Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Post Script/New Skills, New Arts

First, a brief post script to last month's entry: Christine and Trevor's Cho Dan test went beautifully. They both passed outright, and had a wonderful, positive testing experience. The testing board was fantastic -- enthusiastic, approachable, warm, and encouraging, and their positivity brought out the best in the candidates testing that day. I was incredibly happy for them both, proud and tremendously relieved.

I'm not proud to say that I was also a bit jealous, to be honest, as were a number of other folks that I'd tested with back in May who were present. This was the testing experience we were hoping for for ourselves. Didn't so much work out that way, but regardless I was so, so grateful that the bad juju that resulted in our test being such an overall negative experience was not present for this test. I gives me hope that if and when I test for Ee Dan things will come out a bit different overall.


Man, I've gotta get back to blogging. It's odd, but ever since I received my promotion to Cho Dan I've found I haven't had a lot to say in regards to my training. Partly it's because I was a bit overwhelmed with the quantity of new material I've been trying to get a handle on -- 4 new forms, elbow techniques, sleeve grabs, and so forth, all coming at me pretty fast. For the first few months of my post-promotion training my main thought on training consisted of "damn, I feel like a white belt again!" Excited, challenged, and a little overwhelmed and frustrated. I'd gotten quite comfortable with having a pretty solid grasp of the curriculum, but this is very much not the case at present.

Needless to say, none of these conditions are very conducive to much self-reflection beyond a continuous buzz of "I wonder how long it'll take for me to feel more comfortable with this new stuff?" Not exactly a topic I feel compelled to spend much time addressing here. But now, as I've started getting more comfortable with the new stuff, I've finally began to start thinking in more detail about where I go from here, training-wise.

For a while I was fairly certain that once I hit Cho Dan I'd start focusing more on additional training in weapons. I studied some Haidong Gumdo (Korean sword) with Sa Bom Nim for a little while, until he had to discontinue the class for scheduling reasons. I enjoyed it, and also enjoy the bong (staff), and I was thinking of trying to focus some time on those skills. Then there's Kali, a stick/knife fighting systems from the Phillipines that my instructor is a enthusiastic fan/practitioner of -- fun, much less formalized system and training style. Also insanely brutal. Then there's Judo, also offered at our school -- although frankly I just don't see myself getting into Judo at 42 years of age. I see how often the younger guys are injured doing it, and I figure at my I might just need to take a pass.

Anyway, the point is that there are a number of additional training options that I've considered adding into my repertoire. The main obstacle, as is so often the case these days, is time. Training in any of these disciplines would require additional class time (obviously), so I'd either have to commit still more time to training or exchange time I typically devote to Tang Soo Do for these new arts in order to keep things even. I'm not too thrilled with either of these options, honestly.

And then there's teaching. As I've mentioned previously, I'm really interested in beginning to train others in this art as part of my own training, with the goal of eventually testing for my Kyo Sa (certified instructor) certification in the next few years. And frankly, that's just as big a time commitment as taking on another art, especially if you're going to take it seriously. Just like picking up a new martial art or new disciple, I look at teaching as a skill set that needs to be learned, practiced, and developed over time. I've done some assistant teaching over the past few months, although not as much as I wish I could: schedules really make it tough for me to assistant teach during the week very often, and again, if I assistant teach during my own class times then I don't get as much of an opportunity to practice my own material. Still, I'm making small strides. I think I have some native talent for communicating with groups of people -- but it needs to be polished, that's for sure.

So, that's where I stand right now. I want to expand and grow my skill set in Tang Soo Do or in other arts, but I'm already pretty heavily time-constrained so I need to select carefully. I wasn't sure where I was going to go with it until a couple of weeks ago, when I had my first opportunity to teach a couple of classes solo. I was a nervous wreck, honestly. They were the Saturday morning all ranks kids class (kids white-blue belt), followed by the family class (all ages, all ranks, families training together). Because of the vast range of skills, ages, and ranks that can show up at these classes, class planning is difficult at best. But I came up with a plan.

And for the the kids class … the plan was a train wreck. It wasn't a bad plan, per se, but the students who showed up were simply not able to pull together enough to train. Too wide a range of ages, too much difference between their ranks and requirements. I tried to stick to curriculum as two of them were testing in gup tests the following week, but this made things even worse because there was no overlap whatsoever in their curriculum. It was entirely unproductive. I'd have been better off just setting up an obstacle course and running them ragged with in eh/endurance exercises. Their parents would have been grateful, I'm sure. My only success was in not losing my patience.

But the family class was actually pretty good. Solid turnout (I think it was 14 total), and my class plan worked out well. Everyone got a good workout, and I think everyone learned something during the class. I focused on the fundamentals of kicking, then applied them to partner kicking exercises, and finally incorporated them into forms training and showed (I hope!) how better focus on technique can have a wide variety of benefits in different applications. Everyone worked up a good sweat, and seemed satisfied when they left.

And that's when I made up my mind. Having managed to succeed at least somewhat my first time out, I realized just how much I want to learn to teach better. Doing that will require me to spend some more time developing the necessary skills. So, for the next year or so, that's where my focus will be. Instead of taking on new arts, I'm going to focus on being better able to explain, demonstrate and teach the one I'm already studying. It may not seem as exciting a learning new arts, but in my heart I know it's where I need to go to continue growing in Tang Soo Do Mi Guk Kwan.