By: Cheri Rasmussen, 8th Gup Yellow Belt (Arlington dojang)

I had the opportunity to attend Grandmaster Kim Soo’s 2006 Seminar held at the Chayon-Ryu Headquarters in Houston, Texas on September 9. I was excited at the prospect of being in the same dojang with so many of the Blackbelts and Masters that I have heard about since becoming a student of Chayon-Ryu.

Grandmaster Kim Soo presented the lecture on sparring, which included the difference between Dojang Sparring and Competition Sparring.

  • Dojang Sparring is a learning experience between friends. It is a time to help each other grow. It can be between any two members of the Dojang, regardless of gender, age, weight, or rank.
  • Competition sparring is a contest between two competitors in the same class, which is determined by age, weight, gender, and rank. The opponents spar for points which are awarded by four corner judges and a head referee. Points are achieved by hitting designated targets on the opponent. Matches are for three minutes and the winner is decided by who was awarded the most points by the end of the match.

Grandmaster Kim Soo also led the students through Sparring Techniques 1-4. He stated that if a student does not know these sparring techniques they should not be sparring. I find this is an area I need to spend more time on.

Grandmaster Kim Soo’s sparring lecture held the most meaning for me because it has been the most difficult for me since joining Chayon-Ryu. The reason is because my previous Dojang was a competitive-style Taekwon-do dojang. We sparred hard and were pushed to our limits. Instead of a learning experience, I felt as if I was fighting for my life. My previous instructors had good intentions and many of the students loved this type of training. But, their method was wrong for me. I got to the point where I dreaded the Monday night sparring class – the mere mention of the word “Sparring” would turn my stomach.

During our “Sparring” classes, I had both bones in my left arm broken and my thumb cracked. My left hip is permanently unstable due to a serious hamstring/groin injury I suffered. I have developed arthritis in both hands, making it impossible for me to make a proper palm-strike or tight fist. I have broken a toe, but broken toes were common and we couldn’t consider them “injuries.” We always had bruises on various parts of our bodies, but they were considered a normal part of our uniform. In jest, we would recite our unofficial motto; “If it isn’t broke or bleeding, we don’t want to hear about it.”

I had gotten to the point where I dreaded sparring so much during my last year of training that I did not attend the sparring class. I really believed I would never spar again and considered leaving Martial Arts altogether.

By the time I joined Chayon-Ryu, I had not sparred in two years. It took many months of coming to class, listening and watching classes here before I became brave enough to participate in sparring again. It took many months before I finally HEARD what Mr. McLain had been saying since day One – “Sparring is a learning experience, help your partner, and listen to how your partner wants to spar. This is a safe environment to freely practice what you have learned in class.” With Mr. McLain’s patience and the Natural Way philosophy I am now starting to be open to sparring and learning proper sparring techniques. My stomach still jumps a little when sparring is mentioned, but it is something that is getting better and better with every class I attend.

It is good to know that a safe-sparring attitude is not confined to the Arlington dojang, but is a well-entrenched philosophy of Grandmaster Kim Soo’s Chayon-Ryu system.

If someone gets a chance to attend a seminar or class with Grandmaster Kim Soo, I urge them to do it. The experience and learning opportunities were terrific. Not only did I get to see the Blackbelts and Masters I have heard so much about, I got to talk and train with them – something I did not expect. The drive to Houston is a small price to pay compared with what is gained from the experience.