Posted by: Mark Amador | September 22, 2008

Choosing the right martial arts school

Finding the right martial arts school can be a daunting task.  For example how do you:

  • Evaluate the quality of the instruction?
  • Know if you are going to get what you want out of training there?
  • Know if you are paying the right price?
  • Know if you have found the right school?

Martial arts instructors are literally fruit from their respective trees.  The education and curriculum will vary by style, school and instructor, but the basics of what is taught is derived directly from their interpretation of how they were taught as students.  And much like the “telephone game” where you sit in a circle and tell the person next to you one thing, by the time it is passed from person to person and returns to you it is invariably somewhat different.  Since every instructor is unique how do you know if you are going to get quality instruction at the martial arts school you choose?

Here are some good questions you should seek the answers to when evaluating a school…

  1. When you first contact the school, how are you greeted? Is the person professional and polite in answering your questions?  Make sure you speak with one of the instructors.  Bear in mind that during class hours they are often on the floor and cannot take calls, so try to call during the morning or early afternoon on weekdays when they can spend more time with you.
  2. What are the school hours and how many classes do they offer?  As a new student how many classes will you be allowed to attend?  Some schools limit participation unless you join an advanced program.  Do they offer morning, afternoon or evening classes?  Does their schedule fit yours?
  3. Upon visiting the school what is your first impression? Is the school clean and organized?  Are there viewing areas for parents and family to watch classes?  Adequate changing facilities and restrooms?  Are the training floors safe and padded?
  4. What is the primary focus of the school? Is the school about self-development?  Self-defense? Tournament or competitive preparation? Physical fitness? Ask yourself, what do you want to focus on?
  5. What is the core philosophy of the teaching? Improving the physical being is only one of four main focuses in martial arts.  The students emotions, mind and spirit must also be trained.  To maintain a deep calm when challenges arise the teachings must prepare the student emotional.  Their knowledge of what to do requires mental preparedness.  Their belief system must be reinforced with positive influences that the student can radiate out.
  6. Do the students use hand and foot protection while sparring?  Does the school sell or provide this equipment?
  7. How many students are there in classes? If the number of students is very small, perhaps it is a newer school, or…?  Ask why there are not many students?  If you go to a restaurant and it has few customers you will question if the food is good.
  8. What do the students, parents and family say about the school? They can give you feel for the school, especially family.  They are likely to share both the good and the bad about their experiences.
  9. How many instructors are in each class?  Their should be an adequate number of instructors to break out in groups by rank.  That isn’t to say a senior instructor or master cannot teach a large group, indeed they can, but they will also assign junior instructors to work in smaller focus groups so students can work on the techniques they need to improve.
  10. How long are the classes? Classes should be at least 1 hour in length.  This is necessary for the body to become warm.  The physical being; the heart, circulation, lymphatic system and muscles need this amount of time to be thoroughly stimulated and activated.
  11. How are students promoted? What does it take to move from rank to rank?  Are there written and oral as well as physical tests?  How often are the testings?  Are the students required to perform breaking?
  12. What types of programs do they offer? Can you try an introductory class?  Can you pay month to month, or do you need to commit to a longer period? Do they offer discounts if you do commit to a longer term?  Is there an initiation fee?  If yes, what is included in the fee?  A uniform?  Protective equipment?
  13. Do they have certification, affiliation or accreditation? Does the master of the school have their certificate(s) displayed?

Armed with this preparation you can (and should) visit several schools before you choose.  Just comparing the differences will help you to make the right decision in finding the school that teaches what you seek to learn.

Jung Su!!

Posted by: Mark Amador | September 10, 2008

The more I learn, the less I know…

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This famous saying, most likely attributed to Aristotle, describes the philosophy of a “wholeness” that has “synergy” from the individual parts that make it up.  Looking at this in detail:

Wholeness is defined as: an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting
Synergy is defined as: “The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects

Love Relationships

So, for example, in a relationship to be part of the the whole, in this case two lovers, is to be complete with nothing wanting and contributing to something greater than the individuals could achieve alone.  How true this is.  We magnify our efforts and capabilities when we synergize in harmony with those we love.

Working Out

Another good example of this is to physically workout alone and then with others.  Comparing the two, each workout can be the same length with the same physical requirements, but certainly participating with a motivated group yields a far greater result.  Not just in tangible terms but also, more importantly in intangible terms such as the emotional, mental and spiritual uplifting the experience can bring.

Perhaps you start your workout feeling a bit “down in the dumps”  But you are carried to a higher level by a positive instructor or group of people working out with you.  Soon you are operating at their pace and you are actually transformed to their higher level of energy.  This is a basic teaching of Great Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim in the art of Jung SuWon.  Great Grandmaster writes about this in her book “The First Element“:

High Energy Transforms Low Energy

Everything around you is made of some kind of energy.  What is the difference between true, pure energy and distorted energy?  The difference is like that between music and harsh noise.  True energy produces harmony and peace; distorted energy produces discord and disharmony.

But again, energy is energy whether it appears in a pure state or a distorted state.  When you feel that wonderful sense of warm love, for instance, you’re feeling your true energy.  When you feel that discordant feeling of bitter hate, it’s that same love energy distorted, colored with particular beliefs and ideas that darken your natural bright love energy.

Generally speaking, true, pure energy is a “higher” vibration than the distortions of it.  Warm love is a higher vibration than bitter hate.  Perhaps you are familiar with the concept of entrainment.  Entrainment refers to the tendency for a stronger, faster vibration to affect a nearby slower vibration.  What is the effect?  The faster vibration tends to bring the slower vibration “up to speed” until both vibrations are moving at the same frequency.  If  you are in a situation of discord, your “higher frequency” love energy can “entrain” the lower distorted hate energy, causing it to come up to speed, and transform back into its original high frequency love.  That’s why love heals.  The energy of love in a discordant situation can transform that situation!”

I am humbled by the simple universal truths that exist around me.  As an adult, I have to attune myself to think more freely, like a child, to see them.  Each day my learning about myself and the world around me grows.  As my understanding of the universe around me expands I am aware of how little I really know and how truly ignorant I am.  Each day I learn that the magnitude of that which I do not know grows exponentially.  The more I learn, the less I know.

I wish you success in your day.  Look around you and recognize who is positive and create synergy with them.  Then you will be the one to lift others up!

Jung Su!!

Posted by: Mark Amador | August 24, 2008

Life changing experiences

Have you every really thought about how many events occur in our lives that we can really consider life changing?

There are the first time events… The first time you rode a bike, or caught a ball.  The first time you told someone you liked them, or the first person you kissed.  Your first car, first job, first pay check.

Then there are events that reshape us.  They are not always happy events, but they often have positive effects on our lives.  When we struggle we become stronger.  Though at the time it is happening to you it takes a lot of maturity to embrace it that way.

One of the many teachings that Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim gave me is really making the most of this moment.  I am not even guaranteed the next breath – I may not even live long enough to finish this post :)  So, how am I really living this moment?

Actually, in this moment, I am really leaving a message to myself, for the benefit of all who will connect with it.  Meaning I am taking this moment to acknowlege my very blessed life and my desire to spread my happiness with anyone who wants to connect.

I know life can really be hard and we can always find many reasons that our lives are not as fulfilling as we like.  We can say if we had more money, more love, more happiness, more understanding, more…

Grandmaster taught me that by living in the “now” moment I am experiencing life rather than just being a spectator.  I am in the game rather than watching it on TV.  I have no less strife, worry, stress, challenges or financial woes than anyone else, but my viewpoint is different.  I know there is a solution for every obstacle I face.  I know that I will find that solution.  I know that I will become stronger, wiser and more responsible for the world I see around me as I strive to find these solutions.

That is when it hit me.  Every moment for me is a life changing experience.  In order to benefit from this realization I need only to acknowlege it and embrace it.  Everyone can be happy.  You are either happy right now, or in the process of removing the aspects of your life that are blocking your happiness.

I’ve found mine and I want to share it.

Posted by: Mark Amador | May 7, 2008

Testing…yourself

We recently had a belt testing at Jung SuWon. It is one of the great pleasures in my life to both participate in and watch a belt testing. Not that it is easy! Actually far from it, but the reward is worth the journey.

On testing day, whether or not you are scheduled to test, you are nervous. Worry, anxiety, fear and self-doubt abound. You palms are sweaty and you stomach is doing somersaults. You know your going to be tested and you want to do good, but you don’t have any idea what Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim is going to challenge you with. Indeed, the unknown is the scariest of all.

Even as long as I’ve been training I still get nervous. If I am not testing myself, then my desire as an instructor for the students to succeed gets me nervous. Also having been there, you really feel what they go through. It is terrifying and wonderful all at the same time.

The most exciting part of a test is not so much the forms you do or the boards and bricks you break, but really facing the circumstances that surround all of it. Facing yourself is the most difficult of all. How you handle making mistakes. What you remember to do or not do when the spotlight is on you. How you maintain your good attitude and demonstrate you can rise above your emotions is life changing framework of the martial artists test.

Black belt testings at Jung SuWon are very challenging. The student will spend days alone in the mountains fasting and training to prepare. Away from cars, computers, phones, watches, concrete and steel all of life’s distractions fade away and you are left with only yourself. It is your time for self-discovery and isolating the person you really are apart from all of other material items and emotional influences our senses are bombarded with daily. This time of reflection is essential for you to make lasting positive changes in your life. This is the time when you test yourself.

When you return back to society and are continuing the test in the Do Jang your perspective has forever changed. You can clearly see what is external to you and what you are made of. In a Jung SuWon black belt testing you will face breaking boards, bricks and glass in every imaginable way. You will spare with multiple opponents from all angles while tied up, or dragging weights, or blind folded. You will endlessly do forms until you think you can barely stand then discover how much more is really inside you. You will swing from ropes and find ways to break boards and blocks of ice suspended fifteen feet above you. The testing could be 6 or 8 or 12 hours long. It all depends on the students testing.

But, even when a white belt tests at Jung SuWon it is a transformative journey. You are forever changed by your experience. No one can take it from you. It is your memory forever to recall in future times of challenge. It is a great pleasure to see the tears, shaking hands and bodies frozen with fear become tears of joy, beaming eyes now filled with experience and shouts of victory screaming the Jung SuWon motto “He Can Do, She Can Do, Why Not Me!”

Everyone has challenges. The difference is that a warrior uses them to grow stronger and more positive. I pray that you find within yourself the warrior in your life.

Jung Su!!

Posted by: Mark Amador | April 8, 2008

Great Workout Last Night!

I had an awesome workout. I have to say that even after 28 years of being in the martial arts working out doesn’t get any easier. You still have to get to the Do Jang, get suited up and hit the floor with enthusiasim and vigor. You are responsible to pump yourself up and get your energy flowing.

That’s what I love about training with others. It allows you to “borrow” their motivation and you synergize. Once the sweat flows and the endorphins come then you can go. That is until you hit the wall…that is when energy takes over. I am talking about Ki Energy – life force – the stuff that beats your heart. It is at that point, as Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim teaches, that you shift into second gear and your mind clears. Your focus becomes singular and tiredness and any aches and pains simply disappear.

People call it getting in the “zone”. Whatever you like, I know it is about life force, it is about the air we breathe containing what we need to live. Just 5 minutes without it and most of us would be dead. So how often do we think about air? Not very often, but in fact it is filled with the life force and it gets converted into pure energy (ki) in the body. What a marvel of a machine that God has made in man.

At these times I have experienced a spiritual connection with the universe and all that is around me. I feel close to God and all the majesty of his creations. My mind settles and my stress, worry, fears, anxieties or whatever flavor-of-the-month emotion is trying to encroach on my serenity passes away. It is my personal prayer time. My time to connect with God and myself. It may just look like jumping around flinging feet and hands in all directions, but really it is one incredible moving meditation that recharges and resets my feet on the right path.

I hope you can find the time today to make your connection. Like Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim says “He can do, she can do, why not me?”

Mark

Posted by: Mark Amador | April 7, 2008

Who makes a difference in your life?

In September of 1986 I began a journey that completely altered the course of my life. What a blessing it was, since my life wasn’t exactly in a great place at the time. On that day, I had come through a friends invitation to a martial arts class and witnessed the power of how one person could make a difference in the lives of so many people.

Now, I had trained in other arts before; Karate and Kung Fu, but it was really never more than just another sport to me. I had long since given up on my boyhood dream of traveling to China and training with the Shaolin monks and meeting wise masters who would reveal the secrets of life. That’s all just in the movies, right?

What I witnessed dropped my jaw and sent shivers through me. I saw a real master filled with wisdom and energy teach, motivate and challenge a training floor of about 80 students. She (that’s right, a female master) was Grandmaster Tae Yun Kim. As I listened her experience imparted authority to her words. She was the real thing.

I signed up that night 22 years ago and my life turned from a dismal slide to a rocket powered roller-coaster ride that has been one amazing journey after another. I started this blog to try and capture what has happened to me over these years and share some of the gems of Grandmaster Kim’s teachings. One of my favorites an excerpt from her book Seven Steps to Inner Power:

“People and events can shape someone for good or bad. But you alone have power over these things, more power than you realize. It does not matter how bad cir­cumstances may seem. What I discovered was that how I dealt with circumstances was much more important than the circumstances themselves”

Ready? Here we go!…

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