Form | Hyung | Kata
Though their utility is often debated among martial artists, we believe that forms are a fantastic way of developing both the body and the mind. When we practice forms, we do our best to move honestly, efficiently, directly, and powerfully with a sense of purpose. We try to carve away ego and extraneous movement while adhering to the unique tempo and application of power prescribed in each form. Forms develop mental fortitude, cardiovascular fitness, strength, coordination, humility, and a sense of body awareness. Although interpretations of the same forms vary among different practitioners, we apply (to the best of our ability) fundamentals from forms to our movements in other aspects of our training. Traditional tang soo do (karate) forms are very old and some of their original intended applications have been lost. Additionally, some of the original interpretations are very hard to access. Consequently, we consult an expert who has spent years translating some original works to continually develop our forms. We fully expect that when two different people practice the same form they will be expressed differently. It is our hope that the individual practitioner will make the principles and techniques presented in the form suit their particular body type and psychology. Although we see the value of healthy competition, we do not practice forms as a competitive performance art unless a student has a desire to compete. We use them simply as a principle-based training tool.
—We practice forms to learn to concentrate and focus power without the added histrionics. Son Duk-Sung, Chung Do Kwan.
Free Sparring | Dae Ryun | Kumite
Free sparring is an extremely useful activity in karate because it allows one to apply the principles learned from forms and basic drills in a live, unscripted forum. Sparring allows one to be pressure tested, in a safe environment. This kind of mental and physical pressure allows one to better understand their strengths and weaknesses and exposes the practitioner, albeit ever so slightly, to some of the realities of a physical encounter. Additionally, free sparring is a superb method of enhancing cardiovascular fitness, reaction time, strength, timing, distancing, footwork, and it promotes the development of individualized strategies and tactics. Perhaps most importantly, free sparring requires introspection and the development of self-control. Our primary instructor (Todd) has a lot of experience in competition sparring in tang soo do, taekwondo, in open sport karate tournaments, and has also experimented with kickboxing. So, our model for sparring is focused on standup point sparring, and contact is generally moderate to full, but very controlled. When contact is made to a scoring area (anywhere on the face, head or body above the hips) we stop, reset, and continue. We feel this type of sparring is inclusive and safe, but also allows one to be sufficiently challenged. Jamal and Dan have experience in kickboxing, Muay Thai, Enshin karate, Judo, and Jujitsu. When they are present, we work a relaxed and slower-paced full-contact type of sparring that incorporates leg kicks, throws, sweeps, and groundwork. Like forms, sparring should suit the individual. We don’t teach an overly stylized type of sparring geared for competition, nor do we train in anything remotely MMA like. Ultimately, it’s up to the student to decide what type of sparring they would like to do based on their own personal goals. We tailor the training to those meet goals/individual needs.
—Without bringing a training session into focus with free-style fighting, a training session is just an exercise in calisthenics. Son Duk-Son, Chung Do Kwan.
Self-Defense | Ho Sin Sul | Jujitsu
We believe that self-defense is primarily about situational awareness, recognizing the signs of impending violence, and avoiding and deescalating confrontations. Every confrontation results in injury, so the ability to evade and run is important. We teach very basic and simple means of self-defense and do not teach elaborate, choreographed self-defense routines. Violence is explosive. It almost always happens at uncomfortably close distances, most often without warning, and by bigger people who may be armed. Our main strategy is to retreat and call for help. Our tactics vary, but usually involve brief clinches and powerful linear blows, immediate disengagement, and running to safer areas. Many of our self-defense tactics are derived from forms. Jamal Pender is our resident expert in self-defense and is an extremely knowledgeable grappler and is proficient in Muay Thai. We feel that the most practical means of self-defense must involve a fair amount of clinching and grappling. These critical aspects, however, are typically not emphasized in most Korean karate programs. Consequently, Jamal conducts periodic seminars that teach us how to properly clinch, avoid being taken to the ground, and if avoidance fails, how to get out from underneath an attacker. In addition to learning from Jamal, we attend periodic seminars on personal safety hosted by local law enforcement.
–The individual must realize that to defend one’s life means to risk losing it and by accepting such a likelihood, fear will not cause distraction. Richard Chun, Moo Duk Hae.
Synthesis | Benefits | Community
Our approach to karate incorporates forms, sparring, self-defense, history, culture, and philosophy to produce well-rounded traditional martial artists. No, we’re not about to challenge an MMA fighter, boxer, or wrestler. Yes, there are quicker ways to learn more effective combat skills. The benefits of karate, however, are myriad. They include (but are not limited to) increased situational awareness, strength, cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, reaction time, and self-esteem. Karate also provides one with defensive strategies and tactics. Perhaps most importantly, karate decreases stress and anxiety, and according to many, can increase cognitive function. We feel that our approach is safe, rich, and contains enough information for a lifetime of study. At Alexandria Soo Do Kwan, we are a community. We support each other both in the dojang, and in life.
—Karate goes beyond the dojo. Gichin Funakoshi, Shotokai.