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Some time in 2007, my Taekwondo blog became a category of my main Wisebytes blog. As discussed on that blog, I have not blogged on taekwondo much since I became a blackbelt because I became more aware of the politics in martial arts. As I have journeyed from 1st Dan onwards (I am now preparing for my 3rd Dan grading later this year), I am likely to blog more regularly on my main blog.
On March 26, 2004, the http://taekwondo.wisebytes.net site was reorganised into a blog, since that is really what it was. Basically all the same content remains other than the list of things that I thought I needed to learn for my first grading
Some time in mid-2003, I started looking after the official website for USMA Taekwondo, my taekwondo club run by Sabum Spiro Cariotis in Melbourne, Australia.
May 11, 2007
The more we learn, the less we know?
When I first started learning taekwondo, I didn't really think of myself as a "martial artist", I didn't feel like part of the martial arts community, nor did I see myself as a core part of my own taekwondo school. This is not a reflection on USMA or the people within it, because it is a most welcoming school for students of all ages and from all backgrounds. It is much more about the way in which I viewed myself, my capabilities, and my reasons for being there, compared with the way in which I viewed the other students in the school on these dimensions.
The initial phase of learning for me was very focussed on the pragmatic aspects of learning sequences of movements and techniques - where to put my hands and feet and how to coordinate the most basic of actions. A blog of my "journey in taekwondo" was really a bit like a homework diary on learning something as an outsider with no particular skill at it, and recording my experience in an easily accessible place in case other people like me wanted to know some of the things a novice might need to learn (eg what are the movements in 3 step sparring? what is the student oath? etc). I have received a few emails from complete strangers asking exactly these sorts of things.
However, as I mastered performance of these physical aspects to a greater or lesser degree, I began to understand how much more depth there is in each movement than just the basic physical execution. I also started to understand some of the theoretical aspects of the martial art and to start seriously considering the philosophical underpinnings of martial arts in general. This was in the context of my own research work in cognitive science, but also in the context of teaching and learning, and in terms of my own understanding of morality and social justice.
The "journey" stopped being a purely physical one in terms of how to kick and punch and learn my patterns and perform in front of an audience, and has become much more of a philosophical one focussed on how these things fit with in with "moral culture", discipline and ways of thinking. I also started to get to know my fellow students and to become an insider within the school. I can no longer comment on martial arts as an outsider or observer, as I am now very much part of the USMA community, and through this association, with the broader taekwon-do community. I am no longer anonymous, and my views, while still my own, are no longer *just my own* - as an assistant instructor at USMA, even my personal views will reflect on the school itself, as will my personal conduct in the rest of my life. In particular, any views I have on instruction or hierarchy or NGBs or martial arts politics will to some extent be taken to reflect on my own Instructor irrespective of whether they align with his views. In any event, in the martial arts world it is probably not appropriate for a first dan to comment on such matters publically.
At this point in my "taekwon-do journey", I see taekwon-do as a martial art, and see a martial art as a way of life which does not neatly turn off when I leave the dojang. Similarly, my professional life as a cognitive scientist and psychologist does not magically turn off outside the office and nor does the belief system and ethical position attached to it. And I remain a mother, daughter, friend and colleague for various people whether I'm in the dojang or my office or not. The trick is how to reconcile the disparate views of the world encompassed in these various roles and relationships and make an integrated whole. The more we learn, the more we see how different ideas might relate to each other and how much more there is to know in order to understand the world. The more people we know, the more we are exposed to different ways of looking at the world.
And the more we know people, the more we know the myriad ways we can be misunderstood, misinterpreted and misrepresented despite our best intentions, and the best intentions of others. Audience matters, and although I am willing to defend most of what I say in public or private, sometimes it is important to know the motivation and intent of the potential audience.
Of course, having said that, you might well ask why on earth I would keep a blog on the internet if I care about who might be in my audience? It's a good question, and a difficult one to answer. Probably because I think it is important to hold our views up for scrutiny, even just the self-scrutiny involved in writing them down. And the web was the tool of a much smaller (mostly academic) community when I first started using it.
More importantly though, I think that I am identifying the fact that, as taekwon-do for me has moved from being an "activity" to a "way of life", my taekwon-do blog has evolved from being a blog about "ooh wow, great excitement, I broke a board", and "here are 5 2-step sparring drills to remember" to a blog of thoughts about how we live, how we learn, and how we relate to each other. These are much more personal insights which at some level involve other people in my life and so require a greater level of thought in terms of how (and whether) they should be written.
Perhaps as I start training seriously for my second dan grading, my taekwon-do views will become more focused on specifics that are more publically sharable. There's nothing like a grading to focus the mind - and, as I write, I suspect the frequency of my blog posts is actually most closely related to the frequency of gradings ... an self-insight that is worth re-considering in the broader context of teaching and learning.
February 27, 2007
Lack of Recent Posts
This blog has not exactly been abandoned. My more recent posts, admittedly not many of them, have moved to:
because much of what I was writing was more about instruction and cognitive science than just taekwondo.
The USMA website has also grown a lot and so most of my web-related effort in taekwon-do is focused on that site.
February 27, 2006
There has been a long break in writing to this blog - but mostly because I have been too busy "doing" to be writing ...
The most exciting thing in my taekwon-do life is the fact that USMA (my school) now has its own Headquarters, a full-time dojang in Clayton.
It is a fantastic venue, and it was a privilege to help with building it. And with a full-time dojang to enjoy, it might be a while before I find time to write too much more in my blog !!
December 10, 2005
Sinewave and Coordination
Wow - I think I'm finally beginning to understand a bit about sine wave. Sure, I've got the basic bit about down-up-down and I've understood that sinewave is part of coordinated action so that within a technique, everything ends at the same time, but I hadn't really considered the role of sinewave in coordinating with other people or coordinating sequences of movement.
When we spar, we are always encouraged to keep moving, to keep bouncing on the balls of our feet, and all good fighters in all forms of fighting keep moving even when they aren't actually punching or kicking. Maybe it is obvious to everyone else, but I have only just realised that the bouncing is part of sinewave, and the rhythm provides an internal beat for planning and coordinating sequences of movements. More importantly, you can speed up or slow down the beat and still execute the same sequence of movements. When you are watching your opponent, you're not only watching them with your eyes, but you are entraining the rhythm of your bouncing to the rhythm of their movements (ie you are mirroring their timing so that you know when they will be able to execute a technique). You can then set an appropriate phase lag between your sinewave and theirs so as to time your own techniques for when your opponent is unable to respond.
So when are they unable to respond? If you know by understanding your opponent's rhythm when they are capable of executing a technique, whether or not they do, you can adjust your sinewave (bouncing) so that your techniques will only show themselves when your opponent is already committed to whatever they were going to execute (they have already selected a ballistic movement to a specific target) or they are not yet ready to attack (they have missed that wave of their own sinewave). You will have so much more time in "planning" because you have already encoded the relative timing information between their actions and yours into your own sinewave or bouncing rhythm.
Adjusting the frequency of your bouncing (your sinewave) to encode your opponent's movement, and adjusting your own movements to fit into that rhythm also cuts down on planning. A jumping kick is no longer different in its premotor planning to the same technique on the ground - the jump is part of the sinewave, but the wave just goes a bit higher :-)
So - the bit that started to fall into place was that bouncing (keeping moving) in sparring is not just random moving, and not just keeping a rhythm for yourself, but it is a part of a "conversation" with your opponent to keep the appropriate timing and phase relationship between your movements and theirs, so that you always have the advantage. If you are sparring with someone who understands this conversation, the trick is to be able to change the tempo to keep the advantage.
The reason that skipping is the preferred endurance training for fighters is also an obvious correlate of sinewave. The circular motion (sine wave is a circular function in mathematical terms) of the rope powered by your arms ensures that you have to entrain your arm movements to you leg movements and you have to jump. The cyclical visual cues of the rope are also being entrained so that you can start to associate visual information with motor information. The "conversational" aspect of skipping - the entrainment to the visual cue - can be seen when someone else turns the rope. If you watch kids run in to skip in an already turning skipping rope, they move their arms or bodies up and down for a few cycles to get the rhythm of the motion. There is an easy side and a hard side to run into because on one side, there is room for error (the rope is coming down so you can duck) whereas on the other side, the rope is going up so there is no room for error.