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    Aged Turtle Wizard Clothahump's avatar
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    Default Ask the Martial Artist

    Per What Exit's suggestion, I am opening this in Q&A; would a mod please move it to Ask The Expert?

    I am a 5th Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo and own a school in Houston, TX. I have some familiarity with other styles due to cross-training. Feel free to ask me anything about martial arts; if I don't know the answer, it will be a learning opportunity for me as I go find it out for you.

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    Elephant Feirefiz's avatar
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    The entirety of my martial arts career consists of two years of Judo in school in 5th and 6th grade. It has always been a secret wish of mine to start again at some point (though not necessarily Judo) but nothing ever came of it.

    Now I am 29, quite fat and entirely untrained.

    I wouldn't be in any hurry and I have no illusions of ever becoming great at it.

    Is there hope for me? Do you have any tips or recommendations?

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    Stegodon Jaglavak's avatar
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    You wouldn't really kick my ass, would you?

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    Elen síla lumenn' omentielvo What Exit?'s avatar
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    Might as well ask, what would be a good place to start for a fat middle-age guy?

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    my god, he's full of stars... OneCentStamp's avatar
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    What kinds of people come to you for lessons? Is it primarily kids whose parents want them to learn discipline/confidence/self-defense? Is it adults who are looking for a way to keep fit? Is it people looking to use it, maybe people who want to complete in point sparring or mixed martial arts? I mean, I'm sure it's at least a little of everything, but what types do you see the most of?

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    Prehistoric Bitchslapper Sarahfeena's avatar
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    Can knowing martial arts really help a woman fend off an attacker who is much larger and stronger than her? I have a friend who is a black belt, and her husband (who is much bigger than she is) used to laugh at the idea that she could fight off a guy his size if she had to, and she insisted that she could. Luckily, she's never had to, so I don't know if she's right or not! Is it worthwhile learning martial arts for this purpose?

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    Has the increasing interest in MMA made you realise the ineffectiveness of having ability in only one discipline, at a competitive level?

    On the street, are you confident you could fend off an attack from any one person who hasn't trained as hard as you have?
    Last edited by ivan astikov; 07 Oct 2009 at 06:54 AM.
    To sleep, perchance to experience amygdalocortical activation and prefrontal deactivation.

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    Is there any sort of quick, easy exercises you can recommend? Occasionally I get the urge to exercise, but it passes within minutes. Something cool and martial-artsey might be able to hold my attention for that long.
    Something tells me we haven't seen the last of foreshadowing.

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    aka ivan the not-quite-as-terrible ivan astikov's avatar
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    I'm another 40-something who would like to take up some kind of martial art to stay in shape. After the recommended check up with a physician, what would you say was the best way to assess my level of fitness?
    To sleep, perchance to experience amygdalocortical activation and prefrontal deactivation.

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    Vast Right-Wing Conspirator
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    How much contact training do you do?

    Regards,
    Shodan

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    Quote Originally posted by Feirefiz View post
    The entirety of my martial arts career consists of two years of Judo in school in 5th and 6th grade. It has always been a secret wish of mine to start again at some point (though not necessarily Judo) but nothing ever came of it.

    Now I am 29, quite fat and entirely untrained.

    I wouldn't be in any hurry and I have no illusions of ever becoming great at it.

    Is there hope for me? Do you have any tips or recommendations?
    I started when I was 16, had to lay out when I was 19, restarted at age 38. I turn 61 in December. You're never too old.

    Make sure that you can handle physical exercise. Start slow, work your way up; your instructor will help you greatly if you sit down and work out a game plan with him/her. Don't rush it - you have the rest of your life to do this.

    If you'll PM or email me and send me your zip code, I'll see if there is a school in my style near you. I can probably make a introduction to the instructor if there is.

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    Quote Originally posted by Jaglavak View post
    You wouldn't really kick my ass, would you?
    You would be surprised at how many times a day I hear a variation of that from someone who thinks they are cracking an original joke.

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    Quote Originally posted by OneCentStamp View post
    What kinds of people come to you for lessons? Is it primarily kids whose parents want them to learn discipline/confidence/self-defense? Is it adults who are looking for a way to keep fit? Is it people looking to use it, maybe people who want to complete in point sparring or mixed martial arts? I mean, I'm sure it's at least a little of everything, but what types do you see the most of?
    When I first started way back when, it was mostly the testosterone warriors: males, age 17-30. Few women and almost no kids.

    These days, the martial arts world is probably about 60-75% under the age of 17. The mix has really changed. I start students at age 6 and if I open up a Tiny Tiger program, I'll take them at 4-5. A lot of parents bring their kids in because they want them to learn discipline, confidence and self-control. We don't get that many kids who want to be Power Rangers or Ninja Turtles any more.

    Adult physical fitness is on the upswing and I am picking up more adults looking to get back in shape. Learning to defend oneself is an added bonus.

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    Quote Originally posted by Sarahfeena View post
    Can knowing martial arts really help a woman fend off an attacker who is much larger and stronger than her? I have a friend who is a black belt, and her husband (who is much bigger than she is) used to laugh at the idea that she could fight off a guy his size if she had to, and she insisted that she could. Luckily, she's never had to, so I don't know if she's right or not! Is it worthwhile learning martial arts for this purpose?
    Yes.

    The martial artist will have two big things going. 1) Confidence, which will usually cause most attackers who are profiling for victims to look elsewhere and 2) the element of surprise; when the bad guy jumps on them, they are not going to be expecting the violent response they will get.

    One of the young ladies in the school when I first joined was accosted twice. Once was at a bus stop, where she simply raised her voice and started yelling at the guy which made him run off. The other was a serious attempt at abduction. She had a guy bail out of a car and try to drag her in. She broke his wrist and ruptured a testicle.

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    Quote Originally posted by What Exit? View post
    Might as well ask, what would be a good place to start for a fat middle-age guy?
    Any good martial arts school will work with you to get you back in shape.

    Email me your zipcode and I'll see if there's a school in my style near you.

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    Quote Originally posted by ivan astikov View post
    Has the increasing interest in MMA made you realise the ineffectiveness of having ability in only one discipline, at a competitive level?

    On the street, are you confident you could fend off an attack from any one person who hasn't trained as hard as you have?
    Well, we were MMA before MMA became popular. Our style has advocated cross-training for a long time. The philosophy is that Taekwondo is like our major in college. The seniors in the organization went out and cross-trained in other disciplines, then came back and developed a curriculum to teach those disciplines within our style, similar to elective course supporting the major. They are not intended to make us experts in the other style, just knowledgeable.

    Cross-training is great.

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    Quote Originally posted by AllWalker View post
    Is there any sort of quick, easy exercises you can recommend? Occasionally I get the urge to exercise, but it passes within minutes. Something cool and martial-artsey might be able to hold my attention for that long.
    Desire, Dedication, Discipline.

    If all you want is basic exercises, then you might try doing a mixture of jumping jacks, situps, pushups, jogging in place and half-squats.

    You might also check out Warrior X-Fit. That will definitely bust a sweat. We do the 15 round workout every Saturday morning.

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    Quote Originally posted by ivan astikov View post
    I'm another 40-something who would like to take up some kind of martial art to stay in shape. After the recommended check up with a physician, what would you say was the best way to assess my level of fitness?
    Check the schools in your area. Watch classes, talk with the students, talk with the instructors and choose one that feels right for you. You can also do some physical training in a gym to get back in shape; in fact, I recommend doing that.

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    Quote Originally posted by Shodan View post
    How much contact training do you do?

    Regards,
    Shodan
    We are ostensibly a non-contact sparring system. That doesn't mean that contact doesn't happen; it's just not our primary goal.

    However, once someone makes Black Belt, we will occasionally do advance sparring sessions where we open up and whack on each other a little.

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    Quote Originally posted by Clothahump View post
    I started when I was 16, had to lay out when I was 19, restarted at age 38. I turn 61 in December. You're never too old.

    Make sure that you can handle physical exercise. Start slow, work your way up; your instructor will help you greatly if you sit down and work out a game plan with him/her. Don't rush it - you have the rest of your life to do this.
    Thank you for your answer and your encouraging words.
    If you'll PM or email me and send me your zip code, I'll see if there is a school in my style near you. I can probably make a introduction to the instructor if there is.
    You did notice that I'm in Germany, didn't you?

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    Quote Originally posted by Feirefiz View post
    Thank you for your answer and your encouraging words.
    You did notice that I'm in Germany, didn't you?
    No, I didn't. But we do have schools in Germany.

    I can also recommend a book by Sang H. Kim called Martial Arts After 40.

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    Vast Right-Wing Conspirator
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    Thanks, Clothahump. Do you ever spar as they do in the Olympics, with full power kicks to the head and torso but no head punches?

    And why do they call it "finweight"?

    Regards,
    Shodan

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    Quote Originally posted by Shodan View post
    Thanks, Clothahump. Do you ever spar as they do in the Olympics, with full power kicks to the head and torso but no head punches?

    And why do they call it "finweight"?

    Regards,
    Shodan
    Don't know about finweight, that's a new one.

    ATA will teach Olympic style sparring to those Black Belts who want to learn it. I personally don't offer it in my school, but there are seminars on it at the National tournaments. And all of our techniques are full power; they are just controlled so as to not make full contact.

    A lot of folks have posted sparring matches up on YouTube. Here's one if you are interested: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1O5MQtJn9M

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    What style of martial art would you recommend for someone with a slightly-wonky knee? (I tore an MCL a few years back in an ill-fated altercation with a motor vehicle.)

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    Quote Originally posted by Orual View post
    What style of martial art would you recommend for someone with a slightly-wonky knee? (I tore an MCL a few years back in an ill-fated altercation with a motor vehicle.)
    My first recommendation would be to head to a sports medicine specialist and get it fixed. Don't skimp on the rehab. Once you are back up to speed, then pretty much anything that floats your boat, martial arts wise, is up for grabs.

    I recommend that you get it fixed before starting because any martial art is going to work your legs strongly. Lots of pivoting, etc., and if you don't have a solid foundation, you're going to have problems. I blew my left ACL doing something really dumb about 7 years ago. After surgery and rehab, it was nearly two years before I was back up to full speed, but it was sooooo worth it.

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    my god, he's full of stars... OneCentStamp's avatar
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    1) Can you trace your black belt lineage back to Jhoon Rhee? I ask because my oldest son, when my kids still lived in Houston, took lessons from April Cunningham, and I wonder if you and she are close on the American TKD "family tree."

    2) A lot of the guys and girls on those breaking (bricks, boards, etc.) competitions they show late at night on ESPN2 come from a TKD background. Did you ever try any of that stuff, or train anyone who did?

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    As flashy as some of those moves in the video linked above look, aren't they really only going to be effective if your opponent is also doing the same moves?

    It seems to me if someone tried one of those leg kicks and missed, they could easily be taken to the ground, where their training in stand up striking will count for little.
    To sleep, perchance to experience amygdalocortical activation and prefrontal deactivation.

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    Quote Originally posted by OneCentStamp View post
    1) Can you trace your black belt lineage back to Jhoon Rhee? I ask because my oldest son, when my kids still lived in Houston, took lessons from April Cunningham, and I wonder if you and she are close on the American TKD "family tree."
    I started with Jhoon Rhee's organization, but did not earn Black Belt with them. I trained with John Worley and Michael Uselton. When I started over with the ATA in 1987, I went back to White Belt and have my entire testing history available with them. My first instructor was Rod Stone; my second and current instructor is Master Larry Spencer.


    2) A lot of the guys and girls on those breaking (bricks, boards, etc.) competitions they show late at night on ESPN2 come from a TKD background. Did you ever try any of that stuff, or train anyone who did?
    We have board breaking requirements for promotion starting in the upper color belt ranks. We do the occasional break-a-thon for charity, but we do not have specific breaking competitions.

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    Quote Originally posted by ivan astikov View post
    As flashy as some of those moves in the video linked above look, aren't they really only going to be effective if your opponent is also doing the same moves?

    It seems to me if someone tried one of those leg kicks and missed, they could easily be taken to the ground, where their training in stand up striking will count for little.
    Don't confuse sparring in a tournament with self defense. One is the sport aspect and the other is the practical application. In sparring class, we'll go headhunting. When we are working self-defense, I teach to never kick higher than the belt. It's much better to use our legs to take their legs out; that way, they can't chase you when you run away.

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    my god, he's full of stars... OneCentStamp's avatar
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    (Thanks for answering all these questions, by the way. This thread alone is going to double your post count!)

    Since earning your black belt, on how many occasions have you had to use your skills on someone who meant you real harm?

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    Quote Originally posted by OneCentStamp View post
    (Thanks for answering all these questions, by the way. This thread alone is going to double your post count!)
    My pleasure. I'll talk martial arts all day long.

    Since earning your black belt, on how many occasions have you had to use your skills on someone who meant you real harm?
    On one hand, I could say I've used them every day. The confidence that I have learned from my training has probably deterred people from assaulting me; I like to refer to that as winning a fight that I didn't even know that I had. As Sun Tzu puts it in The Art of War:
    Hence to fight and conquer in all your battles
    is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists
    in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
    That's all nice and philosophical and all that, but I know you are asking how many fights I've been in, and the answer to that is that I had several when I was a cop and my training helped me subdue my opponent without getting hurt (too badly, at least). Since I joined the ATA in 1987, I've been in only one altercation and I actually subdued my opponent faster and easier because I'd had training in pressure point control tactics that I hadn't had before.

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    I'd have thought that after leaving the police force, you'd still have had several public occasions where your skills might be called upon. Do you think there was any luck involved in that, or do you just make sure not to get in those scenarios; say by avoiding public transport and bars where you don't know the clientele?

    Do you still feel any onus to look out for weaker members of the public, and did you support the actions of the Guardian Angels, or object to them?
    To sleep, perchance to experience amygdalocortical activation and prefrontal deactivation.

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    Quote Originally posted by ivan astikov View post
    I'd have thought that after leaving the police force, you'd still have had several public occasions where your skills might be called upon. Do you think there was any luck involved in that, or do you just make sure not to get in those scenarios; say by avoiding public transport and bars where you don't know the clientele?
    </quote>
    Well, part of self-defense is controlling your environment as much as possible, so that does have a lot to do with it. I don't drink, so going into bars is not an issue for me. However, little things like making sure that I'm looking around as I walk through a parking lot toward my car go a long, long way.

    <quote>
    Do you still feel any onus to look out for weaker members of the public, and did you support the actions of the Guardian Angels, or object to them?
    I feel that we should all look out for one another. A functioning society is teamwork in my opinion. I'm not a member of the Angels but I understand where they are coming from and I support the concept. I am a member of my neighborhood watch program for that reason.

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    my god, he's full of stars... OneCentStamp's avatar
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    Why Tae Kwon Do? You've devoted roughly half your life to this pursuit, to the point that it's a source of income for you, and something you identify yourself with strongly. So why this martial art in particular? Even in the 1970s and 80s, there were others around: kempo, judo, Western boxing, about a hundred flavors of kung fu, just to name a few...why TKD?
    Last edited by OneCentStamp; 13 Oct 2009 at 10:13 AM.

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    Quote Originally posted by OneCentStamp View post
    Why Tae Kwon Do? You've devoted roughly half your life to this pursuit, to the point that it's a source of income for you, and something you identify yourself with strongly. So why this martial art in particular? Even in the 1970s and 80s, there were others around: kempo, judo, Western boxing, about a hundred flavors of kung fu, just to name a few...why TKD?
    When I first started back in 1966, I joined the University of Texas Karate Club. Everything was called karate back then because that was the name that the public was familiar with. When I found out I was learning Taekwondo, it didn't matter to me all that much.

    When I started back in martial arts in 1987, I was on the island of Kwajalein in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. I ran into a guy that was running a small club there on the island. It was Taekwondo, I was familiar with it and remembered it as being fun, so I decided to start over again. I like the ATA's teaching philosophy and forms and I've stayed with it.

    I've done some cross-training in aikido and Tai Chi, but Taekwondo was my first love, so to speak, and I've never really wanted to put the effort into mastering another martial art. I'm still trying to master this one. (that was a pun. I'm planning to test for 6th Degree next June; when I make it, I'll be a Master candidate.)

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    my god, he's full of stars... OneCentStamp's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Clothahump View post
    I'm planning to test for 6th Degree next June; when I make it, I'll be a Master candidate.
    This is something I've always wanted to ask a black belt: what's the difference, once you get to that point? When you're talking about 2nd, 3rd, 4th degree black belts, is there much more learning between ranks, or is it pretty incremental by that point? Is the advancement physical; i.e., do you learn new techniques, or is the advancement more internal and philosophical? Is the difference between a 2nd and a 5th degree black belt in TKD something you would be able to spot by watching them? Would a relative neophyte like me be able to spot it?

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    Have you seen The Foot Fist Way ? If so, were you amused in general and did you think it an "accurate parody", if you get my meaning?
    Last edited by Tamerlane; 14 Oct 2009 at 02:41 PM.

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    The Foot Fist Way is one of the funniest films I saw this year.
    To sleep, perchance to experience amygdalocortical activation and prefrontal deactivation.

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    Quote Originally posted by OneCentStamp View post
    This is something I've always wanted to ask a black belt: what's the difference, once you get to that point? When you're talking about 2nd, 3rd, 4th degree black belts, is there much more learning between ranks, or is it pretty incremental by that point? Is the advancement physical; i.e., do you learn new techniques, or is the advancement more internal and philosophical? Is the difference between a 2nd and a 5th degree black belt in TKD something you would be able to spot by watching them? Would a relative neophyte like me be able to spot it?
    Excellent question.

    The physical training never stops, obviously, and there are new techniques to learn, and new ways to use old techniques. The changes are more internal, I think. For example, there is a change in the way we learn new material. From White Belt up to Second Degree or so, your instructor is an instructor. Around that time, the relationship changes and your instructor becomes more of a mentor. Instead of teaching you a new form, the instructor will show it to you, but in reality, you'll mostly teach it to yourself. The instructor will then help you polish the rough spots.

    Yes, there is still a noticeable difference between a Second Degree and a Fifth Degree. For one thing, in our style, that's a minimum of 9 years more experience and training. The physical techniques will be just a little smoother, there will be an economy of motion, etc., and I believe it would be noticeable to someone who was not actively training.

    I think that overall, it's the internalization of the life skills that makes the biggest difference. Black Belts who trained in a traditional style are, for the most part, some of the politest people you will ever meet. They set goals and achieve them and are oriented toward success.

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    Quote Originally posted by Tamerlane View post
    Have you seen The Foot Fist Way ? If so, were you amused in general and did you think it an "accurate parody", if you get my meaning?
    I have not seen it. People whose opinions I value and trust saw it and their reaction overall was that it was a piece of crap.

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    Resident Troublemaker beebs's avatar
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    How long can you hold your breath? I'm serious.

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    Quote Originally posted by Clothahump View post
    Excellent question.

    The physical training never stops, obviously, and there are new techniques to learn, and new ways to use old techniques. The changes are more internal, I think. For example, there is a change in the way we learn new material. From White Belt up to Second Degree or so, your instructor is an instructor. Around that time, the relationship changes and your instructor becomes more of a mentor. Instead of teaching you a new form, the instructor will show it to you, but in reality, you'll mostly teach it to yourself. The instructor will then help you polish the rough spots.

    Yes, there is still a noticeable difference between a Second Degree and a Fifth Degree. For one thing, in our style, that's a minimum of 9 years more experience and training. The physical techniques will be just a little smoother, there will be an economy of motion, etc., and I believe it would be noticeable to someone who was not actively training.

    I think that overall, it's the internalization of the life skills that makes the biggest difference. Black Belts who trained in a traditional style are, for the most part, some of the politest people you will ever meet. They set goals and achieve them and are oriented toward success.
    I take it karate has a vastly different merit system then?

    5 yr old girl achieves karate blackbelt

    She is a black belt first dan, or grade, and there are 10 grades in total. She is already a mini master but if she makes it to second dan she can start teaching -- just like her father.
    At her present rate, how long should that take?
    Last edited by ivan astikov; 15 Oct 2009 at 07:22 AM.
    To sleep, perchance to experience amygdalocortical activation and prefrontal deactivation.

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    Quote Originally posted by Clothahump View post
    I have not seen it. People whose opinions I value and trust saw it and their reaction overall was that it was a piece of crap.
    Humour is a funny old thing. It's like how people tend to laugh less when they realise they are the butt of the joke.
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    Quote Originally posted by beebs View post
    How long can you hold your breath? I'm serious.
    51 seconds.

    Why? I'm curious.

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    Quote Originally posted by ivan astikov View post
    I take it karate has a vastly different merit system then?

    5 yr old girl achieves karate blackbelt

    At her present rate, how long should that take?
    I'm not familiar with her style and what the requirements are, so I can't answer from that point of view. In the ATA, there is a minimum time in rank and it's one year for every degree. So a First Degree has to wait one year to test, a Second Degree two years, etc.

    However, I am kind of sensitive to the issue of kids getting Black Belts right after they get out of diapers. Children hit their first big growth spurt at around age 6, and it's a mental spurt rather than physical. There is a huge increase in vocabulary and the beginnings of rational thinking: step A leads to step B leads to step C, etc. I don't think children that young appreciate what it really means to be a Black Belt.

    It's more than just punching, kicking and rote memorization. There are life skills as well: courtesy, respect, loyalty, perseverance, honor, integrity, self-control, etc., and a 5 year old just doesn't grasp the concepts. They might be able to parrot back a canned response, but ask them for an example to demonstrate the concept and you'll get a deer-in-the-headlights look. A ten year old, however, could do it.

    That is why I, as an instructor, will not give rank to kids in the Tiny Tigers program (6 and under). The classes are taught differently because the kids learn differently when younger. They learn through play and peer interaction. They are still learning how to use their bodies: left vs. right, front vs. back, etc. So kids in my Tiger program stay at White Belt until I think they are ready to move into the regular classes, which will not be until they are at least age 6 and in the first grade in school. That will put them testing for First Degree at around age 9 or 10, and I am much more comfortable with that.

    Some styles won't give a full Black Belt to anyone under age 18 or so. They'll give a Jr. Black Belt and upon reaching the designated age, they will test for their full Black Belt. And that's fine. Each style has its own curriculum and requirements.

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    Quote Originally posted by ivan astikov View post
    Humour is a funny old thing. It's like how people tend to laugh less when they realise they are the butt of the joke.
    They said it had some funny spots, but overall it was a poorly done movie, not worth spending the time or money on. Like I said, I respected their opinions. I might get it on video some day and watch it, because others (such as you) have said it was funny. I can't make that decision until I see it for myself.

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    Quote Originally posted by Clothahump View post
    They said it had some funny spots, but overall it was a poorly done movie, not worth spending the time or money on. Like I said, I respected their opinions. I might get it on video some day and watch it, because others (such as you) have said it was funny. I can't make that decision until I see it for myself.
    I'd agree; it wasn't worth going to the cinema to see, but it is worth a rental or a purchase from a bargain bin.
    To sleep, perchance to experience amygdalocortical activation and prefrontal deactivation.

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    Can you tell me what the TKD fighter in the clip here was doing wrong? Was he merely up against a technically better fighter, or is Muay Thai a style that TKD cannot deal with very effectively?
    To sleep, perchance to experience amygdalocortical activation and prefrontal deactivation.

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    Tangential to ivan's question, and something I've wondered about: do you enjoy, and do you have much opportunity to, spar with people outside of your discipline?
    "You laugh at me because I'm different; I laugh at you because I'm on nitrous."

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    Quote Originally posted by ivan astikov View post
    Can you tell me what the TKD fighter in the clip here was doing wrong? Was he merely up against a technically better fighter, or is Muay Thai a style that TKD cannot deal with very effectively?
    I'm not the expert here, but it appears the TKD guy wasn't used to low kicks.

    I couldn't tell what the rules were supposed to be, but the referee appeared to warn the Muay Thai fighter at least twice for grabbing the leg and throwing the TKD fighter. I believe this was for a leg grab takedown, but I can't be sure.

    The major advantage of most boxers or kickboxers is that they are used to contact.

    Regards,
    Shodan

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