It’s been said that there are two kinds of people in the world: astronomers and astronauts. In the past, at least, astronomers would sit quietly at the eyepiece of their telescope and study the universe, while astronauts would hop onto the business end of a rocket and explore the universe.


A similar thing could be said about martial arts publishing. In this industry, there are two kinds of people: writer/editors and the masters they profile. As a writer/editor, I am most definitely a behind-the-scenes sort of guy, one who is perfectly happy to shine a spotlight on the skilled martial artists who are the stars of our world.

That said, it’s nice when something you do gets noticed by someone outside the martial arts industry, when you taste what it might be like to be a star. Case in point …

A few days ago, I Netflixed a movie titled Our Idiot Brother. The main character is a simple-minded but well-meaning man named Ned, played by Paul Rudd. Ned is somewhat of a martial artist. “Big deal,” you’re probably thinking. “The editor of Black Belt watched a comedy in which the main character is a martial artist.” I’m droning on about this because the movie has Ned studying an extremely rare Korean martial art whose name has been inaccurately rendered in English as kun gek do.
Back story: In the 1980s, I lived in Pusan, South Korea, where I taught English conversation to support myself while studying and researching the Korean martial arts. While there, I ran across this particular art and was told I was one of first foreigners to discover it. I wrote a couple of articles about kun gek do, which, as I mentioned, is a horrible transliteration of the hangul characters used to write its name. In my stories, I noted that a much better spelling, one that actually sounds like the word, is gwon gyuk do.
The Idiot Brother tie-in: In the film, a boy named River explains that he’s been practicing a martial art called “kun gek do” (using that pronunciation). He says, “Some moves are just like taekwondo — kicking and chopping. What’s special about it is the guys can also throw and choke.”

Moments later, however, Ned corrects the pronunciation of the boy’s mom, telling her it should be “gwon gyuk do” — which is the more accurate spelling I devised for my write-ups.
Now, as far as I know, my articles are the only ones — in English or Korean — that describe this martial art while noting its two “names.” My humble theory is that one of the writers for Idiot Brother came across one of my articles and decided to include the style in the film, perhaps in an effort to be exotic.

I fully realize that I could be wrong on this. However, I can’t think of a simpler explanation, so I will bow to Occam’s razor and continue to believe that something I wrote three decades ago in a martial arts publication left a minor mark on a major motion picture.
(If any member of the Black Belt universe knows otherwise, please don’t tell me. Ignorance can be bliss. Now, back to my telescope to search for stars!) 

— Robert W. Young,
Editor-in-Chief
Black Belt • MASuccess

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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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