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2 Hours of Traditional Martial Arts
[written on 12/10/19]
Cory, a young man who has shared my interest in stick-fighting and machete dueling for over a decade, invited me to observe the martial arts class where he assists as a purple belt. Back in 2013—it seems so long ago—I visited this same class in a different recreation center, then run by Bob Light, who has since retired. The school seems to have discontinued its FMA affiliation, which was a non-contact interpretation.
I was introduced to Glenn Coleman, which I am not naming in the subtitle of this article, as he is surely unaware that I am an evil person and would probably not want to refer his students and their parents to a site which champions barbarism as morally superior to civilization, for instance, assigns women value primarily as political or sexual property and is honest about violence in postmodern America. After observing Glenn for two hours in action, I am of the opinion that what he is doing is more important than all of that.
I was taken to a recreation center in a freshly carved urban flight zones in Baltimore County, was introduced to Glenn by Cory, who is injured from a powerlifting injury and queried him about his art, to which he responded in a concise manner, which I will have to summarize below, as I am not familiar with his speaking.
Tang Soo Do is a Korean art related to Japanese karate, specifically Shotokon, and is the traditional parent art of the sport of taekwondo, in much the same way that Ju Jitsu is the parent art of the sport of Judo. Tang Soo Do, therefore, is a form of physical fitness and self- defense.
As I spend some time coaching men who started their combat arts journey in the kicking arts, this opportunity to view instruction in basic kicking mechanics was of great interest to me. By the end of the class my understanding, as a non-kicker, of how kicking interferes with punching was enhanced, largely due to the fact that Glenn’s class is clearly developmental.
The class on that Tuesday night consisted of a novice man, six novice boys between 8 and 12 years of age, and an intermediate boy of perhaps 12 or 13.
The general class runs from 7:00 PM thru 8:15 PM.
From 7:00 thru 7:20 Cory runs the students through their physical fitness, an underrated portion of Korean arts. These include running, running backwards, side-skipping, walking like a crab, a chimp, an ape, a bear, doing pushups and wall squats and stretches. While the assistant shepherds the class through the paces, the instructor, Glenn, advises the boys on their body mechanics.
A 90 second water break.
From 7:22 to 7:50 Glenn arms his two purple-belts, the giant power lifter and the younger teen, with kick shields and takes one himself and conducts a clinic on the back-leg round kick and the front leg side kick. Observation, and a later brief discussion with Glenn confirmed that management of hip mechanics, as in boxing, seems to be most efficiently taught through foot placement, with references to the knee as a chambering point.
During the three-unit kicking fundamentals section, in which the assistant paired-off with the man and the most physically mature boy, the logic of the Japanese-Korean approach to using empty hand combat disciplines as physical fitness platforms expandable to self-defense and compatible with military discipline, becomes evident. Only two of the boys had normal levels of athleticism, with the other five all challenged in some way. It may be that these challenges are simply due to the postmodern sedentary life of the suburban and urban boy. Glenn is therefore involved in remedial physical education with an expectation of an eventual ability to apply its fitness in the cause of self-defense.
Sure, in practical combatives circles, in which men train to do away with each other, kicking is seen as a highly risky option requiring a higher investment than return for achieving combat-effectiveness. But, watching Glenn’s crisp form and listening to his clear coaching in body mechanics, with a focus on balance, economy of motion and core body strength, it is obvious that the art of kicking offers normal levels of athleticism to those children who don’t vet for high levels of activity in ball sports where such basic body knowledge has traditionally been learned in the modern West.
A 90 second water break.
From 7:53 to 8:15 PM Glenn pairs off his students for self-defense training against the choke. This three-step evolution begins with using leg strength and gross body mechanics to combat a frontal attack on the throat, which is typically the type of attack that will be used against the meek material attending this class. The boys lit up in this segment, cutting some tolerable jokes and really engaging the scenarios, enjoying “uke” bad guy roles as well as practicing defense. At this point things began to look like a traditional youth mentor program for boys. This could have been woodworking or auto-mechanics at this point and the thought that such programs are habitually threatened with female involvement rankled this crackpot soul on the sidelines.
The class ends at 8:15 with tips on self-coaching and solo training at home, which are sorely lacking in many commercial martial arts classes I have observed.
After 8:15 comes the goldmine of the program, that advanced class, attended only by the youth with the purple belt, who here gets his reward for trudging through the basics in the form of one-on-one instruction with the schoolmaster, Glenn, who demonstrates excellent body mechanics and is able to explain the purpose behind every posture and motion. This portion of traditional martial arts instruction, the aspect of artistic apprenticeship is most rewarding for student and teacher and seems to be a proper goal of this program, which in no way reeks of belt-mill politics.
I left with Cory, as the young student and his instructor worked on a form which obviously contained ancient sword mechanics, with one thing upper most in mind; that there re not nearly enough Glenn Coleman’s to go around as our American boys slide into sloth and are increasingly separated from the joy of physical expression by the ease which is our disease.
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