have a permanent location to train, we do continue on.

Mr. Kim was quoted as saying more than once, “Show up, work out”.  And that is what we have been doing, whether it be via Zoom, in the park, and hopefully soon a new location, we are showing up and working out to honor Mr. Kim, our founding members, and all those instructors who taught just to share their knowledge and the art form.

Not only did they share their knowledge they shared and taught overtly the energy side of martial arts.  In the East, the energy side was held close and never openly shared.  It was discovered after years and maybe decades of training by experiencing it from the masters.  In the West, most instructors never discovered the energy side or believed it exists so they could not pass it along to their students. Or they may be demonstrating it but not overtly teaching it, so very few students are discovering it. 

But our Club has had the unique experience of our founders not only overtly teaching but finding methods to help us understand it quicker than eastern methods and helping us understand how the energy side benefits us not just in martial arts but in our everyday lives.  I feel extremely fortunate and grateful for these teachings which have sharped and influenced my life in such positive ways.  

On this 50th anniversary, I ask each of you who have been a part of the Club whether for a month or decades, to reflect on the teachings you have received for practically free, how those teachings have helped you better yourself and thank those instructors (whether living or dead) who have shared their knowledge and insights.  And then ask yourself how you are giving back to these instructors by continuing to “show up, work out”, continue to, if do already, or find ways to give back to your community.  




After asked why we practice the reply was “To better ourselves” ~ Mr. Ui Jung Kim, 6th Degree Black Belt, Founder of the Han Moo Kwan Club, Sunnyvale, CA

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Getting the Most Out of Your Training --- Chief Instructor's Blog January 2023


As we enter the new year, you might be thinking about how to get more or the most out of your training in the upcoming year.    

What’s obvious is to practice, practice and practice.

However, sometimes we feel we have limited time for practice, so in that case, how can you get the most out of your training?  Below are some things you may want to consider.

1. Be Present

While practicing, whether on your own or in class, be present.  Focus on what you are doing 100 percent of the time and do not let other things distract you while you are training.

2. Be consistent

When practicing, be consistent and precise with each technique Do not just go through the motions, but practice doing each technique consistently every time.

3. Let go of your ego

Do not compare yourself to anyone else whether a fellow student or some martial artist you watched on TV or in a video.  If you are more concerned about how you look compared to others, the less you are focused, are being consistent, and if working with a partner, the more likely you will get injured. 

4. Enjoy the journey

While it is useful to have goals, enjoy the journey.  Enjoy if you improve 1% over 6 months or even if on a plateau.  Some days you may feel like you have gone backwards, and that is okay, it is part of the journey.  Enjoy the learning and the perseverance of just continuing.  It may be that your physical techniques are not improving much but your understanding of the techniques, when to use them, or underlining principles of the art form have improved.  That is all part of improving, so enjoy it.

5. Mindset

Have a positive mindset.  Even if not doing your favorite drill or practicing your favorite hyung, tell yourself you like it.  It is amazing when thinking positively how much easier and effective your techniques are when compared to negative thoughts. 

6. Play with your techniques outside training

Find ways to practice in your everyday activities.  Whether that is practicing your even, deep breathing, using low side kicks to open doors, breaking down boxes with spear hand or knuckle punches, practicing your balance (you can easily shift to one leg while standing around talking and no one would know you are practicing balancing on one leg), practicing your positive mindset, practicing extending and holding your energy (for example, in a crowded mall to make an easy path to walk through), etc.   There are hundreds of ways to practice martial arts techniques or principles in day-to-day activities and tasks.

As we enter 2023, I encouraged each of you to use the above or come up with your own ways to get the most out of your training.



“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” ~ Bruce Lee, (1940 –1973) American-born Chinese Hong Kong martial artist, actor, and founder of Jeet Kune Do


Thursday, December 1, 2022

Karate Concepts from Choki Motobu --- Chief Instructor's Blog December 2022


Choki Motobu, founder of Motobu-ryū, was one of Okinawa's greatest early twentieth century karate masters.  Choki Motobu students documented in Japanese a 1978 essay "Motobu Choki Sensei Goroku" (that was translated by Joe Swift) which focuses on some of his concepts relating to karate.  I will expand on a few of the items discussed in the essay that resonated the most with me and align with Han Moo Kwan principles and concepts.

“Kamae is in the heart, not a physical manifestation.”

Kamae is Japanese for “stance” or “posture”.   While we practice it is important that your stances are solid and correct.  I believe what Choki Motobu was referring to is that your attitude and intent is more important.  Your stances and techniques can be technically perfect but if your attitude and intent is not correct, your techniques will not be effective.

“One must develop the ability to read how much striking power any person has in one glance.”

Learning to read your attacker and understand their strengths and weaknesses quickly is an essential skill.  We practice this skill as part of learning the energy side of martial arts.

“One does not have to take care to block every single attack by an opponent with weak striking power.”

If the strike is not going to do you harm or out of range, etc., then you should not waste time and energy to block it or chase it.    In this case, you should just attack the opponent, but ensure you are protecting any vulnerable spots (e.g., your head).

“One must develop the ability to deflect attack even from behind.”

All attacks are not going to be directly in front of you.  So, first you need to be aware of what is going on behind you and to the side of you as well.  And if the attack is from behind, you need to be able to move and throw techniques that are effective.

“In a real confrontation, more than anything else strike to the face first, as this is most effective.”

By striking the face (or head), first you are attacking the body’s “control system” (i.e.  the brain), and if can stun the brain, the body will shut down. I will expand this to attack vulnerable spots first (knees, groin, etc.).  The idea is to finish a fight quickly, so the most vulnerable spots are best to attack first.

“Kicks are not all that effective in a real confrontation.”

I believe this statement is more about full kicks.  Most fights are close in, so you will not necessarily be able to execute a full kick, but knee strikes, stamping side kicks to the shin or foot could be very effective.

“One must try and block the attack at its source (Block not the attacking hand but deeper on the arm).”

To me, this concept aligns with not focusing on the actual part of the body the assailant is attacking.  If you focus on just the attack, you may miss other things going on (use of other weapons). And if you attack the body or the source, you are more likely to do more damage and end the altercation quickly.  Or this concept may also be indicating to block a strike or kick at the position where it exerts the least amount of power.  (e.g., haymaker punch is easiest to stop if you block the upper arm just a few inches down from the shoulder.)

“The blocking hand must be able to become the attacking hand in an instant. Blocking with one hand and then countering with the other is not true bujutsu. Real bujutsu presses forward and blocks and counters in the same motion.”

This also combines a few concepts for me.  One is blocks are attacks (“block to break”), so in essence you should be always attacking.  In addition, this concept for me also emphasizes the need to continually attack until you feel safe and not stop until then.  In addition, this emphasizes the use of both hands simultaneously versus one technique then the other.

“When punching to the face one must thrust as if punching through the head.”

For every technique you throw you should be thinking of going through the target.  When we practice against one another you must use control to not cause bodily harm to your fellow student, but against bags, shields and definitely against an attacker, you should always be thinking of going through their body (head, spine, etc.)

“When blocking kicks, one must block as if trying to break the opponent’s shin.”

As stated in class over and over, with every “blocking technique” your intent should be block to break.  Our art form is for self-defense with the goals to end the altercation quickly.  To do so you must disable your attacker quickly, which means causing damage with every technique and to do that you must block to break. 

As you study or read about the masters of traditional martial arts, you will find Han Moo Kwan is very much aligned with their concepts. And given these concepts have survived hundreds of years, for me, it validates what we are studying and practicing.




“The more understanding you have about Karate, the less you need to change or modify it.” ~ Tsuguo Sakumoto (1947 – present), former World Karate Champion and 9th degree in Ryuei-ryu Karate



Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Some Key Non-Physical Self-Defense Strategies and Tactics --- Chief Instructor's Blog November 2022


While it has been said and written many times, it is worth stating again.

Han Moo Kwan philosophy and its strategies are based on an honorable fighter art with its origins dating back hundreds of years.  This fighting art is used strictly for self-defense and for improving oneself physically and spiritually.  Therefore, if options do not exist to avoid confrontation and conflict, we teach members how to physically defend themselves using the Han Moo Kwan Tae Kwon Do philosophy and its strategies and tactics.

So, with that said, what options are there to avoid confrontation and conflict?

The number one rule of self-defense is “Do not get chosen”.  There are a few major concepts this encompasses.  One concept is being aware of your surroundings and avoid situations that put you at risk, such as walking alone in a dark area or entering the subway car that is completely packed versus one that is less crowded.  Or the flip side, entering a subway car with only one other person that makes you uncomfortable versus riding one with a few other people.  Another one is simply do not visibly carry anything of interest to an attacker. For example, if you are carrying a $1400 iPhone down the street visibly in your hand, you are more at risk to be robbed.  If you are carrying a $2000 purse and it is dangling down your side, you are at risk of being robbed.  If you are wearing expensive jewelry out in public especially crowded streets or public transit, you are at risk.  When my husband and I travel, we do not wear our more expensive wedding rings but wear an inexpensive, plain band. 

Another simple tactic of not getting chosen is to ensure your home is well lit at night, whether you have interior and or exterior lights on timers or sensors.  An intruder will most likely break into a dark home then one that has lights on.  Or place a large dog bowl with water in the backyard that looks scuffed up and well used.  An intruder will most likely avoid a house with a dog. 

Also, those that appear to have more confidence are less likely to be chosen.  This means walking with your head up and with confidence.

It also means being aware of your surroundings.  By looking around and not staring and/or texting on your phone, for example, in public places you are less likely to be the target.

Another concept is keeping safe distances or avoid being in a disadvantaged position.  Again, this may mean avoiding crowded areas, if possible.  Or if in a more crowded place, position yourself to limit an attacker’s angles of attack.  As an example, if in a crowded subway, you have your back to a wall so you can see what’s in front of you and therefore do not have to worry about what’s behind you and limit someone’s opportunities to rob or attack you.

Another important concept is to trust your instincts.  This does not mean to be paranoid, but if your gut tells you the situation does not feel right, trust it.  If you are walking down the street and there is a person coming towards you that makes you feel uneasy, cross the street or go into the nearest store.  If you are going into an elevator that has another person or people and the you feel uneasy, take the next elevator or take the stairs.  This does not mean you are being a coward or afraid…this is simply avoiding a potential bad situation.  In Gavin de Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence” he provides many examples of reading signs and testing your instinct.

Other means to avoid confrontation can take the form of verbal tactics.  A few simple tactics include, if someone is confronting you simply state the police have been called and are coming, even if this is not true.  Do not say you will call the police, but say the police have already been called.  An attacker is less likely to stick around if they think the police are on their way.   Another verbal tactic if feeling unsafe is to state, “I do not know you”, even if this is not true.  Most bystanders will not want to get involve in a domestic dispute but are willing to help someone against a stranger.

This is not a complete list, but illustrates there are many tactics and techniques besides the physical to keep yourself safe.  And while we spend time practicing the physical techniques, if you are truly interested in self-defense, you should also study and learn the non-physical tactics as well.



“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.” ~ Sun Tzu (6th Century BC), Chinese General, military strategist, and author of The Art of War



1.      The Gift of Fear: And Other Survival Signals That Protect Us from Violence by Gavin de Becker

2.      The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Sunday, October 2, 2022

Evolution of Performing Hyung ---- Chief Instructor Blog October 2022


 As you learn and get more adept at techniques, the techniques will evolve.  What your techniques look and feel like as a belt will be different than when you are a green belt and definitely different as a black belt. 

I talked about a few specific techniques and how they evolve over time in previous blogs:  Attack Punch in the July 2012 blog, Cat Stance in the August 2012 blog, Front Kick in the September 2012 blog, and Knife Hand in the September 2013 blog.

The same is true for Hyung and not just the evolution of the techniques themselves and it is not just that you know more Hyung, but how you perform the Hyung will actually evolve.  And while it may not look much different for someone just observing, you will be able to tell a difference in how it feels.  Specifically, what should be different is the timing and the intent.  I will look at each of these in more detail.


In the beginning, we teach belts to keep the timing of each technique consistent as if you were performing to a metronome.  In fact, we had a black belt many years ago that actually used to bring to class a metronome for students to practice to.  We also have belts perform hyung by breaking down each piece: prep, move, set, execute, prep, move, set, execute.

As a blue belt you should be performing that “Prep” technique as you start to move versus one then the other.  And the timing between the set and execute should be fractions of a second from what it was as a belt.  By performing the hyung this way, the time to perform the hyung should be almost half the time as before.

In addition, as you continue to advance, the timing should vary.  For example, you may have two very fast techniques then slower for the third technique and fourth technique.  Or you may accelerate the techniques as you perform a sequence of 3 to 4 techniques.  In the beginning you may just be playing with the timing to determine what feels right to go fast, fast, slow, or accelerate through multiple techniques.  Eventually, the variation in timing is aligned with the “self-defense story” you are envisioning while you are going through the hyung.   


As part of the “self-defense story”, you are performing techniques with application and intent that may be different than what you were originally taught even though the techniques look the same.  What does this mean?   It is easier to describe when discussing specific techniques.  Let’s start with hook punch.     

A hook punch can be performed where you are focused on those first two knuckles to punch an assailant’s lower ribs or kidneys, or the forearm is used to strike an assailant’s sternum, or throat, or it could be used as part of a hip throw.  Each of these three variations are a different intent although they all look the same to someone observing.  Now let’s look at high block. 

A high block can be performed to break an overhead strike, or performed as an upper hammer fist to strike an assailant’s cheek bone, or even performed using the knuckles as an upper punch to strike an assailant’s face.  Again, while the intent may be different, the technique itself should look the same regardless of what part of the arm you are using to strike or what target you are aiming for.

So, as you can imagine there now can be hundreds if not thousands of variations of performing one hyung as you vary timing and intent.  You can now better understand why Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate has said, “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.”

If this is all new to you, I would start at the beginning with Kibon Hyung and focus on the timing to perform the technique with the original intent you were taught.  And then when you are comfortable with that, you should start performing the hyung with different intents for each technique sticking with one variation at a time until you are comfortable then moving on to another variation.  You will never get bored with practicing hyung if you do this.




“Karate is a lifetime study.” ~ Kenwa Mabuni (1889-1952), Founder of Shitō-ryū Karate.


Friday, September 2, 2022

The Twelve Rules of the Sword (Part 2) --- Chief Instructor's Blog September 2022


Note: In these two two-part series, I discuss 12 rules (teachings) from sword fighting principles from the 16th century. This first part discussed the first six rules and this second part discusses the other six rules.

As stated in part one of this two-part blog, the principles the masters taught and conveyed to their students even hundreds of years ago are still very relevant today.  An example of that is The Twelve Rules of the Sword taught at the Itto School in the 16th century. The remaining six rules are discussed below.

7.  The Heart of a Fox

This rule is to “not allow yourself to doubt.”  If an assailant attacks you, any doubt, hesitation, or being cautious can lead to severe injury or worse.  So, you must train so you are confident in your techniques mechanically and you should always have an attitude and intent that your techniques are effective.  I discussed training with attitude and intent in my October 2017 blog, Training The Mind Through Attitude/Intent.

8.  Pine Tree in the Wind

This rule is “to not get trapped by the opponent’s rhythm”.    We discuss this a lot when practicing sparring to not match an opponent’s timing but to be the one controlling the timing and to not make it predictable.  We use drills like Mr. Kim’s Timing Drill to accelerate timing to throw an opponent off or practice variable timing while practicing hyung so timing is not predictable.  

9.  The Ground Beneath Your Feet

This rule states “Depending on the situation or the strategy, you may be employing, retreating or advancing .., despite its negative connotations, may be the best way to respond to an opponent.”   We practice moving forward and backwards.  What is key when “retreating” is continuously enforcing that forward energy and intent, so while it may appear to be you are at a disadvantage, you are not.

10.  Focus/Preventing Extraneous Thoughts

This rule is “to not allow distracting thoughts to plague your mind”.  Being completely present in the moment is a critical principle of self-defense. This principle is the same as the martial arts mindset known as Fudoshin - the immovable mind.  I discuss how to train your Fudoshin mind in my January 2020 blog, Training the Martial Artist's Four Mindsets.

11.[Physical] Interval Between You and Your Opponent

This rule is to study and learn the distance relative to your opponent and apply it.  For me this also means understanding your strengths or disadvantages against an opponent.  For example, if I am sparring against a taller person, I will tend to move in closer where I can still effectively use my legs and arms, but they are unable to use their legs.  It also means paying attention to any timing or tells they have that you can take advantage of.  I have seen some students slightly tap the ground before launch a kick.  This was a tell that could be taken advantage of if I move in right as I saw the tap the on floor and jammed the kick

12.  Lingering Mind

This rule is “to strike without any lingering thoughts or doubts”.   The rule concludes “If you entered a hundred battles and struck this point a hundred times, never doubt you will achieve victory a hundred times.”  This rule is very much related to the Heart of a Fox and Focus/Preventing Extraneous Thoughts rule.  Being confident (not arrogant) but confident with no doubts is also a critical concept in self-defense.  The minute you start doubting yourself is the minute you can go from beating your assailant to losing.   When we teach board breaks, one of the things we ask is if you think you can break the board.  If there is a lot of hesitancy, then we waited for another day to try to break the board.  Mindset is critical including the attitude/intent to do damage with each strike.  This principle is the same as the martial arts mindset known as Zanshin - the remaining mind.  I discuss how to train your Zanshin mind in my January 2020 blog, Training the Martial Artist's Four Mindsets.



“Once you understand the way broadly, you can see it in all things.” ~ Miyamoto Musashi (c. 1584 –1645) - famous Japanese swordsman, the author of The Book of Five Rings



The Twelve Rules of the Sword by Ito Ittosai, Translated by Eric Shahan, 2018