Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year's Resolutions

About this time every year people make promises about changes they are going to make in their life for the better.Unfortunately the large majority of these promises are broken in a short period of time. When making our New Year’s Resolutions we honestly believe that the changes are necessary, and that making these changes will result in an overall improvement in the quality of our life and our relationships.

With such a powerfully positive motivating principal behind us, why do we usually fail to live up to the promises we make to ourselves? Simply put we are not accustomed to setting goals, developing plans to achieve those goals, and acknowledging our successes and failures.

This is where Tang Soo Do can make a difference in your life. Tang Soo Do is about goal setting. Through training in Tang Soo Do the student not only learns to set achievable goals, they learn to develop a plan for achieving those goals and constantly monitoring their progress on the way to achieving these goals.

As we start this New Year look at the goals that you want to achieve. Honestly assess if those goals are achievable. Develop your plan. Implement your plan. Assess your progress. Revise your plan as required. When your goal is achieved. Set a new goal.

For 2000 years this has been our secret to success. I invite all students and potential students to follow this plan for success. For those students who have personally seen the benefits of Tang Soo Do in your life, your goal for the New Year should be to invite at least one other person to join Tang Soo Do, so that they may also enjoy successful goal accomplishment.

Tang Soo!

Master Scott C. Homschek

Originally published on January 2003

Photo courtesy of: Rajwinder Singh from Sydney, Australia (Happy New Year !!  Uploaded by berichard) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, December 9, 2013

A martial artists knows...….. Inability is not disgraceful; lack of effort is!

Don't wear a cone of shame!

“I can’t” gets my attention.  It alerts me to an opportunity to watch and learn the character of the individual who made the protestation.  “I can’t” is a pivotal decision point – what happens next will tell you everything you need to know about the person.

“I can’t” may be a very factual statement and taken without further information is not worthy of judgment; instead further inquiry and observation is in order. “Why can’t you?”, “Are you willing to try?”, “If you truly can’t, what are you going to do about it?”, “If you have tried and still can’t, is there something else you can do to compensate for this deficiency?”

Lack of ability to accomplish a specific task is not disgraceful IF and ONLY IF you have exhausted the alternatives.  It IS disgraceful to be faced with an obstacle and throw your hands up without even trying.  Too many people are too willing to give up before they even try because this is the easy path – in their mind it negates their personal responsibility.  It also indicates that they feel it is someone else’s responsibility to fix the problem for them. Furthermore, if you step in to resolve their problem before they even try for themselves, you are enabling this negative behavior. Shame on them for not trying! Shame on us for encouraging them not to try in the future!

This is not just an issue of parents and children, though that is where the behavior often starts.  This is a societal problem and it is rampant.

BOB:      “I can’t pay my bills!”

SAM:     “Why not?”

BOB:      “We have run up our credit cards?”

SAM:     “What did you spend the money on – medical bills, car repairs?”

BOB:      “No – nothing like that we took a cruise last year, we bought some new furniture – stuff like 
SAM:     “So what are you going to do about it?”

BOB:      “It’s so bad we might need to declare bankruptcy”

SAM:     “Have you tried looking for a second job?”

BOB:      “I can’t do that?”

SAM:     “Why not?”

BOB:      “I won’t be able to spend as much time with the kids if I am working two jobs?”

SAM:     “So instead you will shift the burden of paying your bills to someone else through 

BOB:      “Well, would you be willing to lend me the money till we get back on our feet?”

SAM:     “So you want me to bail you out with a promise you will pay me back?   
               Why is it again you can’t work a part time job to help start paying back the money you 

BOB:      “I told you I don’t want to take time away from my kids?”

SAM:     “So you want to teach your kids that you can be irresponsible with money and it is OK 
                to let someone else fix the problem?”

This conversation can go on and on with the Bob not willing to solve the problem he created; while Sam eventually having to walk away because the deadbeat will never understand. 

At what point do you start to demand a person take responsibility for themselves.  The answer is IMMEDIATELY.  Empower the person in trouble to start taking actions for themselves – even small actions to resolve the problem will help to give them momentum to tackle the larger issue.  They may still need help and we should be willing to help them IF and ONLY IF they are taking direct actions themselves to try to resolve the problem first.

If in the scenario above the debt was caused by a medical emergency, the person in trouble had already taken on an additional part time job to help cover the debt and they still could not get out from under it then we should be ready to step up and help in any way we can.  It is our moral and ethical responsibility to help those in need who cannot do for themselves.

The above scenario was one of a financial nature. Let’s look at something more practical.  If you see an innocent elderly person being accosted by a thug who is trying to hurt them – should we intervene.  I would answer a resolute YES.  Have someone call 911 and intervene to try and protect the elderly person if you have the means to do so.   Alternatively, if you were at a restaurant or bar enjoying an evening with your spouse or some good friends and the guy next to you starts an altercation with someone who is bigger than him and gets pummeled and shouts for help are you obligated to interfere because you have martial skills and are capable of taking out the bigger guy.  Not me.  I did not create the problem, nor do I feel it is my moral or ethical responsibility to use my skills in defense of the idiot who started the situation in the first place.

There are many things I cannot do. However, if the problem is outside my ability I do not throw my hands up and wait for someone else to fix it.  You start by getting educated. You start by analyzing what is really going on. You start by seeing if there is someone who can give you guidance to resolving the problem. You take action.  When your action indicates that there is no way you can do this by yourself then by all means seek assistance.  If you have taken action already you will be able to tell the person whose help you are seeking what you have already done – this will show that you are trying to resolve the problem and that there is a bunch of stuff which you have already tried and it has not worked.  Your helper will now be better educated on the situation and also much more likely to be willing to offer their assistance.  Or you can throw your hands up right away and say “I can’t” and wait for someone else to solve it for you – we call these type of people sheep.   

The choice is yours every day – every problem – every opportunity.

Tang Soo!

Master Scott C. Homschek

Photo Credit: By MythicSeabass from Olympia, WA (Cone of Shame) 
[CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, October 21, 2013

A martial artist knows….. If you are not willing to step up you should step out of the way.

In today’s everyone must win world this blog post will not be popular.  Simply stated not everyone is meant to be a Black Belt. The personal excellence that is signified by a person wearing Black Belt around their waist is not something that everyone is willing to commit to. If a person is not willing to commit to personal excellence they should get out of the way of people who are.

Sounds harsh? Not so much to those who have made the commitment. For those who haven’t made the commitment - stop wanting and start working.  Wanting what others have achieved while being unwilling to pay with the same sweat equity is nothing more than whining. Winners don’t whine. 

Martial arts training can be beneficial for just about everyone.  I expect every student who comes through the door to leave with more knowledge and skill than when they entered. Every student who tries learns something more about what they can and cannot do. This knowledge is valuable.  Over time we work to make the student’s list of what they cannot do become smaller and smaller.

We all run into obstacles in our training that are harder to overcome than others. The motivated student continues trying until they succeed. A failure only requires the student to get up and try again in order for there to be an opportunity for success. Some students will continue to get up regardless of how many times they fail - they already have the heart of a Black Belt. Some will fail and can be encouraged to try again -  they can be shown how to develop the heart of a Black Belt. Some will fail and not get back up - they will not develop the heart of a Black Belt but deserve recognition for their willingness to attempt the adventure.  Some will not even try – they are sheep.

Earning the right, privilege and responsibility to wear a Black Belt is not a matter of current society’s desire for fairness as measured by equal outcomes. In a previous blog I discussed that self esteem is notachieved by meeting lowered standards. Giving out Black Belts to students to make them feel important is counterproductive. In the long run it diminishes the meaning of Black Belt in your school. Black Belt should only be awarded to those who have put in the work AND developed the skills that are indicative of being a Black Belt. 

Progression to Black Belt is a matter of your individual journey and should not be measured in the context of what someone else had to overcome or how long it took them. When you are progressing through the ranks do not worry about keeping up with someone else, keeping ahead of someone else or lagging behind someone else. If someone is training more often than you are, harder than you are, or started with more natural talent than you did – do not hinder them. Cheer when they achieve Black Belt, just as they will cheer you when you do.

I look forward to helping every student who is willing to make the attempt.  I look forward to celebrating every student who achieves Black Belt. I look forward cheering on every student who is willing to reach beyond Black Belt.  Will you step up to the challenge of Black Belt, or will you step out of the way for those who are willing to take the challenge.

Tang Soo!

Master Scott C. Homschek

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A martial artist knows…..There is no substitute for personal responsibility.

“It wasn’t me.”, “I didn’t do it!”, “I don’t know what happened to it.” We would like to think these are lamentations of a child; however, more and more we see this attitude exhibited in adults. Personal responsibility seems to be a thing of the past or is it. 

Ask a parent if they want their children to be responsible and of course they will say “yes”. However, do their actions and attitudes lead their children there?  When a child brings home a bad grade does the parent hold the child accountable for not studying or do they challenge the teacher for picking on their child. Does the teacher who gives a child a bad grade then create opportunities for them to earn “Extra Points” to offset the bad grade or do they let the poor grade stand and allow the child to learn the important life lesson associated with not properly preparing. 

If we as parents and teachers do not hold children accountable for their actions when they are young, is it any surprise that as adults they do not exhibit a sense of personal responsibility. As I discussed in a previous blog “Reality is Not Graded on a Curve”; nor, is personal responsibility a thing of the past. While a child can get through the school years without being held accountable for their actions; the adult world will bring them to the sudden realization that there are real consequences in the real world. 

Failing to show up for work results in a real world firing. Failing to pay your bills on time results in the power, cable, and/or water being turned off. We can push back learning consequences for only so long but ultimately they will become apparent. Is it not better to learn how responsibility leads to both privileges and consequences at a young age when the stakes are low. If this process is delayed into adulthood the results can be catastrophic for not just the person involved but also for those around them and for society as a whole. 

Martial arts training is about personal growth and development. If a student does not practice they are not going to advance in rank.  Pointing fingers at others when they fail a rank test does not get the student anywhere.  Access to the privileges of higher rank only becomes available when the student seriously takes responsibility for their own practice.  As an instructor I cannot force a student to practice; however, I can show them how lack of practice has real consequences in their growth and development as a martial artist. Mom and Dad cannot practice for them; nor can they take the test for them.  Only through the students individual efforts do they learn that the choices they make determines their outcome.  

Within a martial arts class there are numerous opportunities to teach a student to hold themselves accountable.  After white belt I expect all students to be able to tie their own belts (regardless of age).  This requires practicing at home. If they need to tie a belt in middle of class they need to step out of drill to do so; resulting in missing training time.  The faster they get it tied correctly the quicker they return to class. In order to participate in sparring a student must bring their gear to class – no gear no sparring no exceptions.  This is not only to ensure the safety of the participants but also to teach the student they need to inventory their equipment before leaving the house. If you forget your uniform and/or belt you may train that day but you train in the most junior position regardless of your rank.  “Mom, forgot my belt.” does not fly because Mom is not taking their class. 

In our school we do not begin weapons training until after students are green belts.  The first weapon they earn the privilege to train with is a wooden staff. This gives me at least a year of training to instill in them the importance of personal responsibility before they begin weapons work.  When they receive their first staff I instruct the student that anything that happens with their staff is their responsibility even if they were not holding it at the time. If something gets broken with their staff it is because one of two things: either they were using it in an area that was not appropriate or they did not properly secure it and allowed it to get in the hands of someone who was not trained. Either way the resulting damage is their fault; therefore, they will need to make amends to fix what was damaged.  If you leave your equipment (uniform, belt, sparring gear, weapons) at the studio the student should expect it to be in my office when they return to the studio. This gives us another opportunity to express to them the importance of taking responsibility for their belongings in particular their weapons.

The harder part of teaching them to take responsibility for their actions/training is getting younger students to look at longer periods of time. Most youth students cannot see beyond a day or two at most, let alone the 4 months of a testing cycle. Typically a student who fails a test, Yes they do fail tests in my school, is the one who wants the rank for ego purposes not because they are truly ready for more challenging material. (read the blog "Martials Arts and Making Cupcakes") When a student fails a test it creates the opportunity to talk to them about their training and home practice. We emphasize the importance of setting a routine training and home practice schedule – once it becomes routine they are more likely to do it. However, it should be their motivation that causes the routine schedule not the nagging of a parent or instructor. 

Truly accepting personal responsibility for something cannot be forced on a person.  Yes, you can force the consequences on them but do they truly acknowledge that the consequences are a direct result of their actions. To accomplish this we need to begin while our children are young, give them small matters to be responsible for and hold them to it. When they fully take ownership of the situation they should earn the privilege that goes with the responsibility and thus open the door for additional, more important responsibilities. Covering up for our children’s mistakes does not prepare them for the real world.  Our job as parents and mentors of children is to deliver them into adulthood ready, willing and able to face the responsibilities the real world has waiting for them.  If we don’t the real world will teach them the lessons of personal responsibility in a much more abrupt and forceful way.

Tang Soo!

Master Scott C.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A martial artist knows…..There are no mediocre techniques; only mediocre effort.

I often hear discussion about one technique being better than another, or this style being better than that.  Discussions of this type are generally a waste of time. Often they are initiated by people who do not have a basis of understanding because they either have not trained or they have not trained long enough to come to the realization that there are more similarities between the various martial arts than there are differences AND that it is the dedication, understanding and application of the technique by the practitioner that makes it superior or inferior to another.

I have students of all shapes and sizes, as well as all ages and ranks. If you were to compare a technique executed by a white belt and then try to compare it to a different technique performed by a Black Belt on the surface you would say the technique of the Black Belt was a superior technique and could try to conclude that you should always do the technique he/she was performing.  The flaw in this analysis is obvious in its extreme – we are not looking at apples to apples. While an extreme example it serves the purpose of helping one realize that the skill of the practitioner is an important component when evaluating techniques/styles and if you are going to make the comparison you should at the least try to match the skills of the practitioners who are demonstrating the techniques before you begin to try and make a determination of which is better.

However, even this is insufficient because it does not bring in the context of the situation in which the technique is being utilized. In my town there was a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) school – I had a person come in off the street inquiring about our school and style and then trashed it saying MMA was better because we were not prepared to go to the ground.  As a fair disclaimer this gentlemen was not from the MMA school in town he was completely uneducated about any form of martial art and was basing his opinion strictly on what he had seen on TV.  With this bold statement his bravado inflated only to be popped when I simply stated that the problem with going to the ground MMA style was that it did not generally take into consideration weapons that are commonly seen on the street. I informed him that getting stabbed repeatedly in the kidney with a pocket knife while he had someone in the mount position was not a good way to spend the last days of his existence. He shook his head and walked out. He did not have enough experience with the martial arts in general and the real world of street survival to offer an educated opinion.

So which style is better or which technique is better. All skills and all styles can be valuable when utilized in the proper situation. What the martial arts student should work on is making the techniques they have been taught the best they can possibly be.  In my style we have the “14 Attitude Requirements for Mastering Tang Soo Do”. One of these is “When learning a new technique learn thoroughly the theory and philosophy as well”. A student should strive to maximize their understanding of the techniques/style they are learning. This includes: proper execution of the technique, timing, position, alignment, power& speed generation and traditional application. Once the basics are understood then the student should investigate alternative applications.  Can a low block for example be used as a strike instead, can it be used as a joint lock or throw. Can a single low block be used against multiple attackers.  Every technique follows a path or trajectory of motion.  How many different points along that path is there a useful application. This analysis should include the movements after the traditional application is executed. A punch travels from the chamber position – out to the target – strikes – then returns to the chamber position usually while the other hand is executing another punch in a basic punching exercise. Are there applications (striking, grabbing, locking, throwing) that can be done with the motion after the full extension (strike) when the hand returns to chamber.

When all the possible permutations of application, timing, targets, etc… have been investigated then the student may say they understand the technique. Most students however would look at the technique as a punch – spend some time hitting the heavy bag with it and then want to learn a new technique. Or worse yet be unsatisfied with the technique and demand to be shown a better (i.e. more advanced) technique.  The issue is not that the technique they were shown was inadequate, their attitude and therefore understanding of the technique is inadequate. 

Before one judges a technique as inferior or superior to another they must first do a thorough investigation of technique.  When they understand all its facets then they will understand that all techniques can be superior techniques when one understands how and when to properly apply them.

Tang Soo!

Master Homschek