Start Within – Then Move Outward

We must first go inward to move possibilities forward – especially when there is resistance! In the arena of grappling, no situation is more evident of this concept. The beginner tends to use arms and legs with large brute force movements to escape or control, often with little results to show. Whereas the advanced practitioner focuses on using minimal movements to leverage the core creating space/opportunities while at the same time defending the immediate threats.

While this seems like a physical tactic, it can only start with emotional calm followed by mental clarity to actually engage the best solution. If you don’t have the emotional calm, you will flail around blindly. However, once calm, you can analyze the situation and drive forward toward the solution with precise and effective movements originating from your core. This is one of the powerful aspects of the martial arts! It seems so physical with moves flying around, yet the real battles of resistance actually start within. Once this lesson realized, the sincere student must go into the sources of resistance, find understanding, and then practice in a dedicated manner to overcome. From a punch, a throw, a submission, or your personality – evolve your techniques and character from the inside core outward in order to manifest efficient results and growth.


Sparring Makes You Alive!

Sparring time is essential, not only to test one’s skills, but more so as an activity that brings to life a greater experience of being alive. So much of the daily grind zaps our souls – yet after the face off and amidst the action of the match, the worries of the day disappear and the thrill of a quickened heart beat are omnipresent. This is true for beginners through advanced ranks, for adults and children. However, while success and results vary each and every match, and of course there are deep and superficial struggles too, it is important to feel the exhilaration of your peak state so that this experience can remind you how to become launched out of the cocoon of comfort and complacency. Yes, awaken your fighting spirit!

Joint Lock Quick-locks

One of the most challenging things for children is learning proper joint manipulation and getting to Hwa Rang Do’s quick lock-ups. There is a lot of precision needed to align the joints into just the right position to make things work. Especially since children have much greater flexibility than adults, just a few degrees off, and not only does the technique become useless – the error also gives opportunity for the opponent to escape position and counter!

We use an analogy of a roller coaster to help visualize the line that needs to be taken from the beginning of the exchange to flow through all the steps ending in a smooth result. One must keep the angles just right along the way though, but when you arrive – detailed understanding can be seen in the smile of effective results.


Technique Motion Patterns

Understanding motion patterns from point A through point B to arrive at point C is a nice plan. Of course we must start somewhere, so understanding the “lines” of basic movement progressions is essential. However, once you add intelligent dynamic resistance into the equation, options of what the best line permutation toward positive outcome is often gets blurry. This is why practice so many types of techniques in Hwa Rang Do – we must first build a vocabulary of the essentials – and then we can apply the concepts to different environments. There is also a tricky balance for students though, as often times people focus on the specific points of the technique and get locked into patterns or simply rely on muscle to push through resistance. Either way this neglects the underlying principles of the situation causing ineptitude. This is where active drilling comes into play, as we must “feel” the lines of movement possibility develop and then act on those opportunities without hesitation. When you are relaxed and can feel the flow, the line of the technique will be clear and the results will fly!


A Good Sword Cut

A good sword cut has some interesting attributes. 1st when the body, mind, and technique are properly ALIGNED, the result is so effective that the cut slices the target with hardly any residual energy dispersed anywhere other than through the cut, resulting in the top section of mat remaining in what appears to be suspended animation (instead of flying away). 2nd is when the blade cut is true, there is hardly any resistance felt – actually to the point of where nothing is felt at all! Just a slice through the wind.

I have always had a deep appreciation for the sword as quality technique is absolutely apparent every single cut, and it is not one’s muscle or smarts that will get you results. Truly – mind, body, emotions must be congruent toward a single purpose. Practice hard everyone – 정신일도하사불성!

Essential HRD Technique

One of the classic & essential HRD techniques – from Green Sash! Since I first learned this one, now 21 years ago, I was always impressed with its simplicity and effectiveness. Opponent grabs your lapel getting ready for an attack which incidentally brings you close to easily swing an arm around to smack & grab their carotid artery, which with an immediate pull pins their head close to you allowing for a throat grab followed by smashing takedown and choke pin! HRD at its finest!
In martial arts today, there is so much focus on sport & athleticism. Of course fitness is healthy and sport great to challenge competitive skill evolution especially for beginners, however, the roots of martial arts have always been direct combat. Psychological combat that precedes an imminent encounter and then the physical encounter itself, which we must remember does not have any rules. Once set in motion, you only have one true goal which is self-preservation and/or the protection of one’s kin. If you can de-escalate the situation psychologically you are always better off – however – when the line of aggression has been crossed (because yes, there are evil people out there), be prepared to act decisively and defend your own!!! (***of course with the minimal amount of force necessary to control the situation***)

Reacting versus Responding

Reacting versus responding to situations is actually a heavily layered topic, and one’s capabilities to navigate the subject vary greatly depending on time and place. One unique component is in regards to culture. So much of our life perspective is based on the familiar habits of finding our place in the larger social group context. The status quo is powerful, and the horizontal craving of acceptance often dominates the majority of one’s actions. This occurs so much so, that rocking the boat is extremely difficult even when popular opinion is bankrupt in virtue.

However, a positive culture can also inspire and uplift. On the martial art journey, the group culture of warmups, drills, and pattern synchronization consistently helps beginners adapt to a heightened sense of focus and gain skill advancement through technical immersion. These kinds of drills also help wake a person up from their isolated daily grind, by naturally setting those concerns of the day aside while one feeds off the energy of the group in the moment of the particular task.

Balance in all things once again is apparent, and while group culture can often be corruptible through focus on habitual reactions of the echo chambers, the natural competition of the individual striving for their own excellence in terms of performance is undeniable. This is why I have always had respect for the martial art culture. One must always prove virtue through performance, technical understanding, and respectable attitude, yet must also work harmoniously with peers. Even while they try their best to defeat you, one’s ability to respond with quality actions will add positive energy to the tribe.



Achieving a state of balance occurs when one can make countless minute adjustments simultaneously. One side pulls in, while another pushes back, all while we struggle to maintain a continuous position. We know that the better one’s posture is, the easier it is to balance, however, I find it interesting that children must “settle down” to find their posture & balance while adults must “settle up” to gain their posture & balance.

Either-way, at first it is hard, but through vigilant breathing you will be able to settle into your posture and stay balanced.

Black Belt Heart 2

Being a Black Belt “AT HEART” means more than just an emotional state. When the martial artist speaks about this, meaning resonates more on a state of one’s clarity and awareness of the present moment. While the beginner is simply reacting to situations with muscle and emotional defense, the advanced student is relaxed and absorbs the situation with much greater efficiency and effectiveness. This is not just regarding technical maneuvers…… We can say that the advanced person put in more practice, more hours of sweat, so they are more capable to deal with the match and confrontation, however, I have seen many students who have put in lots of “time” yet REACT as a beginner would with either tension, force, and/or submission to the situation at hand (in matches, in professional life, & personal life)….. The Black Belt heart is deeper though in that no matter how much mat time you have, with humility and openness you can bring forth a mentality which allows you to truly RESPOND to situations rather than simply react. Of course training and experience builds a better situational vocabulary, yet everyone can put into practice a proper state of mind and strive for a Black Belt heart no matter your rank and no matter where you are. This open yet focused – humble yet determined state of mind is always there and waiting for the brave to put into practice. Yes, it is hard to depart from a lifetime of habitual reactions and the drives of our subconscious, however, a true response to any situation requires genuine clarity and awareness in the present moment.


Black Belt Heart

As students progress from beginner to the advanced stages of the martial arts an important transition must take place prior to reaching black belt. It is the transition of turning on or off one’s potential or even character depending on circumstance. When we line up to match it is easy to be focused and determined, however, when walking down the street, shopping at a grocery store, or among friends/acquaintances/strangers a different state of mind naturally is present for most people. While we do not need to carry fear or extreme intensity everywhere we go, the true Black Belt will remain a Black Belt AT HEART whether they are on the mat or off it, where the novice mind still fluctuates in personality depending on circumstance.

Tae Soo Do – “The Way of the Warrior Spirit” – is essentially this lesson of carrying one’s title, potential, and best character front and center no matter the circumstance of life.