Friday, January 25, 2008

Another Video

I am not sure who makes these videos, but this one has a nicer, Korean language song in the place of Eminem. Clearly, I am hitting a bit of a learning plateau, and crave entertainment!

Tae Kwon Do - Spirit - Click here for more home videos

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What Is Tae Kwon Do? (Note: Song Has Explicit Lyrics)

If you plan to do any sparring, this would be a good video to watch. The song is it has some profanity in it.

But the video itself is intense - all competition footage. A couple big spinning hook kicks. Not for the light-hearted.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Human Weapon - Fun Show, Fuel for Learning

I have a good friend, Dave, who always makes a point of telling people about products he likes. In the music world, he'd be a Super Fan (like Scott Lee, a guy I went to college with - he has been a huge supporter for independent bands).

But I digress.

There's a History Channel show called Human Weapon which I think is just great. In the first season, they've done a great survey of martial arts.

I think it really does a nice job showing some key techniques and advantages of different martial arts, which is a good way to learn. A preview included above.

Check it out - you can buy the episodes on iTunes like I have.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Sparring Tools - The "Cut" Kick

It's known to some as the fast side kick, to others as the cut kick. The cut kick is a great technique for sparring for a couple reasons:

1) It is quick, like a fast roundhouse, so it's great as a "set up" move
2) It is direct, aimed at the opponents midsection or face
3) For tall or long-legged competitors, it is a great way to implement a defensive strategy, because it allows you to stave off your competitor and keep them at bay.
4) Because of your hip position, it sets up a lot of techniques for your other leg, like a roundhouse, back kick, etc. Kind of like a one-two punch.

Take a look at the technique shown in the video. (NOTE: You may consider it lazy that I did not do my own video...but I prefer to think I am leveraging the assets of the community (Thank you, Austin Martial Arts Academy).)

Note, initially, the person in this video is not doing the side kick from the back leg. That's what makes it a fast side kick. The teacher goes through some good tips on performance of the technique - make sure to pay attention to the form. The "spinning" side kick they show is actually the traditional back leg side kick. Somewhat slow for sparring, but has its place.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sparring & Distance: Using Your Strengths

Sparring seems like a pure "brute strength" affair.

You get on the mat, and pound the other guy, right?

Well, it isn't quite that simple. Sparring is actually a thinker's game - you just have to think quick, and use what you know about your opponent (and what you can learn) to beat them.

First and foremost, you need to consider your opponent's height and reach. By looking at the person, you will see, for example, if their legs are longer than yours. If you're in a sport focusing on hand strikes, reach can come into play as well.

If your opponent can reach you but you can't reach them, then you are at a strategic disadvantage. However if you can reach your opponent first, you're at an advantage.

Speed is also very important. If your opponent is quick, but shorter, they may be able to hit you before you can hit them, even though you are taller. But speed generally is hard to gauge before you fight, unless you know the fighter already.

What this all comes down to is managing distance. All martial arts (even full scale war with armies) focus on the concept of managing your distance from your opponent. If you get too close to your opponent, they can hit you, especially if your legs are shorter than theirs (or their artillery can shoot farther).

So first and foremost, when you spar, assess the opponent's reach and speed.

But what do you do then?

Well, if you're evenly matched on both criteria, you need to look to other concepts for your winning strategy. If you are taller and faster than your opponent, though, you can afford to fight a more defensive fight, waiting for your opponent to move, then using your speed and reach to hit him and move out of his reach again.

If you are shorter and slower, you need to be tricky...and practice a lot.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Problems with Your Side Kick?

After you've practiced for a while, you may get frustrated with your ability to correctly execute certain kicks. Especially if you aren't 18, you probably don't have the flexibility and/or strength to perfectly execute a tae kwon do kick.

Hand techniques like blocks and strikes generally are more about form. Kicks require more additional measures.

I am most dissatisfied with my side kick at the moment, and found an article with tips to help me.

But a couple of basic training exercises can really help your kicks:
  1. Stretching. You need flexibility to execute a kick, in your hips, you hamstrings, etc.
  2. Strength exercises. Lunges, squats and abdominal exercises, with no weights, can help your kicking quite a bit.
  3. "Wall" training. This is a way of practicing your kick, building strength and focusing on form all at the same time. Just stand by a wall, and use the extra balance to deliberately practice your kick. For a side kick or hook kick, your kick will be at 90 degrees to the wall, with your opposite hand behind you, bracing against the wall. For a back kick, you will face the wall, with both palms against the wall, and your shoulders squared to the wall. A round house kick, your hips and chest will be against the wall, and your upper leg will not move. You'll slowly complete only the final motion of the kick.
If you take a little time outside of class to practice these techniques, you'll soon be kicking better in class!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Preparing For Black Belt Test

Happy New Year! One of the goals many students of martial arts have is to achieve that most iconic of ranks, that of Black Belt. This year, if I'm lucky, I will get a chance to take my test.

And even after studying an art for 2-3 years, the test can be quite daunting. Each school may vary the exact test, but it will probably be comprised of:
1) A test of the first 8 tae kwon do forms
2) A test of the first 8 self-defense techniques
3) A test of kicking & breaking techniques
4) Sparring
5) Weapons

May not sound too hard, but the standards tend to be quite high - no mistakes, limited chances to try again if you make any mistake, and some challenges like breaking 5-10 boards with spinning hook kicks in rapid succession, breaking a patio brick with a back kick, and sparring more than one person. Not just that, but the test tends to be long and grueling.

So how do you prepare?

First, master every technique when you don't have to to give yourself the best chance of success. Plenty of people work really hard toward the end of their path to black belt, but cramming doesn't work very well in this situation. You can only compress so much physical learning, unless you dedicate large chunks of time to it. So practice a little every day, review everything, and ask for feedback on your technique. When others are cramming, you'll know that you have the techniques down cold.

Second, reduce the intimidation factor by going to a couple tests before you take yours. Seeing the test can dispel some anxiety about it.

Third, take all the chances you can to spar. Different schools have different philosophies, and some do not stress sparring. This means you need to make sure you seek out opportunities. Sparring is a bit unique, in that you can only "study" it so much - to really master it, you need experience doing it.

Fourth, spend a little extra time with physical conditioning - strength, endurance, stretching, especially in the last few months. This is an area where cramming counts.

Fifth, spend some time meditating and visualizing yourself successfully completing each part of the test. Your mind is extremely powerful, and if you are convinced you'll fail, then you probably will. Train your mind to help your body succeed.

And of course, GOOD LUCK!