Saturday, January 1, 2022

Just the Hands and Feet? ---- Chief Instructor Blog January 2022


In Korean, tae means "to strike or break with the foot"; kwon means "to strike or break with the fist"; and do means "way of life".  Thus, taekwondo may be loosely translated as "the way of the foot and the hand."[1]

So, does this mean our only weapons we use are the feet and hands as part of tae kwon do?   We know this not to be true since our basics include techniques such as high block and low block that use the outer edge of the arm as the striking surface.  We learn and practice within some of the upper forms an elbow strike, so maybe the better description with be the “way of the foot and arms”?

Well, even that would not be accurate.  Almost all hard surface parts of the body and muscular parts of the body can be used for effective techniques with training and practice.  Some of those examples are the following:

Shoulder Strikes
The shoulder strike is applied inward when very close to your opponent.  It is strong and effective when applied at close distances.  This strike is most effective against the shoulder, sternum, or collar bone.  A shoulder strike can be executed from different stances, and is often used to off-balance an opponent. 

Knee Strikes
The striking surface for a knee strike is the upper portion of the knee.  It can be delivered straight forward or in a circular motion from your side to your front.  It is effective against face, neck, chest, stomach, groin, and back (spine or kidneys).  It can be applied at close range when the distance does not allow another type of kick to be effectively thrown.  A knee strike can be executed from different stances. 

Head Strikes
Yes, using your head as a striking surface can be very effective, but must be applied to a less sensitive area to be effective.  For example, the use of a forehead against an opponent’s nose if facing each other or the upper back of the head against the opponent’s nose (if grabbed from behind) can be very effective.  Forehead to forehead, however, can cause as much damage to yourself than your opponent. 

It should also be noted that there are other effective part of the hands and feet that are less used, but again, with training and practice can be every effective.  Some of those include:

Top of the foot
The top of the foot from the side or straight up can be effective, especially against softer targets such as the groin or kidneys.  It can also be used against an opponent’s shin and if flexible, against the side of the head.

Heel of the foot
The heel of the foot can be used in a thrusting motion behind you (back kick) effectively against an opponent’s knee, groin, or abdomen.  In addition, the heel can be used in a straight down thrusting motion against an opponent’s foot or shin.

Instep of the foot
The instep of the foot can be used against an opponent’s lower legs (shins, ankles) to sweep an opponent off their feet.

Second Knuckles
Second knuckles can be used effective when using all fingers (typically called an extended knuckle punch or knuckles punch) or just the middle finger (typically called a single knuckle punch).  The extended knuckle punch is formed by rolling your fingers to the second knuckle with a slight bend at the first knuckles and striking with the edge created by the second knuckles.  The single knuckle punch is formed similar to the extended knuckle punch, but you only roll and use the middle finger.  These are effective against eyes, temple, bridge of nose, upper lip, solar plexus, throat, and kidneys.  When applied with a lot of force, these techniques can be used to separate the floating ribs.

Tips of the fingers
So, while in the beginning we do focus on only certain parts of the hands and feet as weapons, all parts of the hands and feet as well as other parts of your body can be effective with practice and training.  

While we use the tips of the fingers when reenforced in spear hands, the tips of the fingers can also be used more like a claw to crush.  This crush technique can be used against arms, throats and even the front of the skull. 



“When you're talking about fighting, as it is, with no rules, well then, baby you'd better train every part of your body!” ~ Bruce Lee (1940 –1973), American-born Chinese Hong Kong martial artist, actor, and founder of Jeet Kune Do


1., retrieved 12/27/2021
2. Korean Karate Free Fighting Techniques, Sihak Henry Cho
3. Karate-Do Kyohan, The Master Text by Gichin Funakoshi


Wednesday, December 1, 2021

To Get Involved Or Not ---- Chief Instructor Blog December 2021


In Gichin Funakoshi’s book, “The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate”, his third principle is Karate Stands On The Side of Justice.In Gichin Funakosh’s book, “The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate”, his third principle is Karate Stands On The Side of Justice.

I have seen several people in blogs, articles, books, etc. translate this to mean that martial arts should always be used to stand up for others that are not being treated properly, physically as well as verbally. 

Funakoshi writes in his third principle “To avoid action when justice is at stake demonstrates a lack of courage”.  So, one may interpret this to mean one must always use one’s martial arts skills to protect and defend others.  However, in the same principle, Funakoshi states “Karate practitioners must stand on the side of justice at all times and only in situations where there is no other choice should their power find expression through the use of their hands and feet as weapons”.

The discussion on how to express yourself in those situations where others are being physically or verbally abused gets lost in others people’s interpretations.  So, yes, Funakoshi says a martial artist should always help others but that does not mean to always use their physical skill.

You need to assess the situation, determine if weapons may be involved or is a crowd forming, and then get involved.  In both of these scenarios, you probably do not want to engage physically to help others. If you wander into a situation where two people are fighting one another, do you honestly know who the aggressor is?  This may be a critical piece of information you do not have.   So, in those scenarios, what can you do to stand on the side of justice without physical altercation.  Simple ones are calling 9-1-1 or even stating the police have been called and are on their way.  This, in of itself, can be a distraction to stop the act or verbal abuse.

When to get involved physically and when not to get involved physically is going to be dependent on the scenario.  It may depend on time of day, location, who you are with.  The best way to determine if you may or may not get involved is to think about the various scenarios and what you might do or say to defuse a situation where you are the witness.  And if you struggle with what those scenarios are, go out on You Tube and look for videos, or in any TV show, news, or movie you are watching and a verbal or physical altercation occurs. think about if you came upon that situation, what you would do.

Bottom line is standing on the side of justice does not necessarily mean to act physically but it also does not mean just walk away and do nothing.  But what will you do?  No one can tell you what you should or should not do in any scenario and you will not know unless you think about various scenarios and think through it so if you encounter those scenarios or something similar you will know.



"To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the highest skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill." ~ Sun Tzu (6th Century BC), Chinese General, military strategist, and author of The Art of War

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

What We Can Learn About Martial Arts From Mr. Miyagi ---- Chief Instructor Blog November 2021


While The Karate Kid movies may not have showcased the best karate techniques, and while at times it may have sounded corny, Mr. Miyagi’s teachings are true to the intent of learning or studying a martial art.

“Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life.” 

What you learn while practicing and studying martial arts can go way beyond the dojang.  Learning a martial art may appear to focus on the physical side during class, but there is so much more you are learning.  What you learn from martial arts training can be applied to all aspects of your life. 

“Fighting always the last answer to the problem.” and “Here are the 2 Rules of Miyagi-Ryu Karate. Rule number 1: ‘Karate for defense only.’ Rule number 2: ‘First learn rule number 1.’

Martial arts physical techniques should only be used as a last resort and have no other options to avoid an altercation. 

“Daniel-san, you’re looking for revenge. The way you start is by digging two graves!”.”

Controlling your emotions is a critical part of being a martial artist.  Emotions such as fear, anger, hate, cloud one’s thinking and responses.  Using your skills against another person because they made you angry or for revenge is never acceptable.

“Better learn balance. Balance is key. Balance good, karate good. Everything good. Balance bad, better pack up, go home. Understand?” 

Balance is one of the key skills you master as a martial artist.  Being physically balanced consists of many things for martial artists: Even / physical equilibrium, Equal distribution of weight, Symmetry, Stability, Controlling one’s center of gravity, Retaining one’s balance

“Don’t forget to breathe, very important.”

Breathing is a key attribute to be effective in martial arts.  Breath is connected to energy flow.  If you are not breathing, your internal energy is not flowing.  If breathing is choppy, so will your energy.  Smooth, natural breath moves energy through the body “

“Either you karate do “yes” or karate do “no.” You karate do “guess so,” (get squished) just like grape.” 

If you can avoid an alteration that is good, but if you have no other option but to actually use the techniques you have learned in a self-defense situation, the most important thing is to not hesitate or second guess.  

"First Learn Stand, Then Learn Fly. Nature Rule, Daniel-San, Not Mine.”

In mastering anything, including martial arts, it takes patience and it is process build a foundation to build upon which takes time. 

If you happen to watch or rewatch The Karate Kid movies, I recommend looking at it from the viewpoint of studying martial arts philosophies and how you might apply them to your own training.




“If karate is used to defend honor, defend life — karate means something. If karate is used to defend a plastic metal trophy — karate doesn’t mean anything.”.” ~ Mr. Miyagi, fictional Okinawan karate in The Karate Kid saga.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

What We Can Learn About Martial Arts From Star Wars ---- Chief Instructor Blog October 2021

It is fairly well known that George Lucas drew from historical influences such as the Knights Templar, Japanese Samurai and Shaolin Kung Fu for the Jedi Order of Knights philosophies and history.  Those philosophies are still pertinent and applicable to today’s marital artists.

In my last blog I quoted Master Yoda’s “Do, or do not. There is no try.“ and the importance of that mindset if needed to use your skills to defend yourself.  Many other philosophies quoted in Star Wars are relevant to today’s marital artist.

In Star Wars, the greatest power comes from being one with the force.  In our training the Force is that harsh energy, explicitly external energy that we tap into.  To tap into the Force, you must recognize that:

·         “The Force will be with you. Always.”  - energy is there for you to use, always.  It takes training to tap into it and to believe you can, but it is there.

·         To tap into that energy "You must feel the Force around you; here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere.  Yes.  Even between the land and the ship."

·         This harsh energy is only to be used for self-defense.  A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.”

And that energy is more effective and powerful than anything we can imagine and therefore our physical strength and size does not matter.

·          “Size matters not. Look at me. Judge me by my size, do you? Hmm? Hmm. And well you should not. For my ally is the Force, and a powerful ally it is.”

Learning requires patience and an open mind.

·         If we could learn all the skills instantly, we would all be black belts in weeks, not years.  “Patience you must have my young Padawan.”

·         And sometimes we need to train our mind and body differently to be an effective martial artist.  “You must unlearn what you have learned.”

·         We must be open to new concepts (like the force) to truly master a martial art, we must have a mind of a child that is fascinated about all things.  “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.”

Controlling your emotions is a critical part of being a martial artist.  Emotions such as fear, anger, hate, cloud one’s thinking and responses.  Martial artists never react or use their skill because of these emotions. 

·         But in order to control these emotions, you must understand what triggers those emotions for you.  “Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi. Your destiny.” 

·         And if you control fear, you stop the chain to other “darker” emotions.  “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

If you happen to watch or rewatch Star Wars movies, I recommend looking at it from the viewpoint of studying martial arts philosophies and how you might apply them to your own training.


“Always pass on what you have learned.” ~ Master Yoda, Grandmaster of the Jedi Order 

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Do, Just Do ---- Chief Instructor Blog September 2021

In studying a martial art, it is important to learn correct technique and practice precisely so you are effective, efficient and minimize any injury to yourself.  If you have no other option but to actually use the techniques you have learned in a self-defense situation, the most important thing is to follow Master Yoda’s advice and “Do, or do not. There is no try. “

In real-life, if you are attacked, you do not have time to think what is the best technique or target, you must act, you most “Do”.  Bruce Lee is quoted as saying “Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough, we must do."  We must Do.

You must “Do” and not stop until you feel safe.  And what feels safe can take the form of many outcomes (attacker is disarmed, you have escaped the scene, police officers are on the scene and taking control of the situation, etc.) and will be very dependent on the scenario (location, time of day, who is with you, etc.).

Sanford Strong, retired Marine and career law enforcement officer, in his book “Strong on Defense” lays out several “Do’s” when you must defend yourself:

1. React immediately. 

2. Resist.  In his book, he states,” These three words - immediate, direct, explosive - are your guidelines to resistance. Don’t wait.  React immediately with full force and keep resisting.”

3. Never, never give up. 

Your attitude, your mentality, and your spirit are critical to safely surviving an attack.  Yes, your technique and skill learned is important – they are your tools in self-defense.  But if attacked, you must “Do” and have the spirit of a warrior.  In Sun Tzu’s book, Art of War, he states “You cannot know if you will be successful or not. You can only prepare for battle and it must be done with all of your heart and with all of your consciousness. In that manner, you will have an edge.”

So, as you practice your techniques and train physically, ensure your spirit is also part of your training.



"Spirit first, technique second." ~ Gichin Funakoshi (1868-1957), founder of Shotokan Karate

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Using All Your Senses -- Chief Instructor's Blog August 2021


When we train and study martial arts, we primarily make use of and train only with our sense of sight.  Yet, if we want a better picture of what is around us and take advantage of our opponents or keep ourselves safe, we ought to train and use other senses as well.

And while it is natural for us to rely on sight for how we interact in the world, there are times that we may not have the ability of sight.  What happens if someone invades your home in the dark or you are in a place at night and the lights are cut off?  What happens if someone flashes a light in your eyes or throws dirt towards your eyes to temporarily blind you?  In these cases, you will not have your sight to rely on.  Therefore, it is good to practice and train using your other senses: touch, sound, and smell.

Touch is very useful when in close combat.  By using touch against your opponents, you can start to get a feel for their movement even before you see it and then counter it.  If you are in a situation where you cannot see, then through your sense of touch you can feel where your opponent is.  We have practiced this in the past by closing our eyes and having our partner grab us and trying to determine where they are and their movements.  We have been able to trace their arm to their head to strike or take them down easily, all without any use of the sense of sight. 

Using your sense of sound is also very useful in self-defense.  Through use of sound, you may be able to hear where someone is coming from by listening for their footsteps, rustle of their clothes or even their breathing.  And again, if you do not have use of sight, sound may be your only sense you have to rely on to know where your opponent is or coming from. 

Smell can also be very useful.  Currently there is a PG&E commercial that says “if you smell gas, your first step is to get out.”   In self-defense, I’d say the same thing.  If you smell something that does not seem right, you should leave the area or be very cautious.  In addition, the sense of smell may tell you something about your opponent or where they are at, especially if you do not have the sense of sight to rely on.

The other sense to practice and rely on in self-defense is your intuitive sense.  If you feel like you are in danger, then you should not dismiss it, and react using your skills you have developed in class.  If you feel unsafe, pay more attention to your surroundings, but do not dismiss that feeling.  Gavin de Becker in his book, The Gift of Fear, states it well, “You have the gift of a brilliant internal guardian that stands ready to warn You of hazards and guide You through risky situations.  Listen to your intuition.”

So, suggest adding to your martial training and studies the use of these other senses.  Practice with eyes closed or with a blind fold on and focus on your other senses maybe one at a time.  In your everyday activities, whether at work or walking through the neighborhood use all your sense to see, hear, touch and “feel” your environment.  It may be a sense other than sight that actually saves your life.




“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.” ~ Bruce Lee, (1940 –1973) American-born Chinese Hong Kong martial artist, actor, and founder of Jeet Kune Do


Thursday, July 1, 2021

Are You Ready to Protect Yourself? -- Chief Instructor's Blog July 2021


In many various blogs, I have written how important it is to be aware of your surroundings as awareness is a critical aspect of self-defense.  Gichin Funakoshi’s The Twenty Guiding Principles of Karate: The Spiritual Legacy of the Master [1], 16th principle “When you step beyond your own gate, you face a million enemies” he states, “Negligence is a great enemy when we leave the safety of our homes. If we are not in peak form in both our body and attitude, we will attract troublemakers and problems.”

So, what does it mean to be “in peak form in both our body and attitude”? 

For one, are you physically ready to protect yourself?  You should be aware of how you feel physically when you are out and about.  If you are tired, injured, or your muscles are sore and cold, you may not be ready physically to protect yourself.  Does this mean if you are tired or injured, don’t leave your house?  Not necessarily, but it means you may need to be more aware of your surroundings, maybe you do not go out alone, and / or need to be prepared for different tactics if someone tries to attack you.  You should also be aware when you step out of your home if you are wearing clothes that are tight or restrictive that will make certain techniques more difficult to perform.  You should also be aware if you are wearing shoes that make it difficult to run in which again may change your tactics if you were attacked. 

You should also be aware of your mental and emotional state when you are public.  If you are in a bad place emotionally or mentally, then definitely consider staying home or making sure you are with other people, since you may not be a in place to adequately protect yourself.

In addition, you should be aware of things that might “attract troublemakers and problems.”

Are you being an easy target?  For example, if you are carrying around and looking at your $1000 smart phone while walking down the street, you are an easy target for someone to steal that phone and may knock you down in the process.  And as I have said in class, many times, if your head strikes the ground, it might not only be a bad day, but your last day. 

You should also be aware if your clothes or attire make you vulnerable.  For example, if you are wearing a neck tie or hoodie, both these articles of clothing can make you vulnerable if someone grabs them.  I am not saying you should never wear a tie or hoodie, but if you are you must be prepared since someone may grab the tie or hoodie and use that to choke you. 

The intent is not to be paranoid when you leave your house, but be conscious and aware, not just of your surroundings but of yourself:  your physical, emotional, mental state, the clothes you are wearing, etc., because all are an indication of how ready you are to protect yourself if you have to.

Be aware, be ready, stay safe.




“Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later – Squish just like grape!” ~ Mr. Miyagi, fictional Okinawan karate in The Karate Kid saga.