Instructor Resources Musings Scholarly Pursuits

Chang Moo Kwan: Taekwondo or Tang Soo Do?

Taekwondo or Tang Soo Do?

What is Tang Soo Do?

What does Tang Soo Do have to do with Chang Moo Kwan anyway?

Arnis black belt

To clear up some common misconceptions about Chang Moo Kwan (and TKD in general), hit that “more” link!

Benefits of Martial Arts Musings

Integration in the Martial Arts

I recently read “The Karate Code,” an e-book collection of short essays from Japanese Karate masters. In it, each master picked one word to describe karate, and then offered some thoughts to help sum up karate in a word.

Not an easy task.

If I had to pick one, right now, I’d pick “integration.” I like the sense of fullness and evolution that it embodies. (It probably also reflects my age. It’ll be interesting to see what I think in five, ten, twenty years).

Sensei/YDN Caitlin doing her form at a tournament.
Sensei/YDN Caitlin doing her form at a tournament.


The more I think about it, the more I think integration is (or should be) at the heart of what we do both inside the dojo and out.

Benefits of Martial Arts Musings

Martial Arts Belt Testing, What’s the Purpose?

The best challenges are the ones we have a choice in. By choosing to undertake difficulty, we make ourselves stronger. –Sensei/YDN Caitlin

Pile o' belts.
Pile o’ belts.

Today, I was reading about the history of using colored belts when I came across another great quote. “Achievement of rank should be considered as a side-effect of karate training and not a goal.” (You can read the essay here if you’re interested, but it is a fairly dry [no offense to its author] historical essay full of facts, names, and dates).

Anyhoo, I agree that your training shouldn’t only be focused on achieving belt rank. That’s shortsighted, and misses the point of martial arts.

But I *do* think that testing is an important ritual in martial arts. Let me explain… (click “more”).

Benefits of Martial Arts Instructor Resources Musings

Grinding in Karate, or Why Karate is Like a Video Game

Karate is like a video game. Karate is better than video games. (Sorry, gamers). In order to bust a move in karate, you will need to engage in the act of “grinding.”

The students in the picture below are grinding. They don’t realize it, but front stance straight punch is the very definition of grinding for karateka. Isn’t it beautiful?

Stanwood Karate
NWSMA youth class in action!

What does “grinding” mean anyway?

In video/computer gaming culture, “grinding” refers to engaging in repetitive tasks for a purpose, either to attain an item, badge, or to unlock access to certain features. The repetitive tasks are rarely entertaining.

Tl;dr “grinding” means to do the same thing. Again and again, a lot. And it’s not terribly exciting or fun.

Hmmm….this is starting to sound like karate! Click the “more” link to hear about why grinding is important, not just in games!

Black Belt Candidate Essays Musings

6 Things Black Belt Candidates Should Be Doing

When I look at a black belt candidate–a high-ranked student who is getting close to black belt–I usually rely on a gut feeling to tell me whether or not they’re ready for black belt.

By black belt, I mean 1st degree. Provisional black belts are not yet black belts, they are on probation and have to prove themselves worthy of that rank. By “candidates” I mean everyone from brown belt to provisional black belt–people who aren’t yet there but are trying to get there.

The demo team bows after their performance.
The demo team bows after their performance.

Today, instead of relying on my gut, I want to try to articulate some of the things I’m looking for in black belt candidates: all brown, advanced brown, and provisional black belts.

General Musings Special Events

Black Belt Halloween Safety Tips by NW School of Martial Arts

Halloween is probably my favorite holiday, so I wanted to write up my top 10 Halloween safety tips to share with everyone!

Halloween safety tips
Do not mess with these pumpkins…

Halloween is a holiday that makes a lot of moms anxious: gobs of candy to check, gobs of candy ruining appetites, strangers interacting with your kids, and the possibility for teenage mischief-makers.

Don’t let yourself stress. Create a set of ground rules with your kids, using my top 10 as a starting place. Click “more” for my top 10 Halloween safety tips for adults and kiddos.


Defining Progress in the Martial Arts

In some martial arts schools, progress is defined with belt ranks. Students learn new things, test, and then receive new belts. It’s a shiny process. Everyone loves receiving something new. But I’ve asked myself before, and now I’ll ask you:

Do belts equal progress? Which is more important: a pile o’ belts? Or real progress?

Pile o' belts.
Pile o’ belts.

We believe that black belts should be good at martial arts. But at a certain point in everyone’s martial arts career, the rate of technical progress slows. Progress depends greatly on the students’ self-awareness (age/maturity), effort, attendance, and perseverance.

That being said, I realize that it can seem discouraging not to move up in belt rank for a long time. So I’d like to share several other ways I define progress–ones that I think are much more meaningful than a rainbow of belts.

Benefits of Martial Arts Musings

The Yin and Yang of Exercise and Rest

The following is a guest post by Ali & Destrey, a husband/wife massage duo who both take Tae Kwon Do at NWSMA, along with their son. I asked them to write a piece for the NWSMA blog, because it’s nice not to have to hear myself talk all the time, haha!!

Ali & Destrey run All Mind & Body Massage in Arlington, WA. You can check out All Mind & Body on their Facebook page.

test anxiety
Is your mind/body, exercise/rest balance off?

“Lets explore the importance of balance between exercise and rest.

Exercise is bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical and mental fitness using the mind and body in motion. There are many forms of mental and physical exercise. Looking at physical exercise we may think of a martial art, sports, gardening, playing in the playground, our daily work, or the latest fitness fad. Mental exercises can include doing schoolwork, solving problems, focusing on movement, playing video games.

Rest is a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities. Allowing rest into a busy schedule is important. Rests helps the body and mind to rejuvenate and refocus. Taking five minutes to breath and stretch or eight long hours of good sleep will help provide energy to be healthy. Massage is a great way for the mind and muscles to be rested and repaired. The body repairs and strengthens itself in the time between workouts, and continuous exercise can actually weaken your body and mind.

Finding a balance in life is very important in return it allows us to remain healthy and happy. When life becomes unbalanced we can experience stress or become disconnected to our life. Picture the yin and yang and the harmony of supporting constant change with balance.

Look in to your life and find your balance between exercise and rest. Enjoy getting just enough of both to achieve your harmony.”

Benefits of Martial Arts Instructor Resources Mental Requirements Musings

Building Good Character in Children: NWSMA’s “Character Contract”

If you’ve been at the dojo recently, you may have noticed that a new activity has taken the place of the Summer Bingo Board.

building character in children
NWSMA’s “Character Contract” aims at building character in children.

Many parents hope that martial arts programs will help with building good character in children. Inherently, they can & do.

But I got to thinking. (Nothing new here).

What if there was a way to encourage our students to think critically about their actions, both IN and OUTside of the dojo? Especially outside, where we instructors often don’t know how they act.

And so, the “Character Contract” was born. Read on to find out specifics!

Instructor Resources Musings

3 Reasons Why Martial Arts Partner Drills Work (and what makes them fail)

Today, we’re going to talk a little bit about martial arts partner drills. I’ll identify the important aspects of movement learned via partner drills. Then I’ll talk a bit about what makes partner drills fail.

Arnis partner drills.

Partner drills form the “glue” between static movements and reality. On a continuum, form would be the least realistic. In form, there’s only an imagined opponent.

Partner drills and sparring practice movement against an opponent. They’re pretty realistic. 

Street defense is the most realistic. There are no rules, mats, pads, or equality of size/strength–only survival of the fittest.

(That is not to say that form isn’t important!! Form is the place where you perfect your techniques & movement by maximizing efficiency. Form builds strength, and can be a great HIIT activity in and of itself).

So what *d0* you learn during partner drills?