TAEKWONDO

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Intelligence and skill comes in many forms. Fine and coarse motor skills are one example. Our ability to move our body is a mixture on mental and physical abilities. Training mind and body is fundamental to martial arts, as well as many other physical activities.

 

Neuroscientists are still researching both fundamental question about how our brains work, to say nothing of the fine details. But we do have some understanding of the neurons and electrical charges that occur in our heads. Repeating a physical action, training for a martial art move, causes a certain pattern to occur in our head. Each repeat of the move causes the same pattern pathway to be followed. The more you repeat the technique the easier it is for the pathways in your mind to repeat the pattern.

 

Behaviourist scientists have observed similar phenomena for years without mentioning the brain. Behaviour is reinforced through repetition. It can become automatic, a reflex that does not require conscious decisions. This is almost common sense.

 

Martial Art Training

An advantage of this repletion and practice is that it affects performance under pressure. If we have only made moderate progress with a technique we tend to have a compromised performance when under exam conditions or suffering any stress. But the opposite happens when we become really advanced. When sufficiently proficient our ability becomes optimal in stressful situations. Given that martial arts are most needed in stressful situation, competitions or self-defence, this training is a priority. Martial art training aims to develop instinctive reactions that are there when we most need them.

 

Taekwondo training for self-defence or competition can teach us how to handle stress and the adrenalin rush of a legitimate threat. It is more than practiced techniques; it is psychological preparation for conflict.

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TKD FACTS

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  • Taekwondo is the national sport of South Korea.
  • TKD is a mixture of earlier Korean martial arts and Japanese arts like karate and jujitsu. The Japanese occupied Korea in the early part of the 20th century, and though the political situation was aggressive the influence of the martial arts was positive.
  • Unlike most martial arts Taekwondo was standardised in the generation after the Korean War (the late 1950s onward). Where most martial arts vary considerably between the various teachers and schools TKD is quite consistent.
  • Taekwondo is almost the only martial art at the Olympic (the other is Judo). The standardisation of the art in almost all countries is one on the major reasons why it can be practiced at the Olympic level (Other martial arts are scheduled for the upcoming Olympics).
  • North Korean Taekwondo exists, but it has a set of standards that are slightly different. Nobody it too sure on the extent of the differences, but it is enough to prevent them competing in the Olympics.
  • TKD is part of the military training in South Korea.
  • Unlike the Japanese martial arts that influenced it TKD emphasises Kicks. Many of the earlier martial arts emphasised strikes with the arm.
  • Even though the legs are emphasized TKD training includes effective blocks, punches, sweeps, throws and other techniques.
  • Like many leading martial arts there is a great deal of emphasis on the mental aspects of the practice. Many individuals find this the most beneficial aspect of the training. A good mindset allows more rapid progress in other areas, including physical fitness.
  • The injury rate of Taekwondo is lower than most other martial arts, especially mixed martial arts. However, injuries are more frequent than in other sports.

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Karate Breath

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Karate Breathing

Correct breathing seems to be a factor in all martial arts. If we get this wrong we compromise everything. Breathing is almost as fundamental for martial arts as it is for life. No breath, no life.

 

Exercise spends energy. The only ways to make more energy is by eating or breathing. Exercise will give us an energising effect by improving circulation; it utilizes the energy already in us. And in the long term the cumulative effects of exercise will allow us to have more energy at our disposal. But correct breathing and eating are essential for energy.

 

Our lungs are fairly large.  Many people get into the habit of using less than half of their lung capacity. Our lungs can be divided into 5 lobes, most people having three on the right. If we get into the habit of only using the lobes at the top of the left and right of our lungs we are only operating at part capacity. Over time it becomes harder to change breathing habits; older people may show atrophy in their lower lungs.

 

Karate Breathing Exercises

  • Find an area that does not have any pollutants in the air.
  • Find a comfortable position, lying down or sitting in a chair. Standing is ok if you have no other option.
  • Place your hands below your navel, so you can feel your abdomen move.
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose, and hold the breath. Fill your lungs up completely.
  • You should feel your abdomen expand as you breathe, not just your chest.
  • Breathe out through the mouth, taking 50% longer to breathe out that it took to breathe in.
  • Some people advise a 1-4-2 rule for this breathing – Note how long it takes to inhale; hold your breath 4 times as long as this. Then take twice as long for the exhale as it took for the inhale.
  • Try to do this three time a day.

 

As you learn some karate moves you will learn to exhale at the right time in order to optimize your strength.

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Karate Weapons

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Karate is generally thought to mean ‘empty hand’ (though it might have once meant ‘Chinese hand’), so a karate weapon seems something of a contradiction in terms. Yet even as they never really appear in competition there are a few historical weapons in martial arts traditions. They still receive some exposure in a few popular films.

 

Staff

This is almost the simplest weapon imaginable – a solid pole. It has probably appeared in every culture art some point, dating back to the earliest civilizations. Almost anybody can make a staff, and while anybody can use it to attack an opponent very few can wield it effectively.  Like many martial arts weapons it is simple, relies on the skill of the practitioner, and is of little use in the hand on an untrained individual. Hence, if the opponent has your weapon, he will probably find it of limited use.

Despite its simplicity a good solid staff offers at least some protection against more complex weapons such as a sword.

 

Nunchaku

This seems to have been used as a training tool for many generations, with its origin still uncertain. It may have been a makeshift horse bit, or originally used for rice threshing.  As a weapon its use is controversial. Certainly as a training device it helps develop skill and dexterity. But as for defence against an opponent it may not be a useful as the popular films suggest.  Certainly the skill required in using such a weapon means an untrained opponent cannot effectively use it against you.  But without this skill, which takes considerable time to develop, the weapon is worse than useless. People have been known to injure themselves when using nunchaku.

The legality of Nunchaku is a little strange- they are often prohibited in places that allow knives. In some places a qualified professional may obtain a licence.

 

Throwing Stars (Shuriken)

These are more accociated with ninjas and samurai than karate, but the traditions become crosses, especially because of popular culture. They tended to be military weapons, but in a supporting role. They could be thrown at an opponent to inflict an initial injury before attacking him with a sword. They could also be left embedded in the ground in order to injure an opponent’s foot. As these weapons could cause an infection they might prove fatal in some cases.

These weapons are quite illegal in most societies.

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Benefits of physical training

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Any physical training tends to have some benefits in other areas. The benefits are rather indirect, however. It is true that some martial arts will benefit your ability to play almost any sport, but the most direct path to improving any sport is almost always practicing that sport itself. Improving general fitness is obviously beneficial; it has even been show to improve mental functioning. That being said, the best way to improve something is usually to do the thing itself. At least part of this is motivation; if we are interested in something we are more motivated to pursue it.

 

That being said, sometime fundamentals for any pursuit seem monotonous. We may have trouble forcing ourselves to follow them. But is we want to get anywhere with any sport, art, musical proficiency or other interest we need the fundamentals.

 

Matters take on a different perspective when we factor in mental discipline. If any martial art helps our ability to focus then it will help in all factor of our life. What also helps is the knowledge of our own progress. We remember what we were like on the first day of a new task, and we can compare it to our present ability. The fact we are successful in one pursuit shows that we are able to be successful in at least some others. This gives us the type of humble confidence that says: I’m not yet able, but I can become able.

 

Taekwondo has been mentioned as beneficial in every area from child social skills to golf. The reasons given for this vary. We don’t suggest giving up your career or hobby just to pursue Taekwondo, but you may find taekwondo gives the others areas of your life the little boost they need. If physical or mental ability is a part of what you do, then marital arts will be of at least some benefit.

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Social side of Martial Arts Training

Social skills are a complex thing, and the psychologists who study them don’t always agree about what’s going on. We can suddenly develop better skills with people who share a common interest, or find ourselves gravitating towards people similar to ourselves when in a foreign situation. Social skills require little effort under some circumstances, a lot of effort under other circumstances. The situations that work well seem to require the least effort, but it would be too easy to get the cause and effect mixed up here. We only start putting in effort because the situation requires it, and we tend not to enjoy this situation as much.

We tend not to have the same social issues as a child. In kindergarten everybody’s interest was in similar toys and novelties. On some occasions everything was unfamiliar and confusing, so we withdrew; on other occasions everybody was part of the same group. There was no ‘us and them’ at that point in our lives; there were other people who were simultaneously different but not part of a different group. Undoubtedly we learned some of our first social abilities here, though we might have lost some things too; later divisions into ‘us and them’ cost us some common connection with all others. Really balanced, spiritual people tend to more apt at getting on with far more people, not just their own crowd. Perhaps they retained something we lost back them.

Common training can have a positive social influence on participating individuals. We hear about people bonding in the military when they would have had rather little in common under other circumstances. But this ignores the fact that being in the same circumstance is giving them something in common. If people are in a circumstance voluntarily that may well have some common goal or interest beforehand. And it it’s involuntary they may well find they identify with other stuck with the same fate. It still keeps coming back to the idea they have something in common.

Perhaps it’s the rediscovery of our common human situation here. Great literature, great human insights and great proverbs all cross cultural barriers and social classes. If we feel human like everybody else is human then we have a universal common thread that runs through all people, and we are no longer separated because of superficial differences. Barriers to social interactions are inadvertently acquired over time. At least part of improving social skills is the unlearning of misconceptions. We unlearn artificial differences and see the real common ground.

Watching people improve in anything, especially something we are involved with ourselves, gives us some insights into both them and ourselves. It’s a little like seeing yourself in the third person. And if we avoid the trap of dividing the world into ‘our’ exclusive group and others we can form a bond with people in general. This type of training (and the insights we acquire through it) can apply it to every aspect of our life. I tend to think good training strips us back to the fundamentals and rebuilds us the way we would have liked to have been the first time around.

I said earlier that the better social situation requires less effort from us, and I believe we enjoy it more when getting on with others comes easily. But there was some effort; we but the effort in earlier to either learn skills or avoid misconceptions. We learn in advance so things come naturally when the situation requires it. More than one martial artist has supported this type or view. We train now so that latter on we can do more with less effort.

Our first blog post is supplied by Taekwondo World. TKD world provides Martial Arts, TKD (TaeKweonDo) courses in Sydney. For more information, feel free to visit their website.

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