FPU has almost everything I need in a place to live. School.....music......good people.....decent selection of different types of food.....but they don't have a martial art I'd like to study. I run instead, but it still isn't the same as getting pushed by a Sa Bom Nim (master teacher) at least three to four times a week.
I've studied two different types of martial arts, but the one that I really fell in love with was Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan. At my old studio in the Deep South we had a great crew to practice with, and our instructor was top knotch. You knew that he would push you as far as you were capable of going, but that he wouldn't push you far enough to seriously hurt you (when you study a martial art, some hurt is part of the deal). I miss it.....quite a bit. Hopfully wherever I end up next will include a studio to study in, but until then, here's the top 10 things I learned from studying martial arts:
- "Your body will remember this."--My instructor loved to say this during an In Neh (endurance) class. The point was that you were putting your body through hell so that in a life or death situation your body, without thinking, remembers the movement required to protect itself. My mind translates this as, hard work pays off, but it has to be consistent hard work over a prolonged period of time.
- "You could be at home sleeping, instead you're here becoming a better practitioner....you should be proud of that."--My instructor was never big with the praise....most martial arts instructors aren't. However, one of his favorite things to point out at 8am on a Saturday morning while making us do endless repetitions of jump kicks, was that we had made the laudable decision to get our butts out of bed to a cold studio and get our butts kicked in order to improve ourselves both physically and mentally and to follow through on the commitment we had made to study the art. Translation: When you make a commitment, you have to show up and follow through with it.
- "You should do ten pushups after class for every mistake you make." Knuckle pushups that is. Not only that, but you decided what a mistake was. Translation: You're responsible for your own self-discipline.
- "It's already done sir." One of the favorite in the list of Soo Bahk Do sayings. Responsibility is huge in the Soo Bahk Do world. When you're given a task by your superior, it is expected that it will be carried out to the absolute best of your ability. In addition, if you see a problem, you're expected to fix it, or take steps to fix it so that your superior doesn't have to. I take that to mean two things: If you see a problem, fix it....you might be the only one who sees it. If someone asks for a volunteer, step up and take responsibility.
- "If it moves, bow." The annual testing for 4th dan (black belt) and above takes place as an eight day training and testing retreat. My studio hosted it the year before I left, and as junior members we were helping out. In Soo Bahk Do, it doesn't matter if you have uniforms on or not, if you see another practitioner you bow out of respect. The junior member initiates the bow, and the senior member returns it. Sometimes at large national meetings this means a bow-a-thon, and we weren't sure who was a practitioner at the retreat location. The advice given to us by the physical therapist they employed for the week? "If it moves, bow." Translation: It's better to show too much respect to other people than too little.
- "The red belts will not be able to test until the yellow belts successfully pass their own test." One of the surprises our instructor used to pull on us--making a senior gup (anything less than a black belt) in charge of the instruction of a junior gup. Translation: You're responsible for the future of your community and your world. In addition, as you advance, you're responsible for helping those younger/less experienced than you learn and grow.
- "Maybe she could bake them a cake." Testing in Soo Bahk Do is done with strict guidlines as to what is required. Our instructor hated it when standards were lowered, and commented that perhaps instead of doing a back kick at face level through an inch of wood in order to qualify for 1st Dan, the testee in question could bake the testing board a cake. Translation: Keep your standards high, achievement should mean something.
- "Philosophy in action." Soo Bahk Do practitioners pride themselves on taking action. You can say, "I want a black belt," but you have to show consistent effort, improvement, and service to the art for at least four years of training (usually 6-8 though) to even qualify to test for a 1st dan. Translation: Actions speak louder than words.
- "Today we're going to focus on intermediate stages of techniques." When you're performing a technique, there's the beginning and the end of the technique, but you get your power from what happens in between. Usually this was a kicking heavy class where you had to balance on one leg while the other was extended in a kicking position for minutes at a time. Meanwhile, our instructor was checking for proper body placement, foot placement, and full extension. It hurt, but those little details were what separated good technique from bad technique. Translation: Excellence is in the details.
- "Fight for it." Usually this was said to us when were exhausted, sweaty, and sore, standing on one leg, and trying to stay upright. It was said to us so that we wouldn't give up, and that extra bit effort always made us feel incredibly powerful. Translation: Nothing worth having is ever easy, go the extra mile for what you want.