discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment

Discipline is one of the most difficult words that I know. No, it isn’t a spelling thing! The difficulty comes from all the aspects that it encompasses. All of the little things that are required to truly have discipline.

The importance of goals will not be included here beyond the point that you NEED goals for your life in order to accomplish anything. How big your goals are will dictate how much discipline you need to develop.

U.S. Navy Adm. William H. McCraven in his speech to the University of Texas 2014 graduating class listed 10 Life Lessons from Basic SEAL Training

1. If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.
“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.”

It is amazing how something so small and trivial can start you out the right way. It isn’t about being rewarded by your parents for doing your chores. It is about taking responsibility to get things done. As Aristotle said…aristotle-excellence-quote-1024x555-1024x555

There are dozens of everyday things that help develop discipline. These range from following a bedtime and a wake-up time to regular oil changes in your car. Discipline allows you to build on successful and failed activities. It helps in remembering the lessons from everything that you do.

We-must-all-suffer-one-of-two-things-the-pain-of-discipline-or-the-pain-of-regret-and-disappointment.-1024x520A common example comes from learning any subject. Once you set a goal (earn the next martial arts rank), you must spend the time and effort to learn and perform properly. It is common that students “think” they know their material but fail horribly when tested on it. This is usually from the lack of applying discipline to their training. I use pretests to show students that they aren’t as ready as they think. Once they’ve completed the pretest., I ask them if it was their best performance. Usually, they admit not. My next question becomes “why wasn’t it?” It may take several ranks of repeating this cycle before it sinks in but most eventually recognize that it is discipline that keeps “good enough” from ruining “excellent.”

It is important to utilize discipline in everything you do daily. The benefits of a little discipline changes your whole day just because you know where your car keys are. People also greatly enjoy when you apply discipline to getting things done that you said you would. This is also part of your career. Not completing tasks can lead to unemployment. In your private life, it builds trust and shows respect.

How can you tell if your discipline is lacking? I’ve asked students (in front of their parents) the question “How many times should you be told to do something??” The answer from students is “Once!” How many times did you need to be told to get the last project/chore done?

Good For All

Take a peek at Jesse Encamp’s video about the 2020 Olympic Karate inclusion.


Now, it has been quite a while since Taekwondo was changed from a demonstration sport to a full medal winning event. This was good for Taekwondo in the same way. I think that the inclusion of Karate will benefit Taekwondo schools again, too.

There are still a great many people who don’t recognize there are differences between Taekwondo and Karate. This will bring people into schools of both arts possibly looking for the other. I hope that our industry takes the opportunity here to promote each other!

I have long taken the stance that the different arts and the different schools are not actually competitors for students. Each art appeals to a personality. Those who like to grapple may not like a striking art. They won’t attend striking schools and vice versa. By “playing nice” with other arts, we can make sure that we all have students who are achieving their goals. This goes for schools within the same art that teach different material or aspects of an art. I am not an Olympic Taekwondo person. I don’t care for the sparring and sport aspect. My school could even be labeled more as Korean Karate, than Taekwondo. Now, this doesn’t stop me from referring students to schools, who play nice and have been respectful, when they ask for that version. TMNT2-OutOfTheShadows

Since the new TMNT movie has come out, we may even see an influx from there. All the parents trying to find places for their ninja younglings. It will be common to get calls asking about programs and age requirements. After chatting with the parents and having an idea what they think they want, I won’t hesitate to direct them to schools where I think it’ll match.

A big point here, for those school owners who happen to read my posts, is that I hope that we truly develop our martial arts community more than we do the martial arts industry.

Time is a Thief

“Because life is so brief and time is a thief when you’re undecided.
And like a fistful of sand, it can slip right through your hands.”
(Rod Stewart – “Young Turks”)

Let_Go_Of_FearBeing “undecided” is the same as choosing to not do something. At some point the decision MUST be made to take action. This is a highly promoted concept in personal protection. Choosing to do something to protect yourself has a much greater chance of survival than choosing to do nothing.

Now, timing is a key in choosing when to act! Learning to see the timing comes from training (i.e. practicing to make decisions). One of the ways that martial artists train for this is sparring. If you don’t decide on something to do, you get hit. Your first attempts at deciding what to do could also get you hit but you have now learned what variables go into decision making. This leads to better decisions. Since I live in Minnesota, it is inevitable that I’ll drive on icy roads in the winter. It usually takes a slip or slide or two to remember what to pay attention to after the first snow storm but it doesn’t take long to have the decision making for those situations back in good use.

quote-some-people-find-fault-like-there-is-a-reward-for-it-zig-ziglar-40-61-06The previous reflected physical and tangible things to make have to make decisions about. The problem is when we can’t take our decision making skills and apply them to non-physical and intangible things. How to chase your dreams is a great illustration here. How long have you hesitated in making a decision about what to do? How many opportunities have passed that would have let you achieve everything you wanted? “And like a fistful of sand, it can slip right through your hands.” This can be anything from finding that perfect job posting and not applying for it because “it’s not the right time” or allowing “I don’t know how” to interfere with moving forward.

These hesitations will cause nothing but resentment. It will build negative thoughts and create insecurity. The further a person goes down this path, the more they criticize others. More time is spent complaining about how badly things are going than about how well things have grown and developed. The only way that accomplishments can be made is through deciding to get them done.

Tony_Robbins-Stop_being_afraidFor many years, Tony Robbins has helped motivate people to work for and reach their goals. The idea struck me hard after reading his quote. I recognized the bunch of little things that I’ve been afraid to work on because I couldn’t believe the outcome would be more valuable than what could potentially go wrong. It has left me with more confusion about how to get these things done but that will change as the plan is decided and the work begun. I know that my students have seen some of this occurring but it can’t be helped because I’m not far enough along to have everything smoothed out. It should be seen by them, though, as the journey never ends and the work continues.

If you have enjoyed the posts here, please consider supporting our Kickstarter project, A New Home for White Tiger Martial Arts, with a donation. The project is running through the end of July 2016.

Skilled People

Dont_hire-Skilled-SimonSinekI think that I’ve got a company that has motivated people who have found inspiration in the challenges of my curriculum – official and unofficial. In fact, they can’t get hired into my company without a very long audition that demonstrates their motivation. Their inspiration feeds their motivation to make a wonderful cycle of personal growth. Another quote is to “Hire character. Train skill.” (Peter Schutz) as skill can be taught but character can’t be. I only want people of character to join me in working on these skills.

Yes, I will use this analogy of working for me because my whole brand and success is based upon how my students present themselves in life. The skills that they develop in my martial arts classes are not so much about learning personal protection as they are about learning about themselves.

This is an important distinction. Until recently, the past two years, I hadn’t been presenting my teaching well. The martial arts classes teach a system that has developed over time that focuses on specific techniques taught for a specific purpose (use) with acknowledgement being given to the lineage that created it.

This is not the same as a personal protection program. These focus on violence and how to survive it. They teach things that can keep you safe in an ugly world. My martial arts classes can teach the concepts and, even, some strategies for violence but it isn’t the same thing. The benefit of a martial arts class does come from being able to apply the martial arts principles, strategies and concepts into daily life.

Dont_hire_Skilled-BOOK-SimonSinekThe daily life applications help show these motivated people that there are things bigger than their job to believe in. The students as a group find ways to serve each other and the school, which then leads them to seeing how they can serve within their community (including other special groups that they belong to). I truly believe this as very few people decide to just “quit” our classes. They have life issues that get in the way. Many find their way back but it isn’t as important as them taking these applications with them.

Last year around this time, I received a graduation announcement from a student who hadn’t been in class to five years. It had an extra little handwritten note from both him and his mother asking me to stop during the party. I went without expecting much and learned that he had left class at 13 years old to focus on music and academics. He used the principles and concepts from Taekwondo, which are really the same in all martial arts just with different words, to reach his academic goals. His success had lead him to starting an engineering program.

I also have a student who is gone during the school year as he works on his Bachelor’s degree in physics, which is changed from his original idea of engineering, and returns for the summers. The chaos of life settles for a bit when he gets to train in Taekwondo again. I just don’t think I want to be around when he and my 2nd Dan Haidong Gumdo PhD candidate in Astrophysics have a conversation.

TrainingI have students from a wide range of skills and careers. They all come back and continue training because they see how much it helps their world beyond the physical fitness. I greatly enjoy investing in students. They don’t always see it but their effort and development is also their investment in me.

That Look I Get When

That look I get when I ask students to work on a drill that moves differently than the other drill. Yeah, the one you just gave me…a bit of confusion.

Part of the Haidong Gumdo curriculum are fighting combinations that we do mostly as a movement drill to develop footwork and cut lines. These combination come from a set of gumbub (patterns) that are also required. They are a lot of fun to work on and provide insights into some strategy.

DSC_0865-1024x681The real fun comes when we add a partner to play the opponent (i.e. Bad guy). The designed response for the partner can throw off the movement of the combination. Movement angles change, techniques don’t seem to be on target any longer. Students can have a hard time “seeing” what they’re trying to accomplish. That’s when I get the “what are you talking about?” look or the “there’s no way this will make sense” look.

Once I start discussing the bunhae (application) of the movement, things usually start to brighten up. You can see the lightbulbs turning on. This is one of the faults in martial arts training. There are so many drills done, without the variables included, that the actual techniques and combination become ineffective. Students need to keep reminding themselves that they aren’t just learning physical techniques but, rather, parts of a fight. The dynamics of movement will change the whole drill. Yet, I only have given them one possible outcome variation. There are nearly limitless variations for that encounter due to the number of variables within the encounter. It is the student’s job to start looking for these applications while practicing the required version.

But, to get back to the look I get, it makes me wonder why the thoughts and hesitations come up when given an assignment. It seems to contradict that they came to me in the first place to learn the martial arts. The look from senior students is even more entertaining. After years of training with me, they still aren’t seeing the pattern or progression that is used to get them to the endpoint? That look of doubt (“You are goofy thinking that I can do it that way!”) on their faces always gives me a little smile.

DSC_0145-721x1024All too often, it is forgotten that there is a progression toward learning new techniques and applications. Some are obvious but many are hidden within the drill. If you get too focused on doing only the original drill, then the insights from the different version will be a struggle to find. This is the same for any subject matter. The physical techniques of personal protection and martial arts are easily recognized but there are others. An everyday example is driving. How many people only know two applications for the car – gas or brake? It takes time to see another option – coast. It takes time because it involves more knowledge and developed skill at reading traffic flow and timing for distances.

There is MUCH more in everything that we do. The level of success in any skill or activity is directly related to the development of knowledge and understanding in the subject matter. If you don’t get pushed outside of your comfort zone and knowledge limits, then you will not develop greater understanding. So, the next time your teacher presents something that doesn’t quite make sense, look deeper into the applications and purpose.

If you have enjoyed the posts here, please consider supporting our Kickstarter project, A New Home for White Tiger Martial Arts, with a donation. The project is running through the end of July 2016. Thank you.

What is Leadership?

Leadership-Do_MoreThe idea of gaining rank, position or titles is a big draw. People like rewards and recognition. The problem is that true leadership has nothing to do with any of those.

In fact, I’m old enough to remember people regularly commenting upon military officers coming out of ROTC programs. These officers were very educated but not experienced and often thought they had the best ideas about how to do things. Those who became leaders from this opportunity understood how important their personnel were. The education they received from their sergeants after getting into a company taught them what real leadership was. The movie Heartbreak Ridge has a very good example of this.

Maj. Malcolm A. Powers: I am, sir. Major Malcolm Powers.
Colonel Meyers: Did you lead this assault?
Maj. Malcolm A. Powers: Sir, Lieutenant Ring and Gunnery Sergeant Highway disobeyed a direct order. I told them to wait for support but they went up this hill anyway.
Colonel Meyers: [to Highway] Why?
Highway: We’re Marines, sir. We’re paid to adapt, to improvise.
Lieutenant M.R. Ring: Sir, I gave the order to take this hill.
Maj. Malcolm A. Powers: Ring, this is going to ruin your career.
Colonel Meyers: Are you new to the infantry, Major?
Maj. Malcolm A. Powers: Yes, sir. Just came over from supply.
Colonel Meyers: Were you good at that?
Maj. Malcolm A. Powers: Yes, sir!
Colonel Meyers: Well then, stick to it because you’re a walking cluster fuck as an infantry officer. My men are hard chargers, Major! Lieutenant Ring and Gunny Highway took a handful of young fire pissers, exercised some personal initiative and kicked ass!

These lessons don’t end EVER. The role of a leader has no real boundaries. I’ve chatted with several martial artists who have agreed with me that some of their teachers and peers are called by their title even off the mat BECAUSE of how they live and the continuous lessons they offer (without trying). This is what leadership is actually about. The development of others to surpass your accomplishments and understand more than you do. This ties directly to what I believe tradition is. The continual development of excellence is the tradition! The techniques and methods used only re-enforce the principles but grow and improve over the years. Knowing more doesn’t change the reason (principles) for tradition.

Leadership_continues_afterwardYou should always work to become replaceable. If it can’t survive without you, then too little of the knowledge was passed on. This would be because you really don’t know enough or your were selfish and hadn’t really led anything.

The lessons that you provide as the leader MUST be usable throughout the student’s life! There are specific areas that your teaching is intended for and they need to be shown. This can be seen in how many martial arts schools claim to teach self defense. I have only recently recognized this issue. My Taekwondo does not truly teach personal protection. It has elements that support learning protection applications but it is really about personal development for students to strengthen their confidence and courage and spirit for dealing with daily life. Some of the applications within hyungs (forms) can provide some elementary insight into personal protection but the training doesn’t re-enforce that outcome. We are building leaders who will work in daily life activities (families, community, jobs).

The other areas of development require lessons from those teachers. It is important to seek them out and study. This is true about any interest or passion that you have. here is where a secret piece of leadership fits. You don’t necessarily become a leader in what gave you the skills! Many excellent martial arts teachers that I know only teach part-time. They have small schools and a small student base. The leadership that they provide is within these schools and they create more leaders but their leadership is most noticeable is not within the martial arts.

createLeadersOne example is Dr. Mark Crapo Sensei. He is a high ranking leader within Seidokan Aikido but you probably haven’t heard about him unless you’re part of Seidokan. His leadership has been invaluable to Seidokan but he has lead a far larger entity, Symmetry Global, that is a multi-national company. His leadership has created new leaders who are out supporting their own teams and educating more people. This is because he is a leader and leaders should create more leaders.

I’ve had the fortune to have train with Crapo Sensei and other excellent Seidokan teachers. I have had awesome Song Moo Kwan Taekwondo lessons as well. Currently, I have been able to recruit others to Haidong Gumdo but they were already leaders in their own right. This version of the leadership topic has been in my brain for the past few weeks as the Midwest Haidong Gumdo group promoted students into the yundasha (black belt levels). Where will our next leaders come from? Will they be leading in our schools or other places? I’ll be happy that they are leading because they are all quality students.

The Lone Warrior

I usually change “alone” to “by yourself”. If you can’t enjoy your own time to work on your goals/plans or do nothing, then you will never be able to truly help others.


Since all of the dreams, goals and desires come from within you, you MUST be able to spend time by yourself to work them. The time that you spend alone gives your mind the chance to work through the details and begin to see the path that they will take you on.

My Song Moo Kwan lineage continues one of the founder’s principles yet today. Supreme Grand Master Byung Jick Ro taught “nothing is impossible” (Ha Sa Bul Sung) as part of the principles that create success. This is presented during training, where YOU are the one doing the work and putting in the effort. This principle is to remind you that YOU are the reason you have success.

All of the things that you wish to accomplish are within you! They can be aided by others but you MUST do the work. The support systems that you develop help fill in the blanks in your plans and patch cracked sections, but they are not the energy and power that will make any plan a success.

I will admit that it is truly wonderful to find others with similar dreams and desires. These people help provide some insights and details that may be missing from your plan as they’ve lived through other different experiences than you have. These are the people who become true family.

Now, the flip side of working toward your dreams & goals is taking the appropriate time away from them and the other duties in daily life. Sleep is one of the biggest ways that we do this today. Sleeping is, for some, the only time they spend alone away from everything. Even when we say that we’re taking a break, many still answer emails or check Facebook.

The chemical based depression aside, I know a few people who become depressed when alone. Their fears become larger and take control. They hide within chemicals (drugs, alcohol) to ensure these fears don’t rise too high.


If a goal of training in the martial arts is to develop courage, then it should be applied to every part of your life. Your alone time is the perfect place to work through your fears and to develop the bravery that will allow you to serve others struggling through similar fears. There is so much within the realm of physical personal protection strategies and tactics that fit into personal development as well. The internal struggles can warrant responses nearly as great as the external attacks.


Train physically to help develop mentally to fight the evils outside and inside. Your alone time is where you will set those skills as they apply to all of your dreams & goals. Don’t hesitate, don’t delay, train hard and long! Consider your alone time as part of your training…to help keep you from the insanity.


There are SO many aspects to this thought. When I saw the picture below posted on Alain Buresse’s Warrior’s Edge page, it struck me immediately. The irony of the game below, Go, has very few rules but can take hours, even days, to play.Rules-Eistein


One aspect is that of academia. You can regularly see posts from parents who are disgruntled with school districts and their testing requirements. I agree. There is WAY too much focus on taking tests to provide memorized information that don’t truly score knowledge or intelligence.

Since that is part of the game, though, parents need to help the younglings understand it. The hardest part of playing any game is not knowing the rules. A person who can learn them from the experiences of others will progress more quickly.

This leads nicely to a couple blog posts by Anna Valdiserri. Over the past couple weeks she’s posted these – Rule of Dumb -1 and Rule of Dumb -2. Both of which discuss following the rules and those who won’t. She makes some very good points about stuff you may think are obvious…but no one had said them. The key to figure out here is how you can stay within the rules (honor, integrity) and not get trashed by those who won’t play by them.

Maybe a good development tool is your martial arts (or other) training. A common occurrence during class is asking about which stance should be in that movement. Is that a back stance? Yes, it is. But you had your foot over there (3 inches different from typical)? This kind of exchange happens all the time but has no real bearing on the movement or technique.

Now, some rules take precedence over other rules. Cutting with a sword has several of these. One example comes from Saseong Neri Bagi (big angle downward cuts). When doing a Left (to right) cut, it is rather easy to follow the rule “the sword stops nearly directly your side” as the twist through your torso will allow this as does help having your hands placed on the sword properly.

The struggle comes while trying to do a Right (to left) cut. As the hand placement on the sword affects your reach, the sword doesn’t get directly to the left side. This can cause the student to try still follow the rule of stopping directly to the side (figure 2). The problem with this is that it usually ends up violating a more important rule – “No kinky wrists.” By allowing the hand to turn or twist of the handle or the wrist to bend greatly, the student puts the sword in an awkward position where control is lost. The student following the more important rule of “No Kinky Wrists” (Figure 1) will find that the sword stops pointed about 45 degrees forward but allows proper cutting of targets.CuttingHands-1

Generational Leadership

General Stanley McChrystal discusses the ideas of leadership from his military experience. I think he hits several key points that carry over into the experiences that I’m having as I try to teach martial arts classes. One key point is the idea of generational leadership. The recognition that experiences can be vastly different from one student to another due to age needs to be kept in mind.

Now, I run a school that is different from most in the industry. I don’t have kid’s classes. Those younglings who are of a minimum age are in the regular class and are expected to keep up. Their age is an advantage as they can absorb a lot of information and repeat most of it almost immediately. Their brains aren’t biased by their past experiences and failures. Most believe that they can do anything…until they find something they can’t. This is where the adult students in class become the examples and lead the way. This is kind of an obvious example of generational leadership but it is very basic.

This leadership can take the form of “follow the leader” and younglings can mimic well. The challenge comes from trying to explain and illustrate what they should be doing. When most of the younglings today don’t know who John Wayne was, it can make it tough for some adults to use words for instruction. Then there are the other experiences that may or may not be common. I had one 11 yer old ask me why I kept calling them younglings. I asked if he knew that it came from Star Wars. He said “I do but no one else in class understands that!” So, at the beginning of class, I asked who knew the term and, truly, everyone raised their hands. At this point, a 12 year old asked when they’d get to become Padawans.

Knowing that many of the students are on the geeky side is why I tend to use Star Wars and Star Trek references in class often. The other regular references are from anime, which fits the geeky ones and many of the younger. I’ve been fortunate to not need to get into video game references as the anime stretches my limits and the video game experience is non-existent.

I’ve included General McChrystal’s TED Talk here for your enjoyment. he has some other insights that may show up in future posts.

Rules For Life

KillHouse_RulesThis came across a newsfeed recently. I think it is awesome! They may be a little blunt but they easily fit the rules for life. Taken from a combat setting, they can be applied to the every day World without much adjustment.

There have been many posts about wanting “safe places” and trying to twist situations for their own benefit. One example are those who feel they can claim their opinion as the only correct way and are offended to the point of taking legal action when offended. The mother who can’t believe that her son could ever do anything bad is another example.

Now, I will completely agree that it is very beneficial to have a support system, but…

The more important point is that people need to make sure they are working to their fullest BEFORE calling upon their support system. A few things like a vehicle breakdown or emergency room trip should use the support immediately. Even those are based on the degree of severity. I can’t fix many things on a vehicle but I can change a tire (and the oil) and make sure that those tools are included in the vehicle. If I can’t manage the situation, then I’ll call upon the support system. The recognition that no one is coming to save me is a mindset that can be established in these little incidents to be enabled in more serious situations.

Which brings us to the idea that YOU are responsible for everything. This, to me, clearly means that you must act on everything that happens and be held accountable to everything that you do. When the time comes, do you run toward danger or away from it? This is an extreme example but accurate for a society that has had many active shooter incidents. Have you trained well enough to be helpful is this situation or are you a hindrance? In daily life, this rule fits into things as simple as cleaning your room or taking out the trash. If you see that it needs to be done, do it. If you have to be told, you’re sheeple and not a warrior.

Save those who need to be saved fits simply into any bullying situation. If you, as a warrior, don’t stand with the person being bullied, then you are not a warrior. Be aware of the “educational beat down” (see Rory Miller’s “Facing Violence”), because that is NOT something to get involved with. Those who don’t respond when others are in need, don’t fit the warrior way. If you don’t at least call 911 to report the disabled vehicle, you are not being responsible. I will agree that family safety comes first but not calling to inform of the vehicle and provide mile-marker information is cowardly.

I really don’t encourage killing but this next rule can easily be applied to stopping bullies, reporting disabled vehicles and protecting those who have had “one too many” from possible ugly situations. Standing up with those who need help is as good as killing those who need killing.

Personally, I see “always keep working” in the same light as keep learning, challenge yourself, don’t stop getting better. In an emergency situation, moving from one problem to the next and getting the most accomplished is called triage. This is where all of your training and knowledge is put to the test AFTER he fact. I promote that you make sure that your training will stand up to the test but making sure you have everything you need ready to go and have conducted stress testing to reinforce it.

If you work these rules into daily life, your preparation to handle adversity will increase exponentially. You will probably enjoy life more as being of service to others is important.