I observed a Tae Kwon Do class last night. I have made many changes in my life recently and while most are for the better, I find that I miss martial arts training. I miss the philosophy and the training and the dedication that made me a better person. In coming to that conclusion, I did some research here in Seattle and went to observe a class taught by a 9th dan. This teacher has several schools and what I heard reminded me of you. He taught a variety of martial arts and his literature discussed the martial arts philosophy.
When I entered the class, I suppose I was expecting to find a dojang like yours. Instead, I found the type of dojang you always warned us about. The class started without meditations or warm ups. No one cleaned either before or after class. Students who had just finished class were downstairs talking loudly and laughing while class began upstairs. The class started with the students running in a circle and then they started practicing different footwork while running in the circle. This included an exercise where they were running while crossing their feet in front of each other and landing on the outside edge of each foot. It was obvious many of the students had never before done that exercise, but there was no instruction on how to do it properly.
Once they completed those exercises, they practiced kicking. There was no discussion of the proper way to kick. No one taught the younger belts how to turn their supporting leg so that they would not be injured during a kick. Instead, the instructor set a series of kicks, a jumping front kick, into a high back kick, into a high spinning back kick. All the students, from the lowest gup to the first dans did the kicks. The less experienced students were apparently expected to learn solely from watching the upper belt students. I don't believe I saw a single student, including the black belts, use any type of proper form for their supporting legs. Their kicks were high and pretty, but the students were often off balance and there was no thought given to safety while learning.
There was no discussion about why it is important to balance movements. In fact, I don't believe the school had ever heard of balancing movements. The students were instructed to throw their punches from their shoulders and move their hips for extra impact. There was nothing said about balancing movements with the non-punching arm. There was no instruction about philosophy. While the students stretched, the instructor sat quietly and stretched with them and then told them to stretch farther. It made me miss the times that you would have us sit and stretch and while we were doing so, you would teach us about the history of our art. So many of the things I saw in this class seemed opposed to the philosophy you taught.
When I left, after bowing to the instructor and thanking them for allowing me to observe, I felt sorry for the students for belonging to a school that left out so much of what is important in martial arts. They did not talk about why people should train in martial arts. They did not meditate. Their entire focus was on high, flashy kicks. It also made me feel sorry that I left Chayon-Ryu while I still had an opportunity to learn from you.
Moving to Seattle was the best thing for me. There are many things I love about this area, and I am much happier here. However, I deeply regret that I stopped training when I still lived in Houston and had the opportunity. I allowed personal problems and some unimportant disputes with other students to interfere with what was important - continuing to train. It has taken me a long time to understand that. I will continue to train here on my own with the assistance of your tapes. Please remind your classes how lucky they are to have you and your instructors to train them.
Always your student