Tang Soo Do…Tang Soo Don’t: A black belt’s guide to personal safety

While cleaning up my room, I came across an old issue of my high school newspaper, The Royal, dated March 14, 2008. The issue featured a couple articles on self-defense. Although it’s been four years since its date of publication, the information is still relevant. Since this is my honors capstone project, I thought it would be useful to include these articles simply because they represent the social relevance and overall longevity of the project. Although the self-defense classes have come and passed, these blog entries, this documentation of what went on and general information on self-awareness will remain a permanent fixture online. So, I hope you enjoy these articles. Please note that I have updated these articles to make them timely. Continue reading

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Self-Defense Classes Reflection

Better late than never. Back in November and early December, I hosted a series of self-defense classes. Fortunately for me, this was a trial run, as only a few students attended (for three of the classes, I only had one student present).

Although some would see it as unfortunate that I didn’t have a great turn-out, I looked at it as an opportunity for growth. This was my first experience teaching self-defense outside of my karate school without my instructors to guide me. And I’m happy to say that I did just fine—once I got over my nerves.

My student, a nutrition and dietetics major was such a trooper. More than anything, she proved my hypothesis from my capstone’s plan, that it takes multiple classes and outside work to truly grasp even that basics of self-defense.

One thing I noticed was that it took must more effort to teach a basic block than I’d expected. I always forget that beginners don’t have the coordination to step with one foot while blocking with the opposite hand. It just throws you off. Not only is the stance awkward but so are the motions.

I found myself thinking back to my time as a white belt as well as my time going up the ranks of Tang Soo Do. As I grew older, I learned that mirrors were my best friend, because they never lie to you. So, with that in mind, I led my student to the mirrors in the front of the Aerobics Room and we spent quite a large amount of time focused on our techniques in those mirrors. It helped her become more fluid with her transitions from blocking one side to the other and it helped me see what she saw when she didn’t realize she’d goofed up.

I also noted that it was difficult to teach a class with no pads for kicking or striking. While I learned most of my techniques by pacing up and down the floor, strking the air with my arms and legs, I acknowledge that actually striking a target helps with accuracy.

My student learned some basic self-defense moves to get away from wrist grabs and even chokes, but at the end of our sessions, I made it very clear that she needed to continue practicing if she hoped to use these techniques in real life some day.

In this series of self-defense blog entries, I’m hoping to discuss not only some basic things to keep in mind when it comes to self-defense, because it’s not all about technique. A lot has to do with simply being smart and avoiding dangerous situations altogether.

Challenges of getting started: Teaching Self-Defense

Black Belt Promotion

Each time we are promoted to a new Dan rank, we take a solemn oath to respect the art, to not wield it in a negative fashion and to educate others of its importance.

Teaching self-defense is hard. And I don’t just mean the actual teaching of the seminars. My challenges stem further back, beginning with applying for the event at Seton Hill. It wasn’t like I was jumping through hoops or anything, but I did have to deal with some “cultural” issues.

Before I applied to teach the seminars, I approached those in charge to discuss what I would need going in to make sure the events would be approved in a timely fashion. My biggest fear would be that the event would get approved and then I’d have to produce more documentation ahead of time. Unfortunately for me, I was shot down almost immediately. When asked if I was a certified instructor, I made the mistake of answering: “I am a second degree black belt in the Korean art of Tang Soo Do. While in high school I served as a student instructor.”

My  mistake was that I did not clarify that in the culture of martial arts,  being a black belt is equivalent to being a certified instructor. Although you are only considered a “dedicated beginner” when you receive your first degree, you understand enough about the art to train others. In fact, you are encouraged to share and educate others.

To solve this conundrum, my head instructor, at Harshall Karate Academy, had to sign a certificate listing that I was certified to teach Tang Soo Do and martial arts. He remarked that this was actually beneficial, because in the past, we’d never had a need for such a certificate. Now, we can use the certificate for all of our black belts, which, in turn, adds value to the degree.

As it turned out, the certificate was enough and I was able to register my events for the self-defense seminars. The first one, conducted yesterday, was successful but only reached a small amount of students. Read about it in my next blog 🙂