Muay Thai Training Videos: Inside Master Toddy’s Cobra Strike

Muay Thai training expert Master Toddy and his son photographed for Black Belt magazine.“Ninety percent of my fighters win using the cobra.”

When a statement like that comes out of the mouth of a man who’s renowned as a trainer of kickboxing and MMA champions — people like Gina Carano, Tito Ortiz, Maurice Smith, Kit Cope and Lisa King, plus the cast of two seasons of the Fight Girls reality-TV series — you can’t help but pay attention. I know I couldn’t. That’s why I asked Master Toddy, the man behind those words, to leave his Las Vegas training center for a day and visit the Black Belt offices for an interview and photo shoot.

As soon as he arrives, I press him for details on the serpent. “Once fighters learn the cobra, they don’t have to think,” he says. “They just let go.”

Intrigued, I ask about its origin, half expecting him to reference some mystical monk in a mountain temple. I’m pleased and relieved when he doesn’t. “When I was in school, I was in a lot of bare-knuckle fights — they were very popular at that time,” says Toddy, who left Thailand 30 years ago for Manchester, England, and eventually the United States. “I thought, if I go bang, bang, bang, I’ll get hurt, as well. So I set out to create a technique that would finish them off faster. It resulted in the cobra.

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“Now, every time one of my fighters competes, I’m in his corner telling him, ‘Get ready for the cobra!’ And then the cobra strikes. The referee knows that he has to come over and pick up the opponent.”

Muay Thai Training: What Is the Cobra Strike?

The technique, I quickly discover, is a rear-hand punch. “You hold it like a cobra,” Toddy says. That means your hand, half open with your palm facing forward, is positioned somewhat forward of your face and a little off to the side.

“It’s coiled like a cobra, open and ready to strike,” he says. “Because it’s always ready, when it’s used, it seems to come from nowhere.”

Toddy starts to demo the technique, his hand hovering and his feet shifting. I must admit that it’s distracting, almost mesmerizing. Without telegraphing, he unleashes the punch, and it comes as a total surprise — even though I know it’s coming.

Muay Thai Training: How the Cobra Strike Works

The cobra, by itself, could be a formidable weapon, but envisioning it as a stand-alone technique is selling it short, Toddy says. To demonstrate, he and his son, Dayel “Diesel” Sitiwatjana — who now fights under the name Toddy Junior — show me how the cobra is combined with kicks in a way that plays on human psychology:

Muay Thai Training Video: Master Toddy’s Cobra Strike — Part 1

Muay Thai Training Video: Master Toddy’s Cobra Strike — Part 2

Muay Thai Training Video: Master Toddy’s Cobra Strike — Part 3

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Source: Black Belt Magazine

Learn UFC Champ Georges St-Pierre’s MMA Training Tactics

What Martial Artists Can Learn From Georges St. Pierre.Even if you’re not a fan of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, by now you’ve probably heard about the ease with which Georges St-Pierre systematically dismantled opponents such as B.J. Penn at the UFC 94. That victory was just part of a five-bout winning streak for the recently retired Canadian karateka and MMA fighter.

Georges St-Pierre won the UFC welterweight championship twice — once in 2006 and again in 2008, as well as the interim title in 2007. In December 2013, St-Pierre vacated the title and decided to take some time off from the sport, though he left the door open for a return.

In case you don’t have enough time to dissect his whole record and go through each fight, we thought we’d give you a breakdown of how he does it and how you can apply the lessons the champ has learned the hard way.

Georges St-Pierre’s Athleticism

Observation: “Georges St-Pierre is a gifted athlete,” says Lito Angeles, author of Fight Night! The Thinking Fan’s Guide to Mixed Martial Arts. “He was blessed with exceptional athleticism.”

Explanation: That includes balance and an abundance of fast-twitch muscle fibers, Lito Angeles says. “You see his superior balance in the way he’s able to thwart takedowns. In his fight with Josh Koscheck, Koscheck tried to take him down. Georges St-Pierre did a catlike movement and managed to land on his feet. It was spectacular. No matter who he’s fighting, he’s always in a good position to do what he wants, whether he’s standing, in a clinch, doing a takedown, neutralizing a takedown or getting to side control. “Fast-twitch muscle fibers give him the capacity for explosive movements.”

Action: “For the most part, you’re born with a certain amount of fast-twitch muscle fibers, but you can enhance what you have to some degree,” Lito Angeles says. “It’s the same for balance: You’re born with it, but it can be honed through hard training in the various disciplines that cover stand-up fighting, the clinch and the ground.”

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GSP’s Work Ethic

Observation: “GSP has a work ethic that’s second to none,” Lito Angeles says. “He trains hard in a number of fighting disciplines with world-class people, and he doesn’t mind if he gets his butt kicked. Then he takes techniques from those disciplines and fits them into the MMA framework.”

Explanation: Everybody he trains with is better than he is at that particular martial art, Lito Angeles says. “For example, he works out with Otis Grant, who’s a world boxing champion. If Georges St-Pierre fought Otis Grant in a boxing match, he’d lose, but if he fought Otis Grant or any of his other training partners in MMA, Georges St-Pierre would win because he combines the skills better.”

Action: Don’t limit your training partners to just people you can beat. Spar with students who have a good chance of beating you, and when they do, learn from them. It’s the only way to get better.

Georges St-Pierre’s Deadly Hands

Observation: Georges St-Pierre has deadly hands.

Explanation: “He trains in boxing, but he doesn’t use conventional boxing in the octagon,” Lito Angeles says. “He modifies it so his stance is a little wider, which enables him to counter takedowns better. And his distancing is a little farther away, which means his opponent doesn’t know if he’s going to punch or kick.”

Action: If you’re into MMA, study conventional boxing but don’t plan on using it as is in competition because you’ll be taken down, Lito Angeles says. “The best place to learn MMA-modified boxing is in an MMA gym. It’s not a bad thing to study conventional boxing because it will teach you the mechanics needed to throw hard punches.

“If you’re more into self-defense than MMA and you had to pick one established system to learn, it should be boxing. I’d modify it to use the palms instead of the fists because the palms have more structural integrity. Anything you can do with your fists, you can do with your palms.”

GSP’s Kicking Techniques

Observation: Georges St-Pierre can kick like a mule.

Explanation: “He has great kicking skills because of his karate background,” Lito Angeles says. “His lead-leg round kick shows a kyokushin and muay Thai influence, but it’s not pure kyokushin or pure muay Thai. He makes his kicks fast and snappy. He doesn’t try to put full power into each one and blast his opponent to death. He uses mostly round kicks, often delivered from the lead leg. They’re very effective even though they were considered worthless in the early days of MMA. In his second fight with Matt Hughes, he TKO’d him with a lead-leg kick.

Action: Study a hard-core kicking art like kyokushin or muay Thai, but remember that the techniques may not work unless you adapt them to MMA. “You have to be able to seamlessly integrate the kicks with punches, takedowns and takedown defense,” Lito Angeles says.

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Georges St-Pierre’s Plan of Attack

Observation: Georges St-Pierre knows knees and elbows.

Explanation: “He uses them mostly on the ground, where he blends them with punches,” Lito Angeles says. “You don’t really see him use knees and elbows while he’s standing or in the clinch. He’s not much of a clinch fighter; he’s more likely to peck at you with strikes or just take you down.”

Action: Even though Georges St-Pierre is sufficiently skilled to avoid having to fight in the clinch, you may not be so fortunate. Work on your clinch-fighting skills in case you’re trapped in that position, Lito Angeles says. Muay Thai is a great place to start.

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Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Techniques

Observation: Georges St-Pierre recognizes the value of Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

Explanation: “He trains with a world-class team in Canada and goes to Brazil to work out with the Gracie Barra team. When he’s on the ground, he doesn’t mind being in his opponent’s guard — he’ll just pound him. That’s when he uses the elbows.”

Action: Learn Brazilian jiu-jitsu now, and if you want to compete in MMA forum, train without a gi.

Georges St-Pierre’s Ground Fighting Style

Observation: Georges St-Pierre has equipped himself with the submissions, escapes and reversals he needs to fight and win on the ground.

Explanation: “However, he hasn’t really had to use them,” Lito Angeles says. “So far, he’s always been dominant on the ground. He’s the one who’s usually on top. But he did use an armbar to submit Hughes in their third fight.”

Action: When it comes to grappling techniques, Lito Angeles says, you should focus on the basics — the armbar, kimura, rear-naked choke and triangle. “Forget about having a trick that no one else has seen. All the holds that are effective are being used. Why do fighters get caught in them? Because they work. There are more tricks when a gi is worn because you have more handles, but MMA is different.”

GSP’s Wrestling Skills

Observation: Georges St-Pierre is a fantastic wrestler — in fact, he trains with the Canadian Olympic Team.

Explanation: “You see both Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling — Greco-Roman in the clinching and freestyle in the takedowns,” Lito Angeles says. “He’s the best takedown artist in MMA right now.”

Action: “Pick a base art according to what you gravitate to, but know that wrestling is generally regarded as the best base because of its training methodologies,” Lito Angeles says. “In addition to developing great balance and teaching you how to execute and counter takedowns, wrestling is easily mixed with techniques from other arts. Most MMA fighters who come from wrestling are able to pick up the necessary striking skills easily. “Unfortunately, there are few wrestling schools for adults. Your best option is to go to a local high school, junior college or university and speak with the wrestling coach. He may not let you practice, but you might be able to hook up with someone with the same interests.”

Georges St-Pierre Mental Strategy

Observation: Georges St-Pierre is a master of the mental game.

Explanation: “He’s proved that he’s mentally strong,” Lito Angeles says. “Even though he lost to Matt Serra and Matt Hughes, he had a winning streak before and after. Either loss could have broken a lesser fighter, but Georges St-Pierre used them to improve himself.”

Action: Part of mental strength comes from the environment you were raised in, Lito Angeles says. “But it definitely can be developed — to a greater extent than physical attributes, even. The best way to do that is through rigorous physical preparation. When I interviewed Georges St-Pierre, I asked him how he strengthens himself before a fight. He said, ‘It’s all in the preparation.’ It’s like studying hard before a test.”

Visualize the Win

Observation: Georges St-Pierre uses visualization to program himself for success.

Explanation: “He pumps himself up with positive thoughts, seeing himself winning and putting himself in difficult situations and getting out of them,” Lito Angeles says.

Action: You can create the same kinds of virtual fights and envision yourself overcoming the odds. “Just accept that you’re a human being who can be caught at any time,” Lito Angeles says. “If that happens, don’t let it set you back.”

How GSP Analyzes His Opponent’s Strategies

Observation Georges St-Pierre strategizes.

Explanation: He studies his opponents, Lito Angeles says. “He tries to figure out his opponent’s strengths and use them against him. Against Koscheck, Georges St-Pierre out-wrestled him. Beating a guy at his best thing can get into his brain.”

Action: If you compete at a level that allows you to know who your next opponent will be, study the way he fights, Angeles says. Against an unknown adversary on the street, think pre-emption. “You have to read the pre-fight indicators and attack first,” Angeles says. “You should always assume that he’s as good or better than you, that he’s carrying a weapon and that he has friends. Strike first. This is how a lesser-skilled person can beat a more-skilled person. It’s where MMA and self-defense part ways. Sport fighting is technically more difficult than street fighting, but street fighting has greater potential consequences.

Source: Black Belt Magazine

History of Judo: USJA President Gary Goltz Discusses How Judo Intersects With Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts

Judo authority Gary Goltz, photographed for Black Belt magazine.In this exclusive Q&A video, USJA president and CEO Gary Goltz talks with Black Belt Executive Editor Robert W. Young about how the history of judo techniques intersect with the history and techniques of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts.

Black Belt: What do judo people think of Brazilian jiu-jitsu? Do you think it’s a subset of judo? Do you think it’s judo for the NHB arena?

USJA President Gary Goltz: Well, if you look at judo historically, we used to have a lot more groundwork prior to ’64, when judo went into the Olympics. We realized that more people want to see the stand-up judo, the action. It’s one of the reasons we now have the blue and the white gi, so you can see the two opponents.

USJA President Gary Goltz Discusses the History of Judo and How It’s Currently Being Impacted By Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts

USJA President Gary Goltz (continued): The rules are, more and more, going toward forcing the players to do stand-up judo as opposed to doing more like wrestling / Brazilian jiu-jitsu-type moves — leg grabs, things of that sort. On the ground, we allow the opponents to do ground work to the point where, if they get into a stalemate — which is pretty common in UFC cage matches — we would tell them to stand back up.

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Black Belt: What does the judo community think of the MMA explosion? Are you seeing good technique or is it just a bunch of guys pounding each other without any real skill?

USJA President Gary Goltz: [Mixed martial arts] has grown with age. Those first UFCs … had some really top judo people in it. I think it immediately established grappling / jujutsu / judo as a really important martial art — particularly those first UFCs where the karate guys tended to get taken to the ground, strangled out, armbarred [and] thrown.

Now I think what you’ve seen is that everyone is cross-training a lot more so that ground-work skills and their ability to escape the guard and continue is much better and the striking has now come back. So I think it shows the importance of knowing both. MMA had a very positive effect on judo. When the Brazilian jiu-jitsu [guys] and [Royce] Gracie first started doing it, judo really came back up right away.



For more information on the U.S. Judo Association (USJA) visit

Source: Black Belt Magazine

Shito-Ryu Karate Trailblazer: Fumio Demura

Shito-ryu karate legend Fumio Demura, as photographed for Black Belt magazine.Ask the average karate practitioner to name the main styles of Japan, and chances are he’ll rattle off shotokan, goju-ryu and wado-ryu with no trouble. But unless he’s really up on his art, there’s a good chance that he’ll stumble over the name of the fourth major style, snap his fingers and ask quizzically, “What’s the name of that other one, again?”

That other style is shito-ryu, and any karate student’s puzzlement about it is somewhat understandable.  Shito-ryu is relatively unknown outside Japan, even though it’s perhaps the most interesting of all the Japanese systems. Shito-ryu is really a combination of several styles. For instance, it adopts the quick, strong moves of shotokan and blends them with the slow, heavy breathing aspects of goju-ryu. Another noteworthy feature of shito-ryu is the emphasis that some of its instructors place on making their students proficient in kobudo (traditional weaponry), including the bo, sai, naginata and nunchaku.

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Probably the biggest reason shito-ryu is still relatively unknown is that until quite recently, few attempts were made to export the style. Certainly, its practitioners haven’t been nearly as aggressive in sending sensei to other countries as have the followers of shotokan.

The results of this stay-at-home policy are apparent: Few martial artists know it abroad, and the other Japanese styles dominate the foreign field. In the United States, shotokan is the most widespread. In Europe, wado-ryu is very strong. Meanwhile, goju-ryu is well-known — in good measure because of the worldwide publicity given to two of its most prominent, and flamboyant, practitioners: the longhaired Gogen “The Cat” Yamaguchi and the barrel-chested Mas Oyama.

In the United States, there’s only one shito-ryu instructor. That’s surprising in view of the fact that America has more karate players by far than any other country outside the Orient, and there’s such a profusion of styles taught here. (Estimates of the number of U.S. karatemen run as high as 50,000.)

A few years ago, we were discussing this point in Black Belt’s offices with Fumio Demura, a muscular fifth dan who’s shito-ryu’s sole representative in the United States. Although little-known abroad, he’s one of the more recognized karateka in Japan. He won the All-Japan Karate Championship in 1961 and serves as his style’s representative in Tokyo, where he operates five dojo. He’s also much in demand to give demonstrations with the bo, sai and other weapons because of his advanced skill.

“I think the big reason why foreigners know so little about shito is that the style is most prominent in the western area of Japan, a good distance away from Tokyo,” Demura said. “Foreigners who come to Japan tend to concentrate in Tokyo, where they are not exposed to the style. In Tokyo, it’s the shotokan and goju styles that are strong, and it’s these styles that visitors usually pick up.”

Demura got to the United States almost by accident. Running true to shito-ryu form, he’d been content to stay in Japan and build up his style in the Tokyo area. But he was temporarily sidetracked by a persuasive American karateka who coaxed the reluctant Demura to cross the Pacific and introduce shito-ryu into the United States.

The American responsible for Demura’s odyssey to the New World is Dan Ivan, a jack-of-all-trades of the martial arts who operates several dojo in Southern California. Ivan holds a first-degree black belt in karate, kendo, judo and aikido. He learned the arts in Japan, having spent half a dozen years there. Ivan accompanied Demura to our offices and explained how he happened to run into the man who’s now head instructor at his schools.

“I had gone to Japan last year to look for another instructor for my dojo,” he said. “My black belt is in shotokan karate, so naturally I was looking for a shotokan man. But everywhere I went, people kept talking about Demura. Finally, when I got to meet him, I was impressed right from the start. I was especially impressed by his fine attitude. I have met some karate men who were excellent technicians but whose attitude left much to be desired.

“But you take Fumio, now, he has a fine outlook. For instance, when a student who’s had some previous karate training comes to the dojo, Demura always asks them what they learned first in karate. Usually, they tell him that they learned stances or exercises or techniques. Then Fumio tells them that the first thing they learn in his dojo is good manners. I consider myself quite fortunate to have gotten Fumio to come to this country to teach in my dojo.”

One of Demura’s first converts to shito-ryu was Ivan. “Fumio’s instructing me, and I hope to take my exam for black belt later this year,” Ivan said.

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Shito-Ryu Karate vs. Japanese Styles

“Actually, all the Japanese and Okinawan systems are similar in many respects,” Demura said. “And surprisingly enough, I find that in the basics, the Chinese systems have much in common with ours. I never had a chance to study Chinese systems before I came to the United States, but this is what I’ve noticed in observing the practitioners of the Chinese arts here.”

But he pointed out that it’s in many of the details that the various karate systems differ. For instance, in some styles, the students fight from a short stance. In others, they fight from a more spread-out stance.

“You can quite often tell a goju man by the way he stands — he will fight from a short stance,” Demura said. “The wado man has a different type of short stance. The shotokan man, on the other hand, will fight from a longer stance. The method of throwing punches might vary a little from system to system, also.”

The shito style is more flexible than the others as far as the fighting stance goes, Demura insisted. Shito-ryu people will fight from both long and short stances, and move back and forth between the two.

Shito-ryu combines many of the hard, fast techniques of shotokan with the slow breathing of goju. These latter techniques, called sanchin, are muscle-building methods based on dynamic tension. In this respect, shito-ryu clearly shows its Okinawan origins, where sanchin techniques have been highly developed.

“My style comes from Okinawa, where there are two great schools,” Demura said. “One is called Higaonna, and the other is Itosu. Higaonna and his student, Chojun Miyagi, established the goju school. From Itosu, there is another style followed by many Okinawans. Itosu has nidan and sandan forms, and goju has punching and breathing forms. My style has both elements.”

Demura stresses two things when instructing his students. One is a strict emphasis on the basics, which he believes are neglected in the United States. “Too many instructors don’t teach what karate is really all about,” he said. “They will just give instructions in punching or kicking or something else. But they don’t teach why a certain punch or kick is good for a certain part of the body.”

This emphasis on developing all parts of the body physically is the second part of Demura’s mission. He’s powerfully developed himself, and he stresses the bodybuilding and health-giving aspects of karate practice.

“You know, when I was in Japan, I once worked for a pharmaceutical firm, and as part of the job, I had to visit many hospitals,” he said. “I have always thought that hospitals and medicine are very helpful for the sick, of course, but I think that good karate exercise and bodybuilding are even more important and beneficial.

“Karate is a really good form of exercise. And it can be done by old as well as young people. A lot of people complain that karate is too much hard work. But each person can vary and control the amount of work he puts in. As a result, even little children and women can take up the art beneficially.

“There’s another thing about karate: You don’t need anyone else to be able to practice it. Football needs other people to help play it. Swimming needs water and a good climate. But in karate, you need nothing outside yourself.”

American Karate

Demura had some interesting things to say about American tournaments. For one thing, he pointed out that Americans compete to a far greater extent than do the Japanese. For instance, in Japan, they don’t run major tournaments in which white belts participate as well as black belts. In Japan, the karate students are expected to have learned their basics thoroughly and be of black-belt status before being allowed to go up against one another. Among other benefits, it saves a lot of wear and tear on the body.

“There are a lot of accidents in American karate tournaments because the basics are not practiced enough,” Demura said. “The contestants don’t have a real grasp of the fundamentals. They practice for maybe six months, and then they go in. But for speed, good timing and the ability to stop kicks and punches, they need basics, basics, basics.”

Demura was insistent on another thing, and that’s the need to provide good judging at tournaments. He agreed with Black Belt’s assessment that most tournament judging in the United States is below par. And he should know what he’s talking about, for he’s a top referee in his own country.

“In the United States, you don’t even have a school for refereeing,” he said. “You don’t have to have a regular school, just an informal one where people can meet perhaps once a week to learn refereeing techniques.

“Then all the people who will be officiating should get together starting, say, six weeks before the tournament so they can familiarize themselves thoroughly with the rules and judging. They must check one another to see how one would call a half point and how another one might call a full point. Then they would have to standardize these things.

“If the tournament is just going to be among people from the same school, then the refereeing is not quite as big a problem as when many different styles are competing. But in the United States, where contestants from so many different karate styles are competing, it is essential that these meetings be set up before the tournament.”

Demura also had some encouraging words to say about karate in America. For one thing, he thinks the level is improving. And having so many styles to learn and choose from can be a big help. But as he pointed out, all the tournaments in the world aren’t going to be that big a help unless the contestants have had a thorough grounding in fundamentals first. This is the area he believes needs the greatest development, and it’s what the man teaches.

To learn more about shito-ryu karate pioneered by Fumio Demura, check out the karate section of our online store!

Source: Black Belt Magazine

Tang Soo Do Self-Defense Moves Video: C.S. Kim and Y.D. Kim Demonstrate an Elbow Break!

Tang Soo Do Self-Defense Moves Video: C.S. Kim and Y.D. Kim Demonstrate an Elbow Break!C.S. Kim wasn’t particularly tough when he was young.

Like millions of other kids around the world and plenty in Songtan, South Korea, he had problems with coordination and self-esteem.

What made C.S. Kim different from his peers is he found a simple solution to his problems: the martial arts.

He started judo and boxing when he was 10. Then he visited a tang soo do school run by Song Ki Kim and joined the next day.

“I loved it,” C.S. Kim said. “We trained two or three hours a day for five days a week.”

When C.S. Kim received his green belt, he thought he knew everything and stopped attending class.

Three months later, he started up again because he missed it. He worried that his master would be angry about his absence, but the old man welcomed the lost sheep back into the fold. “I never quit again,” C.S. Kim said.

C.S. Kim and Y.D. Kim Demonstrate an Elbow Break!

In 1963, C.S. Kim joined the Korean army and became head instructor at Osan Air Base — where he instructed both Korean and U.S. military personnel, including a young Chuck Norris. Learn more about Chuck Norris and his legendary films in our new FREE download: How Chuck Norris Films Seem to
Bend the Course of History

Early Training

Training was tough. “Before my master got a school, we practiced outside in the dirt,” said C.S. Kim, who earned his black belt when he was 12. “If it rained, we couldn’t practice. We didn’t have any equipment, but sometimes we used a rice bag filled with sand as a punching bag.”

C.S. Kim and his classmates spent most of their time doing kicks, punches, forms, one-step sparring and free sparring — especially free sparring. “My master would have 20 people stand up, and each student would spar for five minutes with each person,” he recalled.

Tang Soo Do Self-Defense Moves: Then and Now

The skills C.S. Kim worked to perfect then are identical to the ones he and his instructors teach now. “I don’t believe in changing techniques,” he said. “Modern instructors may create new styles, but what’s going to be around in the future? The traditional martial arts. The world changes every day, but anything traditional should not. People need some stability in life, and traditional martial arts can provide that. As we grow old and die, traditional martial arts like tang soo do can last forever.”

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Bringing a Traditional Martial Art and Its Self-Defense Moves to the World

To help promote traditional tang soo do to a wider audience, C.S. Kim left Korea in 1972. He had an opportunity to relocate to Europe but elected to settle in the United States instead. In 1973 he appeared on his first magazine cover. In 1974 he organized his first tournament, which attracted 700 people. Now based in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, he admitted that his federation’s teaching methods — but not its techniques or self-defense moves — have been modified a little to better deal with students’ busy schedules. Because of school activities and sports, children just can’t invest as much time in their training, he said.

The Positive Effects of Martial Arts Training

“But parents need to remember that martial arts can help academic studies,” C.S. Kim added. “I tell students what my master told me: On one side you have education, and on the other side you have martial arts. It’s the perfect balance.”

For more information about C.S. Kim and his self-defense moves training rooted in tang soo do and karate, visit his official website at

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Source: Black Belt Magazine

Power vs. Speed: The Evolution of Tang Soo Do Fighting

Power vs. Speed: The Evolution of Tang Soo Do FightingSeventh-degree black belt Dominick A. Giacobbe knows a little something about free fighting. The owner and chief instructor of the Tang Soo Karate Academy in Pine Hill, New Jersey, has trained in the Korean art of tang soo do for more than four decades.

During that time, he’s educated more than 1,000 black belts and 40-plus masters, all while finding time to further his own training under some of the finest experts in America, Korea and Japan. Among them are the renowned J.C. Shin and Black Belt Hall of Fame member C.S. Kim (1995 Man of the Year).

Tang soo do legend C.S. Kim shows you the art’s
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Universal Lessons for Effective Self-Defense Moves

From 1968 to 1978, Giacobbe reigned as a free-fighting champion on the East Coast. Fortunately for modern martial artists, he’s still eager to pass on the knowledge and experience that decade of competition gave him.

Some of his more-recent tang soo do contemplations have involved the evolution of the art’s fighting method — from ancient times to the modern era …

The Way It Was Then

The fighting art of tang soo do is believed to have originated 2,000 years ago during Korea’s Three Kingdoms period. Silla, the smallest and least populated region of the peninsula, was under constant attack from the larger and more powerful Paekje and Koguryo kingdoms. After a few centuries, the Silla rulers are believed to have allied themselves with a skilled fighting force created by the Tang-dynasty monarchs of China (618-907). It was then that the tang soo warriors were born. For years, this elite group of combatants trained on the rocky beaches of southern Korea, where they honed themselves into a fierce fighting force.

AGGRESSIVE STRATEGY: Tang soo do expert Dominick Giacobbe (right) sizes up his adversary (1). He then closes the gap, seizes the man’s lead hand and delivers a reverse punch (2). Giving the opponent no time to counter, Giacobbe immediately begins to pivot (3) and follows up with a spinning crescent kick (4).

Their combat system was a combination of a traditional Chinese art known as the “Tang method” and a set of powerful kicks native to Korea. It was during this time that tang soo — the “hand of Tang” — became respected and feared. The fighters garnered a reputation that was so intimidating that as recently as 30 years ago, Korean parents would discipline their children by threatening, “The tang soo man is going to get you!”

To propagate their morality, the tang soo warriors developed the Sesok Ogye, or Five-Point Code. Its tenets were:

  • Show loyalty to one’s king or master.
  • Be obedient to one’s parents and elders.
  • Honor friendships.
  • Never retreat in battle.
  • In killing, choose with sense and honor.

With the Five-Point Code as their philosophy, the warriors went on the offensive and eventually conquered Silla’s neighbors, unifying Korea for the first time. The consolidated dynasty lasted from 668 to 935 — cementing Korean solidarity through the Koryo dynasty (935-1392) and Yi dynasty (1392-1910). During the unification period, tang soo saw its greatest development.

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At the time, the art consisted solely of fighting techniques; there were no forms. The traditional style of combat was swift, aggressive and relentless. Its guiding principle was, Don’t give the opponent an opportunity to attack.

The fighting strategy emphasized the fourth line of the Five-Point Code: Never retreat in battle. Quite simply, practitioners were taught to never move backward in combat, Giacobbe says. Instead, they were instructed to charge at their opponent, attacking with a punch and following up with a series of kicks, forcing the other person to retreat. Soon the adversary was rendered unable to defend or counterattack.The tactic was not unlike that of the elite fighting forces of our era: Overpower the enemy and kill him.

After peace was established, the word do, or “way,” was appended to tang soo. Tang soo do then came to refer to the peaceful pursuit of the warrior arts, and it remains that way to this day. To further drive home the transformation, the fifth line of the code saw the word “killing” replaced by “conflict.” The new term doesn’t refer to only physical confrontations; it also applies to mental, emotional and spiritual battles.

During the Yi dynasty, arts and crafts rose to a high level, and Koreans learned the necessity of protecting their hands and fingers. Consequently, tang soo do evolved into a system that focused 80 percent of its arsenal on leg techniques — especially those that relied on the more powerful and less-likely-to-be-anticipated rear leg.

BODY ROTATION: Dominick Giacobbe (right) faces his opponent (1). When the opponent initiates a roundhouse kick (2), Giacobbe rotates his torso to protect his vulnerable targets and absorb the blow on his arm (3). He continues to turn and locks his sights on the target (4), then unleashes a crescent kick to the head (5).

The Middle Period

Giacobbe’s first experience with traditional tang soo do fighting came around 1970 when as a green belt he received his first opportunity to spar with J.C. Shin, his first instructor at the Burlington, New Jersey, school. Shin used a series of forward-moving punches and kicks, driving Giacobbe backward and leaving him unable to defend himself.

When C.S. Kim came from Korea in 1972 to assist Shin, Giacobbe experienced the traditional fighting method to an even greater degree. A sparring champ in Korea and Japan, Kim displayed an ultra-aggressive style that brought to life the true combat roots of the ancient art.

SPEED AND CONTROL: Modern tang soo do competition requires practitioners to excel at techniques such as the front-leg roundhouse. Dominick Giacobbe (right) squares off with his opponent (1). Before the man can move, Giacobbe chambers his lead leg (2) and executes a kick to the face (3).

From 1972 to 1978, Giacobbe had the opportunity to welcome numerous Korean masters brought to the United States by Shin. Upon arrival, they would first spend time with Shin to learn the language and the business of teaching. Then they would be sent to various locations across the United States to establish their own schools. But while they were in Burlington working out at Shin’s studio, Giacobbe would take advantage of every opportunity to spar with them and pick their brains for fighting secrets.

Shortly thereafter, Shin advised Giacobbe to spend some time in Korea so he could learn more about the art and its traditions. In Korea, the American was immediately impressed with the way the locals blocked attacks without using their hands. Instead, they used body rotation and spins to negate kicks. That facilitated a quicker counterattack because the defender didn’t have to waste any time with hand techniques. Giacobbe also noted that the Koreans favored an aggressive free-sparring style very similar to Kim’s, but of course he was quite used to dealing with it by then.

The Way It Is Now

Because of the popularity of tournaments, modern tang soo do fighting is a “point-conscious” method of sparring. It usually involves standing upright with the hands held in front of the body for blocking purposes. Some 80 percent of the leg techniques used in competition are executed with the front leg because of its speed and control advantages. The extra speed, generated at the expense of power, makes it easier to score. And since tournaments require maximum control — light contact or none at all, in most cases — sacrificing power is not a problem. Furthermore, with front-leg kicks there’s less chance of being disqualified for excessive contact.

NO RETREAT: Standing at medium range (1), the opponent (left) opts to close the distance with a rear-leg front kick, which Dominick Giacobbe stops with an X-block (2). The tang soo do master grabs the kicking leg and pulls (3), bringing the opponent into range for a body punch (4). He follows up with a crescent kick to the head (5).

Tang soo do in the modern era also emphasizes defending and countering. No longer is the traditional attack-only methodology the be-all and end-all of fighting.

But that doesn’t mean tang soo do is no longer relevant for fighting. Giacobbe maintains the old style is more effective for self-defense, partly because of the adage that holds that the best defense is a great offense. Seek out an instructor who teaches it if your primary interest is street defense. But if you’re into competition, or if you’re an instructor who teaches women, children and professionals, you’ll probably want to reduce the risk of injury in class by sticking with the modern method.

The old style of tang soo do served an elite class of warriors who made up an extremely small percentage of the populace. Today, they might be compared with the Navy SEALs or Army Rangers. The majority of Americans don’t want to engage in the type of training the tang soo warriors underwent in preparation for war, and that’s fine because tang soo do is comprehensive enough to offer spiritual, mental and physical health in addition to self-defense suited for the average person.

About the Author:
Nicky DeMatteo is a sixth-degree master who has trained under Dominick Giacobbe for 26 years. For more information about tang soo do, visit

Source: Black Belt Magazine

Richard Ryan: How Speed-Hand Striking Can Give Women an Element of Surprise

Richard Ryan Discusses Speed-Hand Striking -- post on Black Belt magazine website at one of the nation’s leading authorities on self-protection and tactical weapons training, Richard Ryan is a longtime advocate of the scientific approach to self-defense. Richard Ryan is the founder of the Dynamic Combat Method and the co-founder of iCAT (Integrated Combative Arts Training) with Joe Lewis and Walt Lysak Jr.

In this nearly-four-minute mini-seminar video, the reality-based martial arts expert discusses the palm vs. the fist, using speed to one’s advantage and how to open up the chance to escalate a conflict or escape an attacker.

Richard Ryan Goes In-Depth With the Concept of Speed Striking

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Self-Defense Moves for Women: How to Fight Someone
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Is There an “Ultimate” Technique?

“Obviously, every situation is different,” says reality-based martial arts expert Richard Ryan, “so you’re not going to have any one thing that’s gonna generically be able to take care of all sorts of situations. But the possibility that a woman gets accosted by somebody who … thinks that they’re physically superior … that’s a good advantage for her because she can use the element of surprise. [For the element of surprise], we teach what’s called a speed hand.”

What Does the Speed Hand Look Like?

To see the speed hand in action, watch the video above!

In verbally describing the speed-hand technique, Richard Ryan says, “What we do is teach … how to just strike out and catch a person right in the eye/nose area — almost like a pushing action. What that will do … is at least buy one second, one moment to do something. [Once you’ve gotten the speed hand in], run like hell in the other direction.”

Tips for Execution of the Speed Hand

“Head down, knees bent, hands up, try to deflect anything that you can possibly deflect,” Richard Ryan explains, “and, the moment you can, drive your open hand into their facial area and run.”

What’s More Important? Speed or Force?

Richard Ryan explains in-depth and takes the principles behind the speed-hand strike into action in the video above!

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Source: Black Belt Magazine

The Art of Teaching Women’s Self-Defense: Less Is Best

Karate and taekwondo are popular styles for women's self-defense classes.
In an age when the crime rate seems to be climbing out of control, it’s no surprise women are attending self-defense classes in record numbers. Self-defense instructors often assume that participants absorb all the information taught in a course, but the unfortunate reality is that many self-defense class participants are receiving something far more frightening than a confrontation with an assailant; they’re getting a false sense of security.

Keeping in mind that the average woman participating in a self-defense course falls between the ages of 30 and 50 and has a minimal physical-fitness background, instructors take on a tremendous amount of responsibility whenever they attempt to teach hand-to-hand combat skills in such a setting.

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There is, however, a way to teach a self-defense course that’s effective, as well as fun, simple and realistic. I call this method the Five Point System because of the five areas of instruction that need to be covered.


Because many self-defense instructors have an extensive martial arts or combat background, they often lose touch with the viewpoint of their students. Instructors must remain aware that most participants are apprehensive about attending the course. The instructors’ primary goal should be to eliminate the students’ fear by providing them with an easy-to-understand class overview on paper. This should include a class schedule, course format, class-by-class itinerary and workbook. When the participants have been given a clear understanding of what they’ll be taught and have been told what’s expected of them, instructors and students can work together to achieve maximum results.

During the first class, small details can make a big difference. Instructors should provide name tags for the students, allow them to interact with one another and encourage a sense of purpose for them. This is a great time to discuss individual goals. Instructors should be personable and answer any questions participants may have. Women are not there to be impressed by the martial arts, so instructors need to be cautious about being too harsh, too stern or too commanding.


Many self-defense courses are ineffective because the material is taught from a technical, rather than conceptual, point of view. Most students can mimic a technique they learn in class, but if they don’t fully understand the reasoning behind it, they’ll have trouble recalling it exactly if they need to use it.

A more effective method involves teaching basic concepts rather than specific techniques. Obviously, at some point participants must learn techniques, but when they understand the reasoning behind a defense, they can create endless counters rather than the few they practice in class.

Instructors can begin by introducing two basic principles. The first is the principle of the centerline. Participants need to understand that speed, power and focus are most easily attained through the use of the centerline theory.

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The second principle involves rotation, torque and pivoting. Many women have no idea they can double or triple their striking power through body movement. Good self-defense instructors will take the time to show them how a simple rotation can produce maximum force.

Another vital concept is explosiveness. While martial artists are accustomed to yelling during workouts, most self-defense course participants would rather do almost anything than make those noises in a room full of people. Instructors need to take extra time to explain the necessity of the kihap.

Lastly, students need to understand the relationship between their breathing pattern and state of mind. They should practice slow, controlled breathing that will help them stay calm and, therefore, remain more effective in making rational decisions.


By the third class, participants should have a clear understanding of breathing patterns, body mechanics and explosiveness. It’s now appropriate to begin teaching the physical aspects of self-defense. Before instructors begin reviewing techniques with the class, though, they need to point out the most effective targets on the body.

A good teaching aide during this section of the program would be a page in the course manual illustrating the most effective targets on an attacker.


Teaching combative techniques can present the greatest challenge for instructors. To surmount this, a few rules should be followed to ensure students aren’t learning ineffective skills.

The first rule is to keep techniques simple and to the point. The second is to use realistic techniques so the participants don’t develop a false sense of security.

One of the greatest errors for instructors is making the material overly complicated. Many teachers want to show the most impressive techniques of their art rather than the most effective ones. Effective techniques have one word attached to them: basic. Some of the most devastating strikes are by far the easiest to do. Examples include the palm strike, fingertip strike, knuckle strike, knee thrust to the groin and elbow to the chin.

Women attending a self-defense course need to learn that a simple movement, such as a kick to the shin, can produce blinding pain for an attacker. Participants need to be constantly reminded that their goal will never be to stay and fight an attacker, but to divert his attention and get away.

Just as some techniques are appropriate for self-defense courses, others should be avoided. Techniques involving multiple strikes should be discarded. Before instructors teach a multiple-strike series for use in defense, it’s important to remember the emotional circumstances involved in a confrontation. Quite often there’s the element of surprise, and there definitely will be paralyzing fear and loads of anxiety. It’s dangerous to assume that a person with limited self-defense training can fend off an attack; it’s ridiculous to assume that under all that pressure the person can execute multiple strikes in a specific order. It just won’t happen.

When teaching a short-term self-defense course, certain techniques should never be taught, including kicks to the head, wrist locks, armbars, throws and sweeps. Again, while students may be able to perform these moves in a controlled environment, their chances of succeeding under pressure are slim. Instructors need to remember that teaching impressive techniques may be appealing in the classroom, but it could cost students their life in a real confrontation.


Assuming that a self-defense course consists of eight classes, instructors can use the last class to review the many steps people should take to reduce their chances of having to use their physical skills. They include parking in a well-lit area, walking with confidence and being assertive. It’s unlikely any of these tips will be new to the participants. However, repetition is the key to learning and success.

At the completion of the course, award certificates to the participants. The women who attend will be grateful for the acknowledgment of their effort, and the fact that they received a certificate will reinforce the importance of the material they’ve learned.

The methods for teaching dynamic self-defense are the same as for virtually any endeavor: Instructors need to be professional, organized, personable and, above all, patient. Self-defense is the study of reality, and the reality of teaching self-defense is simple: Less is best.

About the Author:
Kelly Muir has been involved in the martial arts as a practitioner and instructor for more than 30 years. In 2012, she was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as Woman of the Year.

Source: Black Belt Magazine

Combat Focus Shooting Expert Rob Pincus Discusses the Not-So-Picture-Perfect Reality of Self-Defense Against a Knife Attack on the Street

You’re out for a walk in the city at night and a man approaches you. Before you know it, he comes at you for a knife attack.

What do you do?

In a martial arts magazine, self-defense experts could suggest a variety of counterattacks — some from the traditional martial arts arena, some from the modern martial arts such as krav maga, and others from the reality-based self-defense world of combatives and the like.

The common element, though, would be a picture-perfect execution. “Assailants” attack when the self-defense instructor tells them to, the photographer directs the angle, and there would probably be the opportunity for a second take — not to mention the in-studio snacks and option for lunch when the shoot wraps.

But what does a not-so-picture-perfect knife-attack scenario look like? Combat Focus Shooting expert Rob Pincus talks about that in his latest video, shot exclusively for

Rob Pincus Discusses Self-Defense Against a Knife Attack Under Pressure in a Dynamic Situation

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Armed with a training gun, Pincus reacts to the approach of his assailant calmly in an attempt to diffuse the potentially lethal situation. As the attack situation escalates, so does the volume of Pincus’ voice as he urges the assailant to “Stop!” and “Stay back!” as they clash in a flurry of advances, retreats, twists and turns. Pincus deflects the attacker’s knife arm outward so as to keep it extended and away from his own torso’s vital organs. This hyperextension throws the attacker slightly off-balance.

While he attempts to regain ground so as to get his knife hand back into the game, Pincus sneaks his right arm under the opponent’s left shoulder and forces that left arm up and over to (a) keep the attacker’s left hand away from the firearm stowed on his belt and (b) open up the attacker’s own vital-organ section and get him into position for the most effective usage of said firearm.

It’s a loud, messy scene. The combatants are all over the place. There is no “take two.” These guys are playing for keeps, and it’s not very photo-friendly. “You can see that in a dynamic environment,” Pincus explains, “it’s much harder to actually make all that look perfect.”

Pincus continues: “And as we know, with any complex motor skills, when you do them at speed and under pressure, they’re going to look sloppy. … The key was keeping [the attacker’s right] arm, using an outside-90, using a forearm technique — kind of a SPEAR System technique — to keep that knife away from my body until I can get pressure and control and then slip my underhook in to a point where I can get set up to duck in.”

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Source: Black Belt Magazine

Leading Firearms Instructor Louis Awerbuck on Every Fighter’s Final Weapon: The Brain

Leading Firearms Instructor Louis Awerbuck on Every Fighter’s Final Weapon: The BrainWhen I attended The Art of Action in 2010, the convention put on by the Bruce Lee Foundation, I thought I recognized the face of a gentleman across the room. He was in the front of the hall, chatting with Linda Lee Cadwell and Shannon Lee. I judged him too important to be a mere attendee, so I scanned the pages of the event program and spotted his name: Louis Awerbuck, one of the world’s premier firearms instructors. As soon as the action let up, I made a beeline for him and introduced myself. When he said he’s always been drawn to Eastern teachings and the philosophy of Bruce Lee, I asked him if he’d care to write a piece for Black Belt. It’s presented below for your enjoyment. It was originally published in the May 2010 issue of Black Belt and was titled “The Final Weapon.” Sadly, Mr. Awerbuck passed away June 24, 2014. — Editor

Mark Twain once said, “I never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Point duly noted. Looking past the wry humor, however, it’s also important to note that there are some small candles of information ignited during an adolescent’s school years that actually help illuminate one’s path in later years.

When I was a young puppy attending high school in the early 1960s, there were no personal computers, and we weren’t allowed to use a slide rule to solve math problems on homework or test papers. Since we were 16-year-olds — and obviously already knew everything about everything — we didn’t understand why our stupid teachers wouldn’t allow the use of auxiliary man-made equipment to augment the human brain. After all, as teenagers, we obviously knew more than our parents, teachers, Einstein and Confucius combined.

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So what does any of the above have to do with the martial arts? Depending on how you view life, nothing or everything.

At school, we were awarded only 20 percent of the total score for the correct answer to a math problem. If you couldn’t demonstrate — step by step and line by line — how you arrived at the correct answer, you received either zero, if the written logic was incorrect, or a proportion of the remaining 80 percent for the section that showed logical deduction. That process not only solved the peek-at-your-neighbor’s-homework cheater problem but also lit a small philosophical candle for the rest of the hungry student’s life.

And once you matured mentally, you realized that Bruce Lee’s “way of no way” beats the cocky teenager’s “why of no why” every time — in every aspect of your remaining time on this planet.

My personal ring-fighting journey was a short-lived series of amateur boxing contests, during which I kissed a lot more canvas than women. The “career” ended immediately after I pole-axed an opponent with a punch to the sternum and thought he was dead when he hit the deck. Again, I’d arrived at the perfect solution to the math problem without knowing anything about kinesthesia, or how current flows directionally through the human body and how to intentionally reverse it with a body punch.

Test score: 20 percent, irrespective of the outcome of the fight.

The unintentional power of the punch — and the ignorance of what had made it so effective — bothered me, and I quit boxing forthwith. Besides, I’d never liked Marquis of Queensbury battle rules in or out of the ring. Rules of engagement should apply to romantically involved couples, not battlefields.

After the initial passage of youth, I fell into a 35-year career of firearms and tactics training, but I’ve always maintained a strong interest in the martial arts for two reasons: The physical aspects and techniques of mano a mano fighting fascinated me, and more important, the psychology of fighting — and, indeed, life itself — seemed to be the major and consistent key to the success of the Great Ones.

That fact was hammered home on two separate occasions spread 40 years apart. The second time was half-a-dozen years ago when I was honored to run a short seminar on pistol training. Among the guest teachers were luminaries like Ted Wong, the pre-eminent practitioner of Jun Fan jeet kune do; Allen Joe, the ageless master of physical conditioning and spiritual health; and Sonny Umpad, the late blade master.

During a break in the training, Mr. Wong strolled over and said, “We’re really not doing anything different.” And he was right. A gun is merely a power-delivery system — no more, no less. A firearm has more long-range capability than a martial artist can deliver, and the striking power is built into the weapon, but the strategy, physical stance, balance and ability to switch gears in midfight are the same for the dedicated trainee. Yes, you can get a lucky shot with a firearm, but a punch-drunk boxer could also drop Manny Pacquiao with a lucky swing.

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Four decades earlier, I’d had my first epiphany. An acquaintance who’d reached third dan in karate was severely beaten in a one-on-one encounter with an uncouth, untrained, middle-aged farmer. Mild-mannered by nature, he was forced into using physical force at a gas station, despite several attempts to avoid the confrontation. When I later asked him what had happened, he humbly — and he was a humble man — said the farmer was “too stupid” to make the “correct” countermoves. The latter caught him with a wild roundhouse swing, ruptured his eardrum and destroyed his balance. End of fight.

Moral of the story? If you train in a dojo with people who are very good at what they do — but are robotlike and predictable in their physical movements, the result of “rules of engagement” — you could very well lose on the street to a physically less competent and untrained opponent. Rule No. 1: Never, ever, ever underestimate your opponent, and psychology is huge.

Over my adult life, I’ve been fascinated by the science of fighting — from Roman boxers to Genghis Khan, from medieval archers to Sun Tzu, from the use of gunpowder by the Chinese to John Wesley Hardin’s gunfighting skills. The one constant is that the good fighters were philosophers first and physical performers second.

Of the best of the best, two names that are familiar to readers of Black Belt are Miyamoto Musashi and Bruce Lee. Although their fields of expertise were different, their mind-sets were the same. They may have been separated in life by centuries, but both were probably the ultimate philosophers of their eras. Extremely deep thinkers, they flew in the face of convention, they were artists and prolific writers, and their true genius came to light basically only after their passing — essentially because they were so far ahead of their time and so far above the average person’s level of thinking. Musashi’s use of two swords and Lee’s evolutionary punching and kicking techniques were so misunderstood by most of their peers that they were acknowledged primarily only in retrospect and hindsight.

“When the legends die, the dreams end; and when the dreams end, there is no more greatness.” — Anonymous

We cannot afford to let the dreams end. We have to start to recognize legends while they’re still around.

During a recent conference in Los Angeles, I was fortunate to once again observe Allen Joe’s seminar on muscle training and breathing techniques. Intrigued, I observed the participants’ faces when he demonstrated eye exercises, wondering how many of them understood what he was getting at. He didn’t elucidate on the subject, stating only that all the body’s muscles must be exercised.

The exercises, of course, are age-old techniques to open up peripheral vision so the swordsman could have full visual on a tri-pronged attack. But Mr. Joe didn’t elaborate — the great ones never do. They rightly expect the student to think for himself, to mentally extrapolate on the master’s words. If you don’t understand why the great Asian warriors practiced calligraphy and horticulture, you probably aren’t ever going to be a true practitioner of the martial arts. Even to only stand in the shadow of men like Bruce Lee, you have to be first and foremost a student of philosophy, and not merely ape their physical movements. Otherwise, you’ll never get the total message.

Most people today — martial arts students or not — are familiar with John Steinbeck’s words from The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights: “The sword is more important than the shield and skill is more important than either. The final weapon is the brain. All else is supplemental.”

Yes, we’ve all heard the words, and we all repeat them. But how many of us actually practice what we preach?

No brain, no gain.

About the Author:
A former member of the South African special forces, Louis Awerbuck was the lead instructor at Yavapai Firearms Academy Ltd. in Prescott Valley, Arizona. He passed away July 24, 2014.

Source: Black Belt Magazine