Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Blog Makeover

Welcome to the new blog.

After pulling down the old blog I spent a bunch of time soul searching, trying to decide what I want to share of myself in an open and anonymously accessible forum. This is trickier than it sounds, because as anyone who knows me can tell you I am not one to shy away from sharing opinions and beliefs. However, I also like to choose the people with whom I share those things. There are things I would share with my wife or with my friends, that I would not share with my mother, for example.

I'm fairly certain that I'm not unusual in this respect: we all edit ourselves to a certain degree when we interact socially. However, I somehow failed to account for this fact when I started blogging, and as a result my blog became a bit too revealing for an unfiltered audience. My bad: A common error on first blogs, judging from the feedback I've received. I simple erred a bit in thinking that blogging would somehow be different in this regard, even though I wasn't doing so anonymously.

So, anyway. The new name. It occurred to me last night, while lying in bed trying to sleep that parallel with this "what should I do about the blog?" soul searching, I've also been trying to expand my implementation of some of the basic principals of Tang Soo Do beyond the dojang and into my daily life.

Briefly put, Tang Soo Do is more of a classical art form than simply a form of martial exercise. As such, it integrates far more than simple self defense training, instead including a fairly strict code of conduct heavily dependent on discipline and respect. One part of this code of conduct is called the Eight Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan Key Concepts. The concepts are as follows:
  • Yong Gi: "Courage"
  • Chung Shin Tong Il: "Concentration"
  • In Neh: "Endurance"
  • Chung Jik: "Honesty"
  • Kyum Son: "Humility"
  • Him Cho Chung: "Control of Power"
  • Shin Chook: "Tension & Relaxation"
  • Wan Gup: "Speed Control"
Now, some of these concepts come to me fairly easily, at least on a basic level. Courage, concentration, endurance, honesty, humility are all things I try to exercise in my daily life already, though I am far from a paragon of any of them. But I get them, you see? So, that leaves control of power, tension and relaxation, and speed control. As a new student of Tang Soo Do it seems to me that I have little in the way of either power or speed to worry about controlling.

Which leaves shin chook.

Now, a little background. Since I began training a couple of months back, the one lesson I have heard over and over again is the meaning of shin chook. Why? Because when I started training every single movement I made was rigid. Tense. Doing simple line drills and basic forms would leave me gasping for air and exhausted because I wouldn't remember to breathe when moving and I'd keep my entire body, every muscle, tensed the entire time. Try jogging in place while hugging yourself tight, not breathing, and not relaxing your legs to get an idea of how quickly that wears you out.

So, for my first 6 weeks or so, every time we were doing line drills or forms, at some point Sa Bom Nim would stop me and explain shin chook. Relaxation tension. Relax throughout the movement and tense only at the final moments in order to increase your speed and power and endurance. Staying tense prevents you from moving with speed or accuracy, and prevents your blows from striking with the greatest force. And over the past week, I've finally started being able to apply this principal, if only slightly. The impact has been significant, though. I can breathe, for starters. But I have a very long way to go before I can claim to actually adequately demonstrate the concept of shin chook in class.

So, shin chook clearly presented itself as the key concept that (currently) presents the greatest challenge for me in the dojang. And, while working through this issue in my head, it occurred to me that my inability to relax, and to tense only at times when tension will be both necessary and effective, in not exactly confined to the dojang. I spend far too much of my own life tensed. Ready to spring, but to no effect. And as this limits my ability to perform within the dojang, doesn't it have corresponding effects on my ability to progress in life in general? What purpose does being rigid serve? How does this overall tenseness limit my ability to move through life, to progress and grow?

So, it seems to me that shin chook is a concept that I need to explore at length, both on and off the mat. And thus the name -- and direction -- of the new blog.

Now, I'm not saying that the blog is going to be nothing but ruminations on martial arts and eastern philosophy. There might be a bit of that, since I'm getting pretty engrossed in Tang Soo Do these days. You'll note some links to Tang Soo Do sites, as well as a picture of my current gup level and belt, over there on the right. It's been ages since I've been so completely enthused with a new activity, and the depth of knowledge and study available could easily keep me challenged for the rest of my life.

But I don't want to write an entire blog about nothing but "what I learned in class this week." Instead, I think this blog is going to be a tool that I use to try to explore and exercise shin chook in my life. I'm going to try to use it as a way to relax and move without tension, except at times when tension is useful and effective.

What's that mean? I'm not sure yet. I do know that a lot of my previous writing is characterized by anger and frustration, that these were fruitless expressions that neither helped me feel better about the situations that elicited the entry, nor did anything to improve or address any of the causes of the frustration or anger. If that's not an expression of poor shin chook in day to day living, I don't know what is.

So while I may post the occasional angry or frustrated entry from time to time I will be trying to do so in a way that's constructive. That somehow makes things better, either for myself or for others. But I hope that the ratio of "relaxation" to "tension" stays high. Sa Bom Nim says that 90% or more of your movement in Tang Soo Do should be relaxed, with less than 10% tension at only the appropriate times. If I can approach those ratios in my day-to-day life, I think I'll be doing pretty well.

Mood: Upbeat.
Now Playing: Massive Attack, "Mezzanine"


FreeThinker said...

Welcome back to blogging!

Gregg P. said...

Thanks, man -- wasn't gone long, but it's exciting to be coming back and trying to take things in a new direction.