Mike W. (to kids)
I think we would all agree that Mr. Penny does a great job of teaching us the various kicks, punches, blocks, throws, pins, and manipulations of Taekwondo and Aikido. These are certainly important skills, but I think that some of Mr. Penny’s most important lessons deal with the “Way of Martial Arts.” I was thinking about this recently when I was at work in my Air Force job. Unfortunately, I had to deal with a person who was not being honest. As your parents will certainly tell you, dishonesty can cause many problems for both kids and adults. In this particular case, the person’s lack of honesty could have put other people in danger. We pledge to live in the “Way of Martial Arts” at every training session. In part, that means we will live with HONOR (don’t lie, keep your promises) and INTEGRITY (choose the right way over the wrong way—no excuses). These are not just words in an oath. They are values that are important to you and the people who depend on you, and they represent a way of living that is important for both kids and adults. It takes a lot of practice to perfect a crescent kick or a throw. You can’t become good at these things without working hard at them for a long time. Values like HONOR and INTEGRITY are the same way. You can’t make them a part of yourself unless you work hard at them and practice them all the time. You might get away with taking it easy during class once in a while, but you can never afford to relax when it comes to the “Way of Martial Arts.” Tell the truth. Choose the right way. In the end, these things are more important than doing a great jump front kick. We are all depending on you! Pilsung! Mr. Wood
Here is a story I would like to share with you that I feel embraces the teaching of the martial arts ways. Every morning before school my 11 year old son, Wesley, and I go over his agenda for the day. We find that it puts him on track to meet his goals. This one particular morning I reminded him to bring home a school book for his homework. At the end of the day I picked him up from school. He announced to me that he had forgotten the book but would get it tomorrow. The next day, the same situation occurred. He looked at me and stated, “ Oh no! I have something to tell you that I don’t think you are going to like. I want to tell you this because I am holding myself accountable for my own actions. I forgot my book again.” I thought to myself, ”forget the book, these are very “big words for such a young child”. I asked Wesley what “holding himself accountable” meant to him and he responded that “it was my responsibility to get this book home and I did not achieve my goal. Because of that, I am going to come up with a game plan.” I said no more to him regarding this subject. That evening he came to me and stated “I have an idea that I think will work in helping me to remember this book. I want to be 100% with my homework but sometimes I just get too busy and forget. I am going to place a mark on my hand to help me remember”. What struck me was that here was an 11 year old who was “Self leading” to meet his goals and to set an example of what it takes. The next day after school he was smiling as he informed me that his plan had worked and he had his book. He went straight home, set himself up in his room, completed his homework without me having to say anything, and yes, received an “A” on his report. This simple, down to earth story is a reflection of perseverance, dedication, Self leading, accountability, honesty and integrity. While all the words are not spoken, the actions spoke much louder. Have a wonderful day, Sincerely, Linda
When my son, Tyler, was six years old, I enrolled him in Taekwondo. Friends his age were playing soccer and/or busy with t-ball. Their parents often asked me why I would pick such an individual activity rather than a sport that taught “team” building. I replied, like most moms not knowing a lot about Martial Arts, “He’s small and I want him to know how to defend himself.” Now, almost five years later, I’ve learned more than I ever thought I’d know about this sport and feel confident it was the right decision for my son. After sitting through three to four classes a week and listening to the students recite the “Way of Martial Arts” oath, I too discovered, Taekwondo is much more than a class in self defense. Watching children as young as five years old use and understand words like, perseverance and integrity, convinced me this discipline had more to offer. Although it was gradual, I began to see Tyler incorporate the lessons he was learning in class, at home and school. I truly began to appreciate the partnership between you, as his instructor, and us, as his parents. It’s refreshing to have an outside influence who Tyler respects, reinforcing the values we’ve established at home. Those unfamiliar with the Martial Arts, classify it as an “individual” sport. It’s sometimes criticized for not teaching “team comradery”. I couldn’t disagree more. Although there is no competition between classmates for rank, they are most definitely a team. Through your instruction, they support and teach each other in every class. It takes more than one person to spar and truly put techniques into practice. You educate each student early on the importance of loyalty and respect for their partners. On occasion there is the opportunity to compete for best form or sparring in tournaments, but it is always done in a positive, “team like” manner, something my son looks forward to every year. I enjoy watching Tyler grow within this group of kids, all different ages and ranks. It’s more than a series of moves to master a belt rank. It’s about setting goals for yourself, disciplining your focus and learning proper execution of each move, understanding and committing to memory what each belt means, not only your current form, but the lower belts as well. It’s sometimes frustrating and stressful, as a parent, knowing you can’t do anything to help. But, at the same time, so incredible watching them earn it on their own. Over the years, I’ve seen my son’s self confidence strengthen. He holds integrity and honor in the highest regard and his perseverance has been an inspiration to us all. The words, “give up” do not exist in his world. His enthusiasm and dedication to this art has sparked interest in his younger brother, who recently started Taekwondo. Now, a brown belt and Junior Leader, Tyler continues to amaze me. When I’m asked now why I chose Taekwondo for my children, my response is much more long winded, but always ends the same, “In my opinion, Taekwondo is more than a sport. It’s truly a way of living one’s life.” Sincerely, Machille
We thank you for being part of our support system. We are honored that you take such an active part in teaching our children by example through the Way of Martial Arts. Raising a child is not an easy task, raising a teenager sometimes seems impossible. Having instructors, mentors and friends like you and your school to reaffirm and augment our family values is truly priceless. Most respectfully, Haydee
Mike W (to teens/adults)
As an Instructor Pilot in the Air Force, it is my job to teach new students how to fly the KC-10. When I’m teaching a new skill to a student (such as how to react when an engine quits, or how to fly in formation with other airplanes), the student usually goes through several phases of learning, which might be useful for us to talk and think about as students in the martial arts. In the first stage of learning a new skill, the student struggles a bit as he tries to understand and remember the proper way to do the required steps. In this stage, the student makes a lot of mistakes as he gets familiar with the steps, and sometimes he momentarily forgets things that he already “learned” a few days ago. Sometimes the student “knows” what he is supposed to do, but he can’t get his body to do it the way that his brain is telling it to! If I gave one of my students a simulated (pretend) “engine fire” in this stage, they might do the required steps out of order, or they might even freeze up as their mind wildly searches for the right thing to do. This is all normal, and as an instructor I expect my students to react this way in this early stage of learning as they try to get all the pieces of the puzzle in order inside their brains. If the student works hard enough, he eventually reaches a second stage of learning, in which he can perform the steps in the proper order and manner, but only after thinking really hard about it and concentrating on what he is doing, while he is doing it. If his concentration is interrupted he might make a mistake, but usually the student can recover and fix his mistake. The important thing about this stage is that the student has to spend a lot of effort planning his actions and thinking about the task while he is accomplishing it. If I gave a student in this stage of learning that same simulated engine fire, he would probably pause for a moment, think about what he needs to do, and then would do it properly with concentration. As the years go by the student gains more training and experience, becomes more comfortable in the airplane, and might eventually reach a stage of learning in which he can properly perform many skills automatically, without even thinking about them. This is the ultimate level of learning, what some scientists might call “unconscious competence.” If I gave a pilot in this stage of learning a simulated engine fire, he might have the fire extinguished in a matter of seconds without even thinking about it. He has trained for this so much, and his mind and body have been trained so well, that he instinctively knows what to do. He wastes no time or effort thinking about the required steps—he just reacts, like he’s “on autopilot” (if you’ll pardon the pun), and puts out the fire. Our journey as students in the martial arts is no different than that of my student pilots. We go through these same stages of learning and we face the same hurdles as we strive to learn a complex skill. In example, the White Belt Form in Taekwando can seem really difficult and overwhelming when we first start, but with time and effort we start to pick it up. By the time we test for our Yellow Belts, we can do the White Belt Form pretty well, if we are concentrating on it. If we continue to train hard, we might eventually get to the point where we can do the White Belt Form very well, without even thinking much about it. With this in mind, there are a few things I’ve learned as a flying instructor that I think we should consider as martial arts students: 1. Everyone goes through the learning stages at a different pace. It’s okay if you don’t learn something as quickly as another student. Some people learn very quickly and some people need a little more time to learn the same thing. That’s okay, and you shouldn’t get frustrated with yourself if you are one of the people who need more time or help; 2. Your pace through the learning stages will vary at times. There are some skills that will be very difficult for you to learn and you will spend a lot of time trying to advance through the learning stages. In contrast, there are some skills that will come easily to you, and you will progress through the learning stages very quickly. This is another reason not to get frustrated with yourself if you are struggling with something, because the next skill might be easy in the same way that this one is hard; 3. It’s normal to transition back and forth between stages. Have you ever known a Taekwando form so well that you “nailed” it during testing, only to forget it a month later when you’re busy working on the form for your new belt? This happens to all of us, and it’s the natural result of moving back and forth between stages of learning. If you don’t do something for a while, you will lose some of your skill and will fall back to an earlier stage of learning. Again, don’t get frustrated at yourself—accept it and fix it by brushing up on that skill. The good news is that it usually takes less time and effort to “learn” the skill the second time around; 4. Achieving the final stage of learning takes a lot of work. It’s not realistic to expect mastery of a complex skill in a short time. Developing the “unconscious competence” of the third stage may take many years or perhaps even a lifetime of dedicated work. The key here is that you need to be realistic about your goals and should not put unreasonable pressure on yourself. You should not expect to quickly master a complex skill that you only practice for a few hours a week. This does not mean that you shouldn’t strive for constant improvement, or that it’s impossible to achieve this stage of learning as a “part time” student. It only means that you should not expect overnight results and should not get frustrated with yourself if you fail to meet an unreasonable timetable for progress. 5. Success is what you make it. You may never get to the final stage of learning, where doing a flawless spin crescent kick comes as naturally and as easily as working a toaster, but does that matter? There is honor in hard work and you can take pride in whatever level of skill you have achieved as long as you have given your best during the journey. Think of all the people who never dared to try the martial arts, and realize that while you may never be the next Bruce Lee, you have come a long way, learned many things, and will always be better off than “those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat,” as described in the immortal words of the great Teddy Roosevelt. Thanks for your time and interest. I really enjoy working with all of you and always look forward to seeing you at training! Pilsung! Mike Wood

The Latest