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Archive for October, 2006

The Way of the Warrior

A warrior is not just a person who has learned some moves, is able to kick at 90 miles per hour or who has won the world championships at kick-boxing. A warrior must earn his title. The martial artist is a person who knows things that go far deeper than just self defence, he is someone who walks into a room full of people and an immediate calm falls upon that room, he is a person who can touch a person’s head, or arm, or hand and cause an inner stillness and peace to fall upon that person. You know a warrior not from the way he looks, his big biceps, or his rolled up sleeves revealing a row of tattoos, or his shaven head or the fact that he wears his full gi (karate uniform) to parties!

We know the warrior by his presence and the healing he automatically gives to everyone he meets. His energy, his ‘Qi’ is touching you, you don’t feel anything physical, but rather the internal effect of this touching, and peace is with you.

The warrior looks upon the earth in a different way than those who are not warriors, everything, from the smallest insect to the largest mammal, and the most insignificant rock or tree is important and has life, the grass he walks upon, he thanks for softening the rough path he walks upon, the trees, he thanks for giving him shade and oxygen. Everything has importance because it was put there by mother earth for some reason.

Sure, he has to live in modern times, he must drive a motor car and go to the supermarket and mow his lawns, but always, he never loses sight of what he is, and more importantly, where he is. He knows that what he is, is not only what he has made himself to be, but also what is handed down to him and what is an accumulation right inside the very cells that he is made of, from his ancestors. Everything that they were, is now him, every bit of information that his fathers and mothers gathered is now inside of him, this is how we live on in our children, we literally, and I mean literally, pass on our knowledge, along with eons of knowledge accumulated since the beginning of time, to our children. Everything that we are at the conception of our children is passed on to them. We think that we have certain talents, but the warrior knows that all that he is, has come from the beginning of time, he knows that he is made up of the same stuff that a rock is made of, or a tree or a blade of grass, the difference is only physical. He knows that he owns nothing, and that all animals are free, his animals chose him to be with, he does not go to the pet shop to chose a new dog, he knows that the dog has chosen him to come to that pet shop to chose it.

The warrior communicates with the earth, he talks to the dogs, to the cats and owls, to the snakes, not so much verbally, but simply by being. This is the one thing that everything on earth has in common, being. He knows that there are forces at work on this earth, forces that he must learn to go with and to live with, otherwise he will surely perish. The energy within the warrior has the power to join with these forces, and then he has the power to change. But this comes not without payment, for he also knows that we cannot receive without first having paid for it. The whole of the universe is based upon this giving and taking, it is called yin & yang. For every up there must be a down, for every happiness, there must be a sadness, for every full tummy, there must be an empty one. The warrior knows that he must lose in order to gain, and so he sacrifices. He sacrifices his food, he sacrifices his sexual longings, his every day comforts, in order that he has the power to change and to help others to change. Not in going out specifically to help others, but to have the internal power always there to automatically help others to be peaceful, and in doing so, they too will be able to see where they are, and who they are. We are not only someone’s son or daughter, we are the sons and daughters of an infinite amount of people, those who have passed on to us their cells inside of which is hidden the very substance of creation and everything that has happened. Not ‘since time began’, because there is no beginning or ending.

Being a martial artist is only one hundredth of what a warrior is, it is only a part of the whole, it is what gives us the confidence to become a healer, the internal energy to make changes.

A warrior knows that we do not have teachers, but guides, the people we meet who are able to give us something internal, that something extra to cause us to become our own greatest teachers. Just by simply being, a guide helps us to realize that it is we, ourselves who teach us, because the warrior also knows that locked away inside of everything, is that primordial cell that contains all information. He learns to read this information which comes in the form of ‘flashes’ at first, and this is too much for his feeble human brain to handle, he shuts off as soon as the flash arrives. But soon he learns to read these flashes, and they become longer in duration than just a moment. This is when the warrior knows that he is reading time.

He learns to communicate other than speaking, he knows that his physical needs are being looked after, and needs not worry about where the next mortgage payment will come from.

The warrior finds his place on the earth and stays there, where the power is. It is not a physical searching, but rather the warrior is ‘taken’ to where he must be, and there he stays, and the whole world will pass by, he needs not to travel, because the universe is there within him, and those who will in turn need to seek him out, will do so when their time is right, in just the same way that he did when he had to travel the world searching for his own guides. They then will learn to teach themselves from within, and also then go and find their own place, and he may never see them again, but this does not worry the warrior, he is in contact.

The warrior is not the master, he is not the sifu nor the sensei, these are just physical words that we put upon ourselves to make us seem important, or better than those who we guide. The warrior is a friend to his students, and so cannot be our master. He does not wish to gather students as they will search him out, and those who need to have a master or a sensei will not stay, they will keep searching until they realize that what they search is within them, and who they search, can only be their guide.

Master Erle Montaigue has been practicing the martial/healing art of Tai Chi Chuan since 1968. In 1985, Erle and eight of his students became the first Westerners to be asked to perform at the all China National Wushu Tournament in Yinchuan China . There, Erle was tested by four of the world’s greatest Chinese masters and was awarded the degree of “MASTER”, the only Westerner to be given this honor.

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How can I recognize a quality martial arts school?

This is one of the most fundamental and important questions asked. As such, it should have a comprehensive response. Please take the time to read this section as it benefits you or your childs martial arts education.

First, let us note that there are numerous reasons why people are interested in martial arts. Some of the common values are: bodily and mental health, self-protection, competition, and development of a philosophy applicable to everyday life. Park’s Martial Arts can teach any of these values depending on the students goals.

Martial arts is neither a day-care or sport facility, nor is it a mere hobby or archaic tradition of training brutes. It is a beautiful and noble art form which we are confident that you will come to embrace with pride and enthusiasm.  We believe that if there were more qualified black belts in the world today there would be less conflict and a greater appreciation for whole life values and practices.  This statement may seem somewhat contradictory since martial arts is a warrior path, but in time and with thoughful consideration the meaning and depth of this will become clear.

There are generally three factors in determining a quality martial arts school and owner.

1.  The school/owner is more concerned with teaching the well-balanced quality set forth in Whole-Life martial arts, (or what we call Traditional based Martial Arts), than with predominately seeking profit, mere pugilism, popularity and commercialistic trends.                                 

(Note: “Traditional Martial Arts” was a general term our founder used to express what he reffered to as authentic martial arts. Our use of the term does not mean to blindly following some cultural, archaic or static approach. Our usage of the term is also progressively dynamic and refers to an honorable connection to lineage, faithfulness and dedication to your mentors/peers, and holding onto tried and true methodologies when they remain useful.  It also connotes acceptance of new approaches when they have proven themselves irrefutably ethical, factual and true through tested careful observation.)

2.  A school owner/master has – in good standing – a martial arts lineage, certified teachers and traditions. (He’s not a lone wolf…or trying to reinvent the wheel.)

3.  The martial arts are of the highest quality and are optimally effective.

Further, a desirable master/instructor earns their position by:

  • Being honorable, disciplined and devoted to his/her tradition and mentor. He/She has NOT created their own martial arts system, and does not promote himself/herself through the ranks, but earns it through an unbiased evaluation of the qualified master/system. He/She always gives credit where credit is due, (while a breech in doing this would be like stealing a patent or trademark).
  • In rare cases an individual gains special unprecedented educated or even revelatory knowledge. This individual then becomes the founder or innovator of said knowledge and a new technique or approach is born. However, we know of no individual that has created an autonomous and complete martial arts system. As such, the question to ask is where did they learned their techniques if they didn’t create them? And did they gain the leagl or ethical rights to teach these techniques from the “source” by which they derived?

(Note: There is an unfortunate and popular trend now days  – which actually is not new at all – where schools are dishonorably leaving traditions/teachers creating their own variants of martial arts. In conjunction with this trend is that the term “Master” has become generic and unearned. The foundation of this trend seems to revolve around the primary motivation being monetary or egoistic. And so while these “schools” and their “masters” appear progressive and innovative, or even reflective of the “American Dream”, upon careful scrutiny they rarely offer anything new…

Further, many of them have simply stolen, converted and or shared, among other dishonorable persons, techniques so as to appear to have some semblance of continuing progressive education. Ironically and unfortunately these unscrupulous individuals often make huge incomes and attempt to patent, trademark or copyright techniques and materials that they dishonorably took from others. In the end these types only dilute the mission and values of traditional martial arts and drain the time and resources of the unsuspecting well meaning student. Our founder would often say that in time as people became educated they would learn the truth and things would be set right.)

In order to avoid losing valuable time and personal resources it is imperative that the school and owner be carefully evaluated.

Here’s a summary of things to look for:

  • Is the school/owner a member “in good standing” with a traditional lineage/teacher and able to provide the certification, etc, to prove it? Is the school a member of an accredited martial arts national or international governing body?
  • Does the school follow moral and ethical guidelines that are in accordance with your beliefs and values?
  • Does the school offer a comprehensive life long educational program? Such a program should demonstrate the value of martial arts as a complete personal and social endeavor involving body, mind and spirit – in other words it teaches how to become a healthy and complete fulfiled human through the “Way” or “Do”.
  • Does the school offer diversity in its instruction so you can have well rounded, optimal and effective skills and understanding of the martial arts?

As you can see there are many factors to consider for you and your family in deciding which is the right school. As such, the prospective school should be readily available to answer any questions you may have. Never settle for less than you deserve or for mere convenience. Take the time to do the research because life is too important to waste on insufficient or substandard educational programs.

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Five Elements

What is the Five Element Theory?

The Five Element theory (wood, fire, earth, metal, water) is one of the major systems of thought within traditional Chinese (Taoist) health and medicine having been used for over 2,000 years. It is used to help explain the cause/effect relations that are occurring in the body throughout various stages of illness and healing.  

Park’s Martial Arts (PMA) & the Five Elements?

PMA founderGrand Master Sung Hong Park (GMP) earned a medical degree in Oriental medicine and saw the important relationship between Oriental medicine and the martial arts.  The roots of which stem from the concept of balance (Korean = um/yang or Chinese = yin/yang).  Thus any martial art that does not focus on healing is an incomplete and imbalanced art. In practical terms this means, if you harm someone you must also have the knowledge to heal them.As the PMA student evolves in their training they come to realize how the Five Elements correspond to numerous stages within their training.  One can see the Elements in the belt colors, which designate rank, as well as in the meaning of our school patch and especially in the various martial and complimentary disciplines we teach.  Responsible and advancing black belts learn to see the extraordinary potency of the Five Elements in their relation to the vital points (acupuncture/acupressure) within the body, which are used in defense or healing.Ultimately martial arts is a “do/way” (complete life journey) that aspires to the highest ideas reflected in each practitioner’s unique spiritual journey.

Wood

Wood reflects Spring time. This is a time of prosperous living and rapid growth. Traditionally it is associated with the color blue (which is one of the three primary colors from which all colors derive and is also the color of “Ki/Chi” or the life force of the universe). Our blue belts represent this stage of strength and flexibility with fast and powerful growth. There should be a decisive difference in the quality of a student’s techniques and energy level at this stage of training from previous levels.  GMP use to say that this stage represents the growth of a tree reaching upwards towards the blue sky.  Many students make the renewed decision to continue their training up to black belt at blue belt. 

Wood techniques are fast and powerful like the spin back side kicks found in Taekwondo and Hapkido, or like the fa-jing movements in Tai Chi, or the quick powerful turning sword cuts in Gumdo.

Fire

Fire reflects Summer.  This is a time which is both hot and dry.  Traditionally it is associated with the color red, which is the last rank/stage before one gains black belt.  “Hot” represents the intense training, drive and discipline a student has attained at this level.  While “dry” depicts that caution should be used in that too much focus on mere physical training and shallow achievements can leave one out of balance and diminish the develop of other essential attributes. GMP use to say that this level represents the ripe fruit which is ready for picking from the tree (which can be red in color like an apple).

Fire techniques are representative of the intense combinations of movements found in each of the disciplines.

Earth

Earth depicts Late-Summer and is both dry and cooling. Traditionally it is associated with the color yellow and is the stage of transformation. GM Park use to say that this stage represents the initial sprouting of the plant from the ground (which is often the color yellow) as it reaches up towards the sky.

Earth techniques are seen in students who have gained a degree of proficiency in the fundamental stances and basic techniques inherent in each of our disciplines.

Metal

Metal depicts Autumn and is associated with organization and stability. Just like it is important to harvest and prepare for the harsh winter our white belts have made the important step to better their lives through the “way” of traditional based martial arts.  Cultivating and refining the innate ability to defend oneself is a fundamental attribute that represents a well-balanced life skill.  GMP made the comparison that this stage is receptive like a clear white page is ready to accept all the colors.

Metal techniques are indicative of the strong fundamentals introduced to the new students in each of our disciplines.

Water

Water depicts Winter and is representative of intelligence and wisdom.  This element is the color black and corresponds to our Black Belts.  GMP explained that this stage represents the merging of all the colors. But if you were to take all the colors and shine them back through a prism you would get a white light. Thus, this color symbolizes that the Black Belt is not the end of the journey but merely another beginning.

Water techniques are seen in the continuous capable flow of the experienced student’s techniques. Students at this level should effectively be able to demonstrate the various combinations and applications of their chosen discipline with reasonable proficiency, each according to their capabilities.

PMA President
Master Brian Alexander

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Grand Master Park believed that the martial arts were a very important component for the person who sought to have a well balanced way-of-life. Besides the obvious benefit of learning how to defend oneself, (which is one of the most fundamental disciplines any person could have since survival is a prerequisite to all other values), martial arts can improve one’s physical and psychological health/well-being and even contribute to ones spiritual life.

Many years ago Park’s Martial Arts was committed to doing a demonstration for the Salisbury Festival. Every student that was participating in the demonstration showed up on time for practice review except one particular black belt. So when the time came and we started to leave for the demonstration the black belt finally showed up. Grand Master Park asked where he had been and the black belt replied that he had been busy. Grand Master Park got very angry and said in broken English, “we all busy…you think you special?!” He then told the black belt to “go home”. To some this may seem a bit harsh but this black belt often had a tendency to be late to classes due to his “busy” excuses.

In our modern times you often hear people complain saying “I just don’t have the time”, “I’m too busy”, etc. The fact is that we all have the same time and that it is those who can organize their time and make appropriate life choices that become successful.

We should reflect carefully on the premise of having “no time”. Obviously, there are those times when true emergencies interrupt our routines and goals. However, if a person has too many “emergencies” then they are most likely doing something wrong which needs to be addressed and corrected.

Grand Master Park use to say that it is important to organize and discipline one’s life to include only those things which are of optimum benefit for oneself and those around them (whether through direct or indirect influence). He also said, that once a person makes a decision they should stick to it and strive to do their best.

The aware, educated and wise person seeks to constantly improve upon their life situation regardless of how little time or money they have or how difficult things become.

Whereas you may notice the unaware or uneducated person often complains about spending so much time and energy working that they can barely make ends meet, etc. Yet, have they actually paused to consider how they spend their time and money? Are they spending their time and money on frivolous or superficial entertainment? Do they watch too much TV, misuse alcoholic or drugs, attend too many parties, etc?

Chances are if they are doing these things they are seeking short term and immediate pleasure or relief. There is of course nothing wrong with seeking healthy personal pleasure/relief. But observe closely if the activities are merely to compensate for a stressful life, or a poor quality of life and life choices which one may continually make.

In additon, while it is true that these “quick fixes” provide pleasures they can and often do stifle lasting happiness. Therefore, one should distinguish between activities which stimulate superficial pleasures from those that promote long lasting happiness.

Too much dependency on external sources for pleasure and happiness leads to a lack of self worth and personal Mastery. This problem is ever more prevalent in modern culture with the advent of ever changing technologies. Children are being motivated and stimulated less by direct human interaction and more by TV, video games and other types of “hands off” social distractions.  For example, personal depth is circumvented by addiction to the “lastest greatest thing” instead of developing lasting personal respect and appreciation found through hard work and excellance in a substantial endeavor or human-to-human interaction.

Correcting this external focus, or “imbalance”, into more personal responsibility, accountability and discipline is one of many areas where PMA can help not only children but the adults as well.

By the time a student reaches black belt they should have a greater depth of understanding about themselves and their goals. Grand Master Park said, “one’s real training started at black belt…and that geup training was mainly exercise”.

Black belt students in particular reaffirm their commitment to continue their training along the “do/way”. There are many obstacles for the black belt to face. And in this period of character development some do not make it even to their 2nd Dan. There are of course numerous reasons for this. Things such as, they don’t like to teach and the necessary teaching requirements, or it takes too long to reach the next test date, or there’s too much time between learning new techniques, or they don’t feel like a black belt or worthy of taking their next test, or they get tired of perfecting techniques and refining routines, or they may simply be overwhelmed by the new techniques/curriculum, etc. Whatever the reason, black belt training will truly test and challenge the student to their fullest potentials.

PMA President
Master Brian Alexander

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One may ask why there is a need to test at all. Here are some thoughts to consider.

The Park’s Martial Arts Kwan Jang Nim (President), along with the Masters and Branch Instructors have the time tested experience and wisdom to determine who is ready to advance in rank prior to actual testing. Everything that they observe they have had to do themselves under the scrutiny of their Master, etc. This is one of the values in lineage.

The student should be aware that one of the determining factors in learning to defend themselves is psychological. They are learning the ability to perform in uncomfortable situations and to ideally do so with excellence. Thus the pressures and challenges in testing are not just physical but psychological as this is one of the main barriers to dealing with any stressful situation.

In addition, the public environment of testing continually and progressively influences the student to reflect upon his technical abilities in a social accountable medium. It becomes immediately obvious in testing that this is no game of politics. There is no way to cheat or manipulate the way others see you. Your efforts, techniques and strength of mind are there for all to see.

Testing is also a way by which the Kwan Jang Nim can maintain quality control in the martial arts. Since the Kwan Jang Nim does not always have the ability or time to teach every single student, testing is a special time where he can witness each student’s progression at key intervals in their training.

Testing Requirements

1. Student must attend a minimum of two classes a week (leniency can occur with legitimate excused absences as long as student can perform the required materials with competency upon request).

Legitimate excuses are things like:
· Doctor signed medical/ injury absence
· Personal or family emergencies/ accidents
· Job related
· Inclement weather
Non-Legitimate excuses are things such as:
· Doesn’t feel like training
· Want’s to go to a party
· Laziness
· Procrastination
· Etc…
Note: Grand Master Park use to say that a person who has too many absences with or without excuses should reevaluate their life and habits. He said everyone is busy so inevitably it is up to the individual to determine their proper choices and act on them.

2. Student will complete the following MINIMUM required numbers of months per grade

· Taekwondo
Geup 0-10 White Belts = 1 month per grade
Geup 9-7 Yellow Belts = 1 month per grade
Geup 6-4 Blue Belts = 2 months per grade
Geup 3-1 Red Belts = 3 months per grade
Geup 1-Black Belt = 6–9 months

· Hapkido
Geup 0-10 White Belts = 2 months per grade
Geup 9-7 Yellow Belts = 2 months per grade
Geup 6-4 Blue Belts = 3 months per grade
Geup 3-1 Red Belts = 4 months per grade
Geup 1-Black Belt = 6–9 months

· Gumdo
Geup 0-10 White Belts = 1 month per grade
Geup 9-7 Yellow Belts = 1 month per grade
Geup 6-4 Blue Belts = 2 months per grade
Geup 3-1 Red Belts = 3 months per grade
Geup 1-Black Belt = 6–9 months

3. Student will be approved by their Instructor after demonstrating, on a consistent bases, their required grade curricula with satisfactory skill and knowledge. No last minute approvals of testing are allowed (unless student has a legitimate excuse). This means that students cannot be approved for testing in the same week of a test (refer below to “Instructor’s Check-List”).

4. Student must register and pay both their testing fee and belt fee (if applicable) prior to testing.

5. During the test student must perform the required curricula with a passing score of 70% or higher in each of the testing categories.

6. A failing score in any one or two categories will result in a probationary pass. The probationary student then has two weeks to practice and refine their failed curricula. At the end of the two week period they must perform an informal pre-arranged re-test with either the testing Kwan Jang Nim or an approved Master/Branch Instructor. If the student performs with satisfactory results they will be given their passing testing certificate at that time. However, whether they pass or fail they are not allowed to test at the next months schedule exam (even if their skill level is sufficient) and must wait at minimum for the following months’ exam.

7. A failing score in 3 categories will result in an overall test failure. The failed student will be required to re-test and re-pay, (excepting belt fee which will be returned to the student), and can re-tests at the next scheduled test.

Student Procedures for Testing

1. On testing days/nights the student must register and pay their testing fee prior to testing.

2. All testing students (regardless of age or class) line up together for normal bow-in and warm-up drills prior to testing

3. At testing time the testing students will be seated according to rank. When a students name is called they must stand up quickly in a ready stance saying “Yes Sir/Yes Ma’am” in a STRONG voice.

4. The testing assisting Master/Instructor will direct the student to their position.

5. Testing student should be familiar with the various commands and curricula and must perform them to their best ability upon request.

6. At the end of the physical testing period the student will be asked to recite the correct answers to their grades question(s). They should respond in a STRONG voice and confident manner.

7. The testing Master will then makes comments, suggestions, etc, to the testing student and announce whether or not they have:
a) Passed
b) Become probationary
c) Failed the test

8. It is important to note that there is no guarantee that once a student is approved for testing that they will pass the test. (Note: A student may be physically capable of passing a test, even demonstrating satisfactorily the required curricula during regular class periods, and yet lack the mental/emotional strength, etc, to succeed at testing time. Such a condition can result in failure.)

After Testing

1. If a student passes their test the testing Master will announce it only after they have prformed their test in its entirety.

2. Student will receive their new grade (geup) testing certificate in their next scheduled class which will be presented by that classes Head Instructor. (Note: the reason testing certificates cannot be presented on testing day is because there is no way to know in advance who will pass)

3. Branch schools have the option to:
a) Present new belts at the same time they present the new geup certificates which will be at the next scheduled class
b) Have the testing Master present and place the new belt onto the student immediately after the test.

4. At the next scheduled class after Bow-In the Head Instructor will announce the student’s new rank and name. Immediately after which the student should say “Yes Sir/Yes Ma’am” in a SRONG voice and proceed to their immediate right and behind their senior students and proceed in a brisk pace to the front of class facing the Head Instructor.

5. Once the student is face to face with the Head Instructor they should bow first and then wait for the Head Instructor to give them their certificate while he/she also shakes the student’s hand. (Note: Generally, the certificate will be placed in the student’s left hand so the right hand is free for the Head Instructor to shake. The student usually bows again while receiving the certificate.)

6. If there is a belt change the student will approach the Head Instructor and bow. Then the student will turn to face the rear of the classroom and remove their belt handing it to the assistant instructor. Then the Head Instructor will tie the new belt onto the student while the student remains facing the rear of the classroom. Once this is done the student turns to face the Head Instructor in the original direction and repeats the procedures in #5.

7. After the student has complete the preceding they will return to their original class position in the same way they came forward until all the certificates have been handed out. After which there will be a quick break so each student can put their certificate in a safe location until it is time for them to go home.

8. For passing students their new geup curricula will be introduced in this class.

Instructor’s Check-List

1. Make sure eligible testing students have been pre-tested and approved by a qualified instructor the week prior to testing. There should NEVER be any last minute considerations. Martial Arts skills and knowledge are not a last minute or cramming discipline.

2. Make sure all testing students register and pay their fees before the test.

3. If a student is testing for a new belt color they should pay for the belt at the same time
they register and give their test fee. Since there is no way to predict if they will pass their Instructor may have to return their belt fee after the test.

4. Testing fee’s are non-refundable. Even with the Instructors approval the final decision and responsibility to test is always up to the student and or parent.

5. All testing fees should be available in full and presented to the testing Master when He/She arrives. For branch schools any delinquent testing fees should be covered by the Branch Instructor as it is His/Her responsibility to makes sure all fees are paid and on time.

6. An appropriate testing table, table-cover, chair, clip board with testing sheet(s) and a
pen should be provided for the testing Master(s).

7. The testing Master should be called only after the class has had a brief warm up and all students are lined up properly and ready for testing.

8. Once the Master is called the Instructor and students follow the above mentioned “Student Procedures for Testing”.

PMA President

Master Brian Alexander

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