Kuk Sool: What it’s like to be a Martial Arts Mum at forty something

So much fun training together! Together at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin dojang in California after an evening class

So much fun training together! The kids and me at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin dojang in California after an evening class

Mum could you hold the target please?” It’s the summer break and the first thing on my nine year old son’s mind is kicking practice when he wakes up.

Testing Day is about two weeks away and while my children are taking things in their stride I am rather anxious. I need to break a board at this Testing and I need to do it with a spin kick. Unlike jump front kick which gives me a real thrill I have struggled with getting the balance, power and accuracy required with spin kicking.

My training buddies are also working hard on their kicks but as Vineela managed to break a board earlier in the week she is feeling more confident than I am. Ramya popped in yesterday so that we could do some practicing together and her kick is pretty great and consistent so she doesn’t have anything to worry about either.

About the only thing setting my mind at ease is that I don’t only get one chance to break my board.

A stack of boards at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin, California dojang all ready for Testing Day

A stack of boards at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin, California dojang all ready for Testing Day

Despite my anxiety though I love facing these challenges. There is always something to push me. Something else out of my comfort zone that needs to be faced and conquered.

I have bruises on my arms from last week’s sparring, I have aching stomach muscles from body conditioning exercises in my last class too. I am trying to increase my flexibility to also assist my kicking and doing the various stretches is challenging to say the least! With hindsight I should have trained my body better about thirty years ago so that it wouldn’t have been so hard now.

I’ve never been an athletic type. Making my body work hard and building up a sweat was something my sporty husband did – not me! My mindset has shifted so much now that I have started Kuk Sool Won. Thanks to Instagram I can easily see that I have been practicing this traditional Korean martial arts system for 23 weeks now. What a journey it is!

There are also so many techniques to learn. Pressure points and joint locks are clearly very effective when executed well but I am having a great deal of difficulty memorizing each technique and I haven’t even learned that many yet! It feels like I forget them the moment they are taught to me. “You are very creative with your techniques” our instructor, Master Saidi chuckles. On numerous occasions he has to remind me to use my “other left”. Thankfully he is very patient and my training buddies, including my husband and kids, are great at helping me too.

Kuk Sool Won is not something I envisioned doing in my forties. I’ve always liked martial arts and started Tai Chi several years ago but when my Sifu immigrated I stopped. It has been a dream of mine to complete a sword form.

When we are warming up in class my son and my seven year old daughter try to encourage me to get my head to the ground during stretches. I can only smile and say I’m doing my best. It hurts but it also gets better with each passing week. Pain is certainly where the growth happens.

My son in action during Kuk Sool Won form training

My son in action during Kuk Sool Won form training

I watch my kids confidently lead warm-up and inwardly cringe at the thought of having to do it myself soon. Speaking in front of people I’m quite accustomed too but doing physical exercises is a completely different kettle of fish.

There are so many lessons to be learned both through learning the martial art and in the situations and discussions it leads to with my family.

You’re treating Testing the same way you treated your University exams!” my husband said to me last week. I had discovered so many mistakes in my     forms and I was practicing hard to fix them. “I don’t like to see you struggle” he added.

That’s really sweet” I responded “but struggling and then practicing is the only way I’m going to get better!”.

Starting something new is a challenge at any age but more so when you’re older and have so many demands on your time. My forty something year old neighbor recently went back to study and successfully changed career paths and is thrilled with her accomplishment despite how tough it was to achieve.

For this martial arts Mum, practice won’t make perfect but just like fear leads to anger then anger leads to hate which leads to the Dark Side, perseverance leads to improvement and improvement leads to encouragement which in turn fuels my aspirations for a healthier body and mind.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.

Winning the Weight Loss War with my Vorpal Sword and Kuk Sool Won!

Quote Lewis Carroll

Anyone who has had weight to lose knows that it’s a battle to choose to face every day. The easier option is to turn tail before the fight even begins – to announce defeat to a relentless opponent that is far easier to submit to than to hold your ground against.

When I had my first thoughts of writing about my excessive weight, about three years ago, I wrote a blog post titled “Factiously Fat-o-wacking to the day of Fit: The beginning of a better end.” The end of course being a more literal reference to the size of my generous posterior. It begins with the end in mind..(and yes I have also read Stephen Covey) this particular end was much larger than it needed to be and in need of some serious toning.

So yes I am a fan of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland movie (and of course Lewis Carroll’s book) and enjoyed the fabulously vigorous Futterwacken by the Mad Hatter on the Frabjous day. While I have no ambitions to have my head spinning at the top of my neck, giving my body a thorough workout to get it into better shape was definitely on the cards.

My fat is my Jabberwock, a relentless scary creature hanging around and although I have on a few occasions managed to slay it with the Vorpal sword of dieting and exercise, it keeps getting reincarnated. So my journeys down this Fat-o-wacking path had been largely unsuccessful but knowing that the creature could be slain kept my hopes alive.

I had been decently sized up until my late twenties when a series of unfortunate events drove me to emotional eating. Everyone has their poison and mine became food. Drink me! Eat me! Oh yes I will thank you very much for asking. I knew though that with each tasty morsel I was feeding my adipose tissue.

My adipocytes were sucking in fat at a furious rate due to the lovely snacks I was imbibing. They were in a state of hypertrophy and getting bigger by the day. What I did not know was that they were heading for hyperplasia. If only I had known I should stop before reaching that tipping point.

Just like those pesky Gremlins when they get wet – fat cells in the right conditions begin to multiply and once they have they never die! It’s like the scariest horror movie ever. You can’t kill them and they are always hungry. They are just waiting for the next dose of fat to feed themselves. The only way to control them is to not give them what they want. Weight loss makes them shrink but they hide in the dark always alert and waiting to grow again. It’s a war where the enemy is always watchful.

Knowing that being overweight means that I have in the region of 75 billion fat cells is a very sobering thought – I picture them like regiments of fat globby creatures with lots of little mouths waiting to be fed. Feed me! Feed me!

The way to a better perkier end is therefore the path to emaciated fat cells on the Frabjous day that I intended to call ‘The day of Fit’. My Kuk Sool Won martial arts journey however has taught me that there is no specific day just like there is no spoon. There is only more practice, more training, the next martial arts goal. My mindset needed a radical makeover and I needed to think profoundly differently about exercise and how I approached it.

Friday Kuk Sool Won Sparring Class at Kuk Sool Won of Dublin with my training buddy Vineela who is helping to make me tough!

Friday Kuk Sool Won Sparring Class at Kuk Sool Won of Dublin with my training buddy Vineela who is helping to make me tough!

My focus changed from the Jabberwock slaying to finding an activity that connected with both my physical and spiritual nature and I found that in the dojang (even though I still think owning a Vorpal sword would be pretty cool)! The numbers on the scale are no longer a fixation and instead challenging myself to achieve new fitness targets is. Going to Kuk Sool Won class thrice a week does not feel like a chore, it feels like an opportunity, mainly to prove to myself that with the correct focus so much more is possible.

I am doing things now that I didn’t think this middle-aged body of mine could handle and because it’s thoroughly enjoyable and there is great camaraderie with my fellow students at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin school, the Jabberwock has gone into hiding with it’s tail between it’s legs. My super friendly and highly skilled instructors have also been very encouraging and keep me motivated. When I get bruises from my training buddy Vineela during sparring she grins at me like the Cheshire Cat and tells me she is making me stronger.  The morning after a tough class with Ma’am Shagasi last week, Ramya my other training buddy, sent me a message to say that she was impressed with my stamina. She in turn has motivated me to do more push-ups.

Training together is a circle of growth for us all.

I am steadily winning the weight loss war and just like Alice discovered Wonderland, with Kuk Sool Won a whole new world of physical and mental accomplishment beckons.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.

The smaller they are,  the further they fly

KSW Quote Smaller fly

It was the strangest feeling being back in class after an unexpected absence. It reminded me of how I felt as a child returning to my family home after being away on an extended excursion.

There was the feeling of familiarity with the surroundings and the procedures along with a sense of affection for objects I had used which was comforting and reassuring but there was also a sense of guilt at shirking my responsibility and neglecting my duty.

Standing in the dojang with my feet on the tape, waiting for class to begin there was the awareness that this was a place to grow and be nurtured but also a place to challenge oneself and strive to continuously improve.

There was also a hint of anxiety about whether I would remember my forms and techniques when illness had prevented me from revising between classes as I usually would.

I have learned so much and experienced so many new things and challenges that I sometimes forget that my martial arts journey is still in its embryonic fourth month stage.

“Cha Ryuht” Master Saidi calls us to attention and the class responds in unison with a resounding “Yes Sir!”

Training begins and I cautiously go through the manoeuvres testing my still recovering body to see how well it can withstand the required demands.

My training partner and I start working through our techniques and realise that we are going to need some guidance and revision on the last one we learned.

My training partner and I at the dojang

My training partner and I at the dojang

Master Saidi happily helps us through the technique and simultaneously reminds us about the importance of persistent practice.

Then to keep us on our toes he teaches us a new technique. Growing and learning – that’s the journey.. He then also explains to us why the technique is designed to help us handle an opponent who is physically stronger and of course has a quote to help us drill it into our minds.

“The bigger they are the harder they fall. The smaller they are the further they fly,” he quipped.

The first sentence is very familiar to most – even to me as a non sports oriented type it was something I’d heard my Grandfather often say but the latter part was new and so apt for our setting.

It connected with me both literally and figuratively. Being short of stature myself I actually do feel like Kuk Sool Won has taught this small person to fly. It has released me from my self created cage of sporting inadequacy and allowed me to step into a new realm of self discovery and started me on a journey to reach new heights.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.

Celebrating successes, big or small

Happy to participate! Children from the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin School

Happy to participate! Children from the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin School

Life is a journey and we choose our paths – sometimes the predictable, frequently travelled trails  call to us and offer a semblance of safety and security. Other times we are challenged to be trailblazers – to go to unexplored terrain -it’s risky and sometimes crazy but can lead us to places we never imagined possible.

When I ducked under the tape at a recent martial arts tournament nobody was more surprised than me. There I stood opposite a little martial artist who was cuteness personified. We were the oldest and youngest competitors representing our school, Kuk Sool Won of Dublin, California in the white belt category.

The words of our Kuk Sool Won Master Saidi were running through my mind “As long as you do your best, you are already a winner, whether you are awarded medals or not”.

We were both starting our martial arts journeys at very different stages of our lives. We were separated in age by forty years but we were united in a common purpose – to challenge ourselves and explore something new.

Watching her shyly introduce herself to the Judges, bow and then competently perform her techniques was rather inspiring. Such courage and confidence  in someone so young was admirable and made me feel slightly less anxious about my impending performance.

Techniques at tournament. Different ages united by rank.

Techniques at tournament. Different ages united by rank.

Although she was not awarded any podium places her achievement on that day was worth recognition. She had the courage to ship. She received a tournament participation medal which she proudly carried around her neck.

When it was my turn to compete in the 40+ age category I was surprised to see how many other white belts were present. I expected very few thinking that there couldn’t possibly be as many women doing these things at my age. For once I was happy to be wrong! I told a fellow competitor that it may not seem like a good thing that we have so much competition but I think it’s awesome for women and Kuk Sool Won!

This being my first sporting achievement I was very proud of the 3 medals I won for forms, techniques and sparring. They may not seem like a big deal to others but as this was the first sporting achievement of my life I felt it was worth acknowledging.

I may only be a white belt but my ultimate aim is to learn a black belt sword form so I have a long journey ahead of me.

Sometimes the outward recognition of accomplishment can ignite a fire within us to pursue our goals with passion. So to me it means we must celebrate our successes, no matter how small they may seem, as each success is a stepping stone to a better self.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.

Kiai finding your voice 

KSW Quote Mastery of self

Noise, communication – it’s a biological instinct to use our voices to express ourselves. The louder the sound the more dominant and expressive the underlying emotional state is.

In a martial arts setting the kiai is meant to focus your energy and breathing and throw your spirit with sound.

It is also meant to communicate intention and assert power in an altercation.

Why did I find it so difficult?

When I used to practice Tai Chi class there was no such noise. Balance, calm and quiet were the order of the day. The focus was more internal.

In my Kuk Sool Won class it was different and I found it interesting to observe the other students during training. Each decided on their own style of kiai. Tiz, huz, hiya – there were all sorts.

Interestingly the stronger and louder the kiai the more assertive and powerful the student appeared.

A Masterful kiai

During one of my kids classes I was reading the dojang rules attached to the wall and my back was turned away from the proceedings. My reading was brought to an abrupt halt as I was startled by the Master’s kiai!

I would not want to be on the receiving end of that! Power, dominance, control -there was no question about who was the more intimidating presence. As Master Saidi told us “Mastery of self leads to mastery in martial arts”.

There were clear advantages to having an energetic kiai but how would I move beyond my reticence and convince myself to actually utter the sound?

Acting as if seemed to be a sensible approach so if I behaved like I was confident maybe my kiai would follow. I started practicing and steadliy my kiai got more noticeable. It went along with adding a game face to convey how serious I was about getting this to work.

While practicing techniques with my training partner, Vineela, I got so into practicing my kiai that I uttered a loud one when we were bowing to each other instead of saying “Kuk Sool” which I was supposed to do. It was a rather funny moment.

A Kiai for Confidence

I can’t say for certain that it was improved confidence that led to a better kiai or a louder kiai that improved my confidence. Nevertheless there was definite progress.

As Julie Andrews playing Maria sings in the Sound of Music  “I have confidence in sunshine, I have confidence in rain,… I have confidence in confidence alone!”  Confidence and convincing kiais seem to go hand in hand.

This proved to be rather useful at my first tournament where the weight of my inexperience was bearing down hard as I sat amongst a group of adult white belts waiting my turn to be called by the judges.

Game  face: Vanessa Thomas doing her form at the Pacific Coast Tournament Photo courtesy of Robin Thomas

Game face: Vanessa Thomas doing her form at the Pacific Coast Tournament Photo courtesy of Robin Thomas

As the fear of performance anxiety gripped me I made a decision. It was too late to hope for a lower stance or the ability to kick any higher but I could put on my game face and kiai like I was a warrior in the midst of a battle.

So I did and although my score for my form left lots of room for improvement it secured me a fourth place and it got me an enthusiastic response from my fellow competitors.

I found my voice and it wasn’t perfect but I delivered any way. Have you found yours?

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.

 

Kuk Sool Won Pacific Coast Tournament success for Dublin Martial Arts School

Master Seyd Saidi with Grand Champion Bu Sa Beom Nim William Hunt (3rd Dahn Black Belt) at the Kuk Sool Won Pacific Coast Tournament 2015

Master Seyd Saidi with Grand Champion Bu Sa Bum Nim William Hunt (3rd Dahn Black Belt) at the Kuk Sool Won Pacific Coast Tournament 2015

The Pacific Coast Kuk Sool Won tournament in Folsom, Sacramento brought together over a thousand martial artists in a competition aimed at challenging its practitioners and sharing in the global identity of this unique Korean system. It also provided an opportunity to display skills acquired over hours of dedicated practice and this year over a hundred students from the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin school, Martial Arts Academy of USA, participated in the event.

The tournament is held under the auspices of the World Kuk Sool Association (WKSA).

“I am proud of every student who participated in the competition” said Kuk Sool Won of Dublin school owner Master Seyd Saidi “they have challenged themselves to step outside of their comfort zones and that is an achievement in itself.”

The school had representatives of all ranks from white belts to black belts. They ranged in age from as young as 3 years old to the 40+ age group. The school successfully secured medals across the spectrum of categories and the students were visibly pleased with their outward symbols of accomplishment.

The Kuk Sool Won  of Dublin adult ladies team at their tournament debut (left to right) Ramya Magham, Vanessa Thomas and Vineela Kunshi

The Kuk Sool Won of Dublin adult ladies team at their tournament debut (left to right) Ramya Magham, Vanessa Thomas and Vineela Kunchey

A noteworthy achievement was that of Bu Sa Bum Nim (his Korean martial arts title) William Hunt who was awarded the prestigious title of third degree black belt Grand Champion.

William has demonstrated his drive through the successes he achieved at the tournament but also in his commitment to the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin martial arts school where he trains under the guidance of 6th Dahn Master Saidi.

“Whether you win medals or not” said Master Saidi “you are already a winner by doing your best”.

For some of the students this was their first appearance at a tournament and by participating they have the opportunity to engage with students from other schools and test their skills. The lessons learned including self-confidence and self-discipline have immeasurable value in a martial arts journey.

Two students from the school, who are siblings, Aysha Ibrahim and Imad Hadid, were also promoted to black belt by Master Saidi.

Black Belt Promotions

Black Belt Promotions

“The average student does not become a black belt” said Master Saidi “it takes years of focused discipline and training and only those who commit themselves wholeheartedly can achieve it. Mastery of self leads to mastery in martial arts.”

The successes of the students were also a reflection of the dedication of the instructors at Kuk Sool Won of Dublin who are motivated by seeing every student reach their full potential. “No matter what your age or level of experience, Kuk Sool Won will change your life” says Kyo Sa Nim Sahar Hamidi, a well respected and popular instructor at the school.

Happy to participate! Children from the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin School

Happy to participate! Children from the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin School

Demonstrations were performed at the conclusion of the tournament and included an energetic, acrobatic and dramatic display of the fan technique by Master Saidi and his two students Bu Sa Bum Nim William Hunt and Jo Kyo Nim Omar Hamidi that was thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd and the advanced fighting choreography looked like a scene from a martial arts movie.

“That was amazing Sir!” said 6 year old student Jessica Thomas to Master Saidi after the demonstration. She was also one of several students who earned medals at the event and who were inspired to keep practicing this traditional martial arts system to hone their skills and return to the tournament arena next year.

Dublin Martial Arts School to compete in Kuk Sool Won tournament in Sacramento

Master Saidi, Staff and Students after a training session at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin school

Master Saidi, Staff and Students after a training session at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin school

Dublin, California, March 26– The stage is set for a traditional Korean martial arts competition as scores of Kuk Sool WonTM students from the Pacific coast region gather in Folsom, Sacramento for the annual tournament. This year the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin School, Martial Arts Academy of USA will be represented with over a hundred students, under the leadership of Master Seyd Saidi.

In August this year the school will mark its 25th anniversary. Master Saidi is one of only sixteen 6th Dahn Kuk Sool Masters and has trained thousands of students over his 35 years of teaching.

He reminds his students as they prepare for tournament that “growth happens outside of your comfort zone”.

The Kuk Sool WonTM of Dublin team includes students ranging in age from under 5 years old to adults. The youngest representative from the Kuk Sool WonTM of Dublin school is Kashvi at 3 years old and along with her training partner who is 4, will be making their tournament debut.

A respected guest at the event will be the Founder and Grandmaster of Kuk Sool WonTM, In Hyuk Suh. Other senior Kuk Sool WonTM Masters will also be present in addition to a range of black belt practitioners who will serve as judges for the event.

All Kuk Sool WonTM schools in the Pacific coast area of California will be represented and close to a thousand participants are expected.

There has been a growth in popularity for this martial arts system due to its comprehensive nature and the range of styles, techniques and weapons it includes.

This tournament is governed by World Kuk Sool Association Tournament rules and guidelines, and the event is only open to current and active members of the World Kuk Sool Association, Inc.

The event allows students to meet and interact with practitioners of all ages and abilities, and from all walks of life, and to experience the shared identity of a global martial arts system.

Students will compete in various categories including open hand forms, techniques, sparring and weapons forms. There is an array of weapons in this martial art system including bo staffs, swords, knives, fans and spears which draws a crowd at the Masters and Instructors demonstrations held at the tournament.

Each participant is awarded points for their achievements and the schools compete to obtain the highest overall score.

About: Besides the fact that learning Kuk Sool has an impact on every student that enrolls at his school, Master Saidi strives to provide a nurturing, disciplined and goal-oriented environment for his students. The Kuk Sool WonTM of Dublin School is an established Martial Arts Academy located in Dublin in the Bay Area of California and is proud of its track record of excellence in the teaching of martial arts. For information about his school and the Kuk Sool WonTM martial arts system please see contact information below.

Contact Information:

Kuk Sool WonTM of Dublin, Martial Arts Academy of USA

4558 Dublin Boulevard CA 94568

Phone: (925) 551 – 8200

Website: http://www.kuksoolwonofdublin.com

Kuk Sool Kids versus Dojo Daycare. Why the right martial arts Master is critical for teaching your kids.

Dojo Daycare cover

Honor, kindness and respect are qualities that we all would like our children to possess. Learning self-defense while increasing self-confidence and self-respect allows young martial artists to grow both physically and emotionally.

As a ‘Kuk Sool Mom’ with two ‘Kuk Sool Kids’ I have witnessed first hand the benefits that are derived through martial arts training. As expats it is often a lengthy process integrating into a new culture and establishing friendships but once my husband enrolled our children in Kuk Sool we did not look back.

My somewhat shy 9 year old son is blossoming and my precocious 6 year old daughter shows remarkable self-discipline during training. “What is martial arts?” their Instructor, Master Saidi, asks and they enthusiastically respond “To develop and maintain, a positive, disciplined attitude Sir!”

As a writer observing this growth and transformation I thought it would be great to write a children’s book exploring the martial arts journey and the significant lessons learned. Angela, a lovely friend of mine in publishing who is aware of my new-found Kuk Sool Won passion, then introduced me to the picture book Dojo Daycare by Chris Tougas.

The illustrations in the book immediately appealed to me as they were bright and bold and captured the mischievousness of the little ninjas. The story has wonderful rhythm and describes how six young ninjas are dropped off at Dojo Daycare and proceed to spin out of control while their instructor is trying to get them to reflect on honor, kindness and respect. The voice of reason in the story is that of another child who gets the remaining lot to cooperate and work together. A thoroughly entertaining story that young kids will enjoy.

Simultaneously though, it highlights the crucial role of the martial arts instructor and the scenario you do not want to find your kids in.

This sort of behavior would of course never be tolerated in a real world Kuk Sool Won dojang. My children view their martial arts Master as a super hero and have the utmost respect for him. The etiquette they are taught from their very first lesson when they bow into class permeates all their other interactions.

There is no way that such rampant disregard for his instructions would ever be evident in class!

The Chief Instructor at the Kuk Sool Won of Dublin school is Master Saidi and he is passionate about what he does and connects with his students in a way that helps them reach their full potential. It’s wonderful to have found a remarkable martial arts teacher who displays humility, care and patience while also instilling respect and being able to drive his students to be the best they can be.

Since he also frequently spouts profound, insightful and quote worthy information I think I am well on my way to having enough material for a book!

He has taught thousands of students at his school over the past 25 years and each one has been changed in the process, regardless of their age. Many things can influence the decision to start martial arts training but choosing the correct Master is the most critical element to yield the best results.

The martial arts journey is one of self-discovery, discipline and fulfillment and the right instructor  will help your kids stay motivated and engaged while achieving their goals.

As Seth Godin says “A great teacher teaches commitment and not just techniques.”

So take your time, do your research and make the decision where you all come out winners!

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.

Further information if you would like to purchase the Dojo Daycare picture book:

DOJO DAYCARE
Trade Cloth, Picture Book
9781771470575
US $16.95
Owlkids Books

DOJO Daytrip is the follow up title coming out Fall 2015

DOJO DAYTRIP
Trade Cloth, Picture Book
9781771471428
US $16.95
Owlkids Books Fall 2015

Dojo Daytrip cover

Sparring – your hands are weapons too!

KSW Quote Bruce Lee swim

We can’t see into the future, as Pocahontas says, we don’t know what awaits us just around the river bend. Sometimes a day can unexpectedly change into something completely unanticipated.

When I awoke on Friday morning I had no idea that by that Friday evening I would be attending my first sparring class! My Kuk Sool Won Master told me that he had gone to collect more sparring gear and had a set for me too!

Sparring class is the closest environment to being in a real altercation, without actually fighting. It has the specific purpose of allowing you to sharpen your skills and practice things like controlling distance, balance, timing, speed, agility and focus in addition to being a fantastic cardiovascular and muscle endurance training session.

Friday is usually the day that my kids go sparring. My son took to it a lot more readily than my daughter did who not surprisingly was a bit fearful. Nobody likes to intentionally put themselves in a situation where they could get hurt.The clincher for her though was when she discovered that she could get pink sparring gear. Anything pink in her book is a winner.

So contrary to the customary laid back Friday evenings that we usually have after a busy week –  I was off to class again.

My sparring gear was red. I wasn’t initially sure whether the red or black would be better. Red for power or black for wisdom – a combination of those would be great! After donning the gear I saw myself in the mirror – my first thought was of the Michelin man!

We were reminded that the objective was not to cause injury. Control and etiquette were prerequisites for this engagement. Points were scored by light contact in the designated zones on the chest guard, on the sides of the helmet and above the belt location.

Master Saidi suggested that we think of sparring class like creating a book. In the usual class we learn forms and techniques which are like letters and words. In a sparring situation we learn to put the letters together and make sentences with the words creating a coherent story and producing our own book. Forms and techniques are woven together to create a tapestry of skills that can be applied in any conflict situation.

After the first round I already resembled a very ripe tomato in a rain shower even if I hadn’t been wearing a red helmet! The Victorian phrase “Horses sweat, men perspire and ladies glow” came to mind but I felt much more like the horse!

Students were also told to watch their sparring partners’ eyes. They certainly are windows to the soul and give clues as to intent, focus and approach of your opponent.

We got a chance to switch partners and every interaction was different. The more advanced students offered suggestions and gave opportunities to help me understand what I needed to do without bringing all their superior skills to bear on the newbie. I was very grateful for that!

I am a conflict averse person by nature but the way I responded to sparring class surprised me – I thoroughly enjoyed it! I think I have the advantage of having had an older brother to interact with as a child, that as a teenager I au paired for a family with two little boys who loved duels and that I am raising my son who loves practicing his Kuk Sool Won techniques on me – it certainly boosts your confidence when squaring up to a stranger.

Martial arts weapons look so impressive but sparring class reminded me that your hands and legs are weapons too! Throwing punches and kicks strategically and getting out of the way fast was exhausting but exhilarating! It’s another interesting journey of self-discovery.

To be safe we lose the chance of ever knowing – what’s around the river bend” ~Pocahontas

My new red sparring gear

My new red sparring gear

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.

One mind focused…nothing impossible! Kuk Sool Won wins!

KSW Quote One mind focused

It’s strange to think how much time we spend going to and from the dojang. Kuk Sool Won has really become such an integral part of our lives and both my kids and I are loving it! Reminds me of an image I saw recently – Eat, sleep, Kuk Sool Won, repeat!

Our classes alternate so effectively we are at the dojang 6 days a week due to the extra tournament training classes. I jokingly said that we might as well put up a tent outside!

Other unusual behaviours have also permeated our daily lives. In the morning my daughter greets me with a “parro” cuddle. “Parro” in Korean means to return to the original position.

My son and I pass each other and he tries techniques on me while practicing to kiai.

As I walk through the house I aim at the height of the light switches when practicing my kicks.

Since Kuk Sool Won is a Korean martial arts system, the Korean words we hear in class have become part of our daily dialogue. Clearly Kuk Sool Won wins at ours!

I wondered about this profound influence and realized that at the heart of it is a passionate teacher and a martial arts school that has a nurturing and family friendly atmosphere.

Master Saidi clearly loves what he does and connects with his students in a way that helps them reach their full potential. It’s wonderful to have found a martial arts teacher who is humble and caring while also being able to drive his students to be the best they can be.

He also has a knack of saying rather profound things while he teaches so is an excellent source of writing fodder!

Thousands of students have been through his school over the past 25 years and each one has been changed in the process. Many things can influence the decision to start martial arts training but choosing the correct teacher is the most critical element.

In my personal journey I have not always been positive about my aging body and have often been rather unkind to it. I have never been good at sports. I never thought that I would be capable of doing this martial art until “Sir” as we respectfully call him, convinced me otherwise.

On Wednesday I was tested along with my training buddy Vineela and another charming young woman and we got promoted to the next belt! I now have a yellow stripe on my white belt! My first sporting achievement at 44 years old!

Several people, including Mums on the school run have stopped me to ask what I am doing to look so good. But it’s not only the external that has been transformed – internally I feel like I have rekindled the flames of ambition that peaked in my youth.

Was it mere coincidence or serendipity that my martial arts journey began in the same week of the Seth Godin, Your Turn Challenge? I think not – it seems more like divine intervention. I got connected to a dynamic group of change makers at the same time that my eyes were reopened to the joy of making a difference and the inspirational value of being part of something bigger than myself.

“What are we doing today Brain? The same thing we do every day Pinky – try to take over the world!” That used to be my mantra while at university. Today I feel more driven than ever to bring out the best in people and encourage them to pursue their goals.

I spoke to a Mum outside the dojang while waiting for my son to finish training. She asked me about the class – it was not the first time she did. Tonight she is taking her first step to reach her goals – she is joining me in class!

Saturday I received a t-shirt from Master Saidi that has the inscription – “One mind focused…nothing impossible! ” Says it all really.

Passion breeds perseverance and drives us to fulfill our dreams.

At the dojang with Master  Saidi after testing and promotion

At the dojang with Master Saidi after testing and promotion

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in her private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Master Saidi or that of the World Kuk Sool Association.

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