“This I Believe” On Martial Arts

This I Believe

This I Believe is an international project engaging people in writing and sharing essays that describe their core values. More than 90,000 of these essays, written by people from all walks of life, are archived on their website.

Naturally, some essayists shared their beliefs on, and experience with martial arts. Here are a few of their stories.

Life Is A Spiritual Struggle
by Joseph Laycock (Brighton, Massachusetts)

Over the din of boxing gloves pounding against leather bags, I struggle to hear this Brazilian explain yet another way to choke someone unconscious. This is a martial arts gym. Most of the regulars are amateur fighters with dreams of going professional. When they’re not here, some of them work as firefighters or bouncers. I’m definitely the only schoolteacher in the room.

My students take interest in my training. Sometimes I’ll enter the classroom with bruises or a slight limp from the gym. In world history, I’ll discuss the cultural significance of the fighting styles I study. In Thai kickboxing, the eight striking weapons — fists, shins, elbows and knees — represent the eight-fold path of the Buddha. Brazilian jujitsu has more improvisation than Japanese martial arts, which reflects different cultural attitudes towards tradition.

Every class asks me the same questions, “Have you ever beat anyone up?” And, “Why are you a teacher instead of a professional fighter?” When I tell them the truth — that I have never been in a fight and have no aspirations to go professional — I get a range of reactions from disappointment to accusations of cowardice.

“So why do you do it,” they always ask.

I believe that life is a spiritual struggle. My battle is not against another fighter but against the unjust and apathetic system that is attacking my students… [continued]

Continue reading “This I Believe” On Martial Arts

The Martial Arts Styles of Hip-Hop Heroes

Nicki Minaj

Artist: Nicki Minaj
Video: Your Love
Styles: Kenjutsu, Karate
Facts: Michael Jai White, who plays the sensei in “Your Love”, holds black belts in seven different styles of martial arts, including Tang Soo Do and Kyokushin. Continue reading The Martial Arts Styles of Hip-Hop Heroes

Board Breaking Tips: How Anyone Can, Why Nobody Should

My first experience with board breaking was a total humiliation. I was a ten-year-old Karate student, with six months of practice under my orange belt, when my sensei decided we should all break some wood. He asked each of us to acquire a stack of boards, one square foot by one inch in size, and bring them to our next class.

As a bright but naive child, I had no idea that the practice of tameshiwari, or breaking, was an instrument of martial arts fraud. I only knew that it looked cool, and that it required focus–or so my teacher said. Continue reading Board Breaking Tips: How Anyone Can, Why Nobody Should

Why Black Belts Never Quit

In a class of twenty new Taekwondo students, ten will probably drop out within three months’ time. Though they will cite a variety of excuses for quitting, all the dropouts show a lack of commitment to Taekwondo training.

One year after their first entry into the dojang, half again will have quit, leaving perhaps five of the original twenty students. Only one, maybe two, is likely to stick around long enough to attain the rank of black belt.

Like those early quitters, the black belts are motivated by a variety of factors. Beyond these varied reasons, though, there must be some unique character attribute that drives these people to reach elite black belt status. Continue reading Why Black Belts Never Quit

MTV Transforms Flabby Geek Into Taekwondo Fighter

Ryan Watkins

Ryan Watkins, 18-year-old senior from Kimberly, Wisconsin, is a couch potato and video-game junkie. Ryan is worried that he doesn’t have the discipline to change his life, but he fears that it’s now or never.

With the help of Taekwondo coach Chan Lee and his three flamboyant ninja assistants, Ryan builds his confidence, earns his golden belt, and competes in his first martial arts tournament. MTV MADE chronicled his difficult journey; watch the entire episode below.

Continue reading MTV Transforms Flabby Geek Into Taekwondo Fighter

An Antidote for Martial Arts Poison

Patrick Parker (of Mississippi’s Mokuren Dojo) asked for comments on the article, Martial Arts Poison. Unlike author Kim Soo, I am not a 10th-dan black belt and do joo nim (founder) of my own Karate style. Nevertheless, I venture to offer my own perspective on the topics he addresses.

How do martial arts build character?

Many people believe martial arts training is helpful in building one’s character. This is especially important for growing boys and girls — to build their characters, and give them self-defense skills for life. Parents often want to send their children to martial arts schools, for they have heard of the benefits of traditional training.

But all too often, the negative consequences of poor martial arts teaching appear, and very quickly — injuries in the dojang; development of radical, trouble-making attitudes; declining grades; fighting; discipline problems in school. When children turn out to be aggressive, parents regret sending them to the dojang. But the problem is not martial arts, but poor instruction and improper values (such as emphasizing competition and fighting).

So, parents may think the dojang is a source of such troubles, but the children still are drawn to martial arts training because of consistent exposure to movies and TV—that constant advertising for martial arts schools. Parents may not think martial arts training is good for children, yet the children still nurture powerful and glamorous images
they are getting through the media. This can also set the stage for discord and strife in the home and family.

I am among those who believe martial arts practice has character building potential—a potential that many students and teachers never realize. Therefore, when a Karate dojang (dojo) claims their lessons will build character, I expect to hear some illuminating details.

Why do so many schools tout character, without defining what they mean by the term? Continue reading An Antidote for Martial Arts Poison

Karate Lessons Give Child Self-Confidence To Quit Karate

Karate Costume

ENGLEWOOD, CO—After months of being taught to develop courage, inner strength, and other values of the martial arts, Daniel Finkelstein finally achieved the self-confidence necessary to stand up to his parents and quit taking karate lessons, the area sixth-grader reported Monday. Continue reading Karate Lessons Give Child Self-Confidence To Quit Karate

Jacky Wu Jing, The Tai Chi Master

Wu Jing, The Tai Chi Master
The Tai Chi Master (太極宗師)

Have you ever wondered how the slow and graceful movements of Tai Chi could possibly be applied in a real fight? If so, this expertly choreographed movie will give you some ideas.

In The Tai Chi Master, Chinese action hero Wu Jing (a.k.a. Jacky Wu, Jason Wu) portrays real-life master Yang Lu-Chan, the founder of Yang Style Tai Chi. Here, Wu Jing re-enacts the famous tower sequence from Bruce Lee’s Game of Death. Continue reading Jacky Wu Jing, The Tai Chi Master