It's About More Than Belts and Uniforms, Part 1

Hidden amid the glorious combat pyrotechnics that make Bruce Lee's 1973 classic Enter the Dragon such a memorable movie is one scene in which African-American co-star Jim Kelly, on his way to the big martial arts tournament, is stopped and harassed by white policemen. Viewed against the current backdrop of civil unrest gripping American society over police brutality and social injustice, Enter the Dragon's brief foray into issues of race may well be the film's most lasting symbolic image.

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In the realm of empty-hand combat, true ambidexterity is a rare bird. Marvelous Marvin Hagler took great pains to develop facility as both an orthodox fighter and a southpaw, but we could easily see where he stacked his chips when the heat was high.

Seeking ambidexterity is a worthy goal — but one that has "opportunity costs." That is, the time we must put into developing the off-hand (or off-foot for kicking or off-side for grappling) means less time can be invested in moving the competency needle closer to mastery on our good side.

We should always make that cost-to-benefit analysis in our training because there are only so many hours in the day and precious few hours per week we can dedicate to training itself. With actual training time at a premium, do we want so-so returns or better-than-average returns?

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The martial art of "hwalssogi" or traditional Korean archery, has been designated as an intangible cultural heritage by the Cultural Heritage Administration in South Korea. Citing it's frequent appearance in historical literature and culture, the administration said hwalssogi has played a significant role in Korean traditional martial arts.

Though archery became a formal sport known as "gungdo" under the Japanese occupation during the early 20th century, unlike taekwondo which is primarily based on Japanese karate, hwalssogi does appear to have legitimate roots in a traditional Korean art of archery. The bow used is much shorter than the Japanese bow and closer to that used by Mongolian archers.

This blog is about education and learning theory as applied to the martial arts. Learning - and teaching are what we do as martial artists so we should all be invested in improving the learning process. In upcoming blogs I hope to discuss a variety of modern, research-based approaches to learning, but since our arts have been passed on for generations it is important to appreciate and understand the genius of traditional instruction, as well. Today I'd like to briefly discuss a traditional approach to martial arts instruction that has a great deal of relevance for modern students and instructors. This is instruction through the sempai-kohai relationship. This is a topic, of course, can be studied in detail on its own, but as we lay the groundwork for our study of learning theory we'll give a brief review of the particular aspects of the sempai-kohai relationship in martial arts instruction here.
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Tahtib is a little-known stick fighting discipline developed during Egypt's pharaoh period. Its history has seen it used in combat, snubbed by its countrymen, and transformed into a type of folkloric dance, before its re-emergence as a martial art in recent years.

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