26 January 2011

Name Suggestions for PRA

In South Africa, ITF dojang (specific ITF Taekwon-Do schools) are clustered together in academies. In other words, an academy is a group of dojang that share a chief instructor and a cultural identity. In turn, academies are affiliated to federations, called Kwan. The federation head, or Kwanjangnim, represents the academies and their dojang at the national governing body, namely the SA-ITF.

As you know, our federation's name is the Soo Shim Kwan. We have one active and one inactive academy. The active one is called the Potchefstroom Regional Academy (PRA). The name was chosen many years back because this academy comprised of dojang in and around the Potchefstroom area. At present the PRA is expanding beyond the Potchefstroom region and so the name has become obsolete. We need a new name that is not area-specific.

The name can be English or Korean. Keep in mind that the name will affect the cultural identity of the academy.

If you have any suggestions for the name change, it would be highly appreciated.
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21 January 2011

South Africa Tour

Vanderbijlpark -- Steel Mill [Image Source[
I'm currently doing my annual visit in South Africa, hence the absence of more regular posts. So far I have only visited one dojang -- the Vaal River Club in Vanderbijlpark -- on Tuesday. I was at least able to also visit with the instructor and other members of the Potchefstroom Club last Saturday night.

Apart from the class on Tuesday that I taught, I haven't done much exercise; however, I have been quite busy with Taekwon-Do stuff. I've been asked to organize a reunion which is proving to be much more difficult than expected, given the constrains of not having my own vehicle and since so many people have 'disappeared'. Progress has also slowed down because I was in an automobile accident three days ago. Thankfully nobody got serious injurious, although we all have some aches and pains. It could have been much worse.

If time and opportunity arise, I will post again while in South Africa. Otherwise my next post will only be in March, after I've returned to Korea again.
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07 January 2011

An Alkaline pH for Improved Performance

Last night during Taekwon-Do training I could feel my body complaining. I felt some tender joints, sensitive tendons and sore muscles. There is nothing strange about some aches and pains, especially considering some strenuous training I did days before. I've been working on my calve muscles, and on Tuesday I did a very deep leg muscle stretching routine. However, the aches I felt last night felt different than the normal pains. I could feel that my tendons around my calves were more inflamed than they ought to be, and my joints were also not too happy.

One obvious culprit is the very cold weather. Even though this is my fourth Korean winter, my body is still not used to this cold. So granted, I do think the weather contributed to some bodily unease.

However, I could immediately relate my body's discomfort to what I had for lunch the day before. On Wednesday I had to go to COSTCO to have a batch of photos printed and decided, since I was there already, to have lunch there. COTSCO has some of the best pizza in Korea, which thankfully does not include such odd Korean pizza toppings as corn and sweet potato paste. With the pizza came a cup of soda. This big lunch of pizza and Fanta is an acidic disaster.

When food are digested they leave behind an “ash” in your body which has a certain pH. Cheese is a prime acid-forming food. Soda, also, contains acid-forming ingredients, such as refined sugar and phosphoric acid.

It is well established that our bodies function optimally with food that leaves an alkaline ash, rather than an acid ash. An acidic system causes inflammation, reduces healing speed and therefore hinders quick recovery. Acid-forming foods also creates little crystals in the joints that is associated with inflamed joints – we usually refer to this as gout. Cancer cells tend to flourish in a more acid environment and the immune system is also weaker in an acidic system. An alkaline system, on the other hand, improves energy transferral (i.e. the body's use of ATP) and so helps with endurance and strength. Recovery time with an alkaline system is also significantly shorter over an acidic system.

My unusual joint pains and overly sensitive tendons, I believe, was caused by a diet of acid-forming foods the day before.

More and more professional and Olympic athletes opt for diets that leans towards alkaline body pH. So what should you do to have a more alkaline body pH? The answer is quite simple. Follow the Health Principles, particularly the dietary points, prescribed by the Soo Shim Kwan.

Drink lots of water. The more toxins we have in our body, the more acidic our body will be. Our body use water to basically dilute its toxin levels, which can then be filtered by the filter organs and eventually excreted as sweat, urine, and even through the lungs. Water is a key instrument in this process and cannot be replaced with other liquids like coffee, sodas, or even juices. In fact, alcohol, coffee, sodas, some tees and some fruit juices are actually acid-forming. (There are some herbal teas that are alkalising, for instance stinging nettle, as well as some juices, like lemon water.)

Regarding food, the most alkalising foods are leafy green vegetables. As a matter of fact, most vegetables leave an alkaline ash. So do some fruits, particularly figs and lemons; however, green (i.e. unripe) fruits, as well as overly ripe fruits, including fermented fruits, tend to cause acid build-up (that's the reason why wine is a chief culprit for causing gout). Oranges, tomatoes and olives are also often found on lists of acid-forming fruits. Some berries, like blueberries, cranberries and prunes, are also acid-forming; however, berries are very high in nutrition and listed as super foods, so it's much better to include them in your diet than worry about how they effect your body's pH.

Foods that tend to cause acid-forming are mainly animal products, particularly meat and hard cheeses. It's much better to get your protein intake from nuts, seeds, certain grains, plain yoghurt and soft cheeses (i.e. cottage cheese). Also avoid refined and processed foods as they are almost all acid-forming; for instance, bread made with white flour (white flour is processed), sugar, corn syrup, glazed foods, tinned foods, etc.

You can see different Alkaline/Acid-food charts here

Mineral supplements that include Cesium, Potassium, Calcium and Magnesium will also improve alkalinity.

In short, a primarily plant-based diet is most beneficial for optimal health. It is for this reason that many top athletes, including such legends as ten time Olympic medallist (eight gold medals) Carl Lewis, are vegan/vegetarian.

Some martial artists, including MMA fighters, have also began to adopt vegan/vegetarian diets, for instance a King of the Cage Lightweight World Champion and Ultimate Fighter 6 (UFC) Champion, Mac Danzi:

I'm not necessarily advocating that you should become completely vegan/vegetarian; however, I am suggesting that a diet with primary emphasis on plant-based foods is most beneficial. A plant-based diet will improve your endurance, strength, recovery time, energy levels, and general health. Few people explain the value in a "green diet" better than Tony Robbins:

One thing I do advocate is to enjoy green smoothies. Green smoothies are a brilliant way to get healthy, alkaline-forming nutrition in your daily diet. I have a green smoothie as part of my breakfast. As a bachelor, I don't always sit down to a well planned balanced meal, so green smoothies are an important part of my health routine.

Making a green smoothie is really simple. Throw a bunch of leafy green vegetables, like spinach, mustard greens, kale, parsley, and the like in a blender. Add a banana or two to sweeten the smoothie. It will also also help the consistency. Also add some liquid: water, juice, plain drinkable yoghurt or soy milk -- I prefer the latter. Be nutritionally creative by adding other super foods to your smoothie; for instance, I frequently add Brussels sprouts to my smoothie or barley green. Other greatly nutritious things you could add, although not alkaline, are blueberries or cranberries (which will make you smoothie brown in colour!) and wheat germ.

02 January 2011

“Instructor,” “Master” and “Grandmaster”: An Explanation of the Titles Used in ITF Taekwon-Do

After my recent post on the three Korean terms (Moosool, Mooye and Moodo) used to describe the combat arts, it reminded me of one of my first submissions for Totally Tae Kwon Do, in which I describe the differences in meaning between "instructor," "master," and "grandmaster" in ITF Taekwon-Do. Since that essay was never actually posted on this blog I decided to do so now, below — expanded with hangeul and hanja. A related essay by Mr John Johnson (an ITF 4th Dan) links Moosool, Mooye and Moodo with Instructor, Master and Grandmaster, and can be read here.

“Instructor,” “Master” and “Grandmaster”: An Explanation of the Titles Used in ITF Taekwon-Do

The above photo was taken on the day I received my fourth degree black belt certificate and officially became a sabeom / 사범. Standing next to me is Master Kim-Hoon.

What does it mean to be a master? In truth, it depends on the style one does. Most Korean styles like Tang Soo Do, Hapkido and WTF Taekwon-Do attribute the English title master to a practitioner with a 4th Dan (4th degree black belt) or higher. The Korean term used is sabeom or sabeomnim (sometimes spelled “sabum” or “sabom”) [사범], which basically means coach or respected coach, respectively. The suffix “-nim” [-님] is an honorific that is added to denote respect.

Depending on the system a 1st to 3rd Dan is considered an assistant instructor, or junior instructor, and a 4th Dan and higher level practitioner is considered a full instructor or master level instructor. In Korean such differences as instructor, master and grandmaster are not made. In Korea all instructors are called sabeomnim [사범님], regardless of their Dan. A special term, kwanjangnim [관장님], is used for instructors that own their own academies.

ITF Taekwon-Do, however, uses different Korean terminology for 1st-3rd Dan instructors, known as boosabeom [부사범], 4th-6th Dan instructors, known as sabeom [사범], 7th-8th Dan masters, known as sahyeon [사현], and lastly 9th Dan grandmasters, known as saseong [사성]. In all cases the suffix “-nim” [-님] can should be attached for added respect.

The terms “sahyeon” and “saseon” were created by the founder of ITF Taekwon-Do, General Choi Hong-Hi. To understand these terms better, including the terms “sabeom” and “boosabeom,” it is useful to look at the Korean root words from which they are formed.

Sabeom, meaning instructor, is made up of two root words, “sa” / 사 / 師 and “beom” / 범 / 範. The first syllable “sa” comes from the term “kyosa” / 교사 / 敎師 which means teacher. The second syllable in sabeom means “model”. The sabeom or coach is therefore a teacher after which the student should model him or herself. In other words, the student should try to emulate the techniques of the instructor.

The prefix “boo-” / 부- in boosabeom literally means assistant. A boosabeom is therefore considered an assistant instructor in ITF Taekwon-Do. This title is used for 1st-3rd Dan practitioners in ITF Taekwon-Do, especially when they teach under a sabeom.

At master’s level (7th-8th Dan) in ITF Taekwon-Do the term sahyeon is used. Again, “sa-” means teacher. The syllable “-hyeon” / -현 / 賢 is related to virtue, wisdom, prudence, or good sense. A wise mother, for instance, is called “hyeonmo.” The implication is that the Taekwon-Do master is not merely a technical teacher, but also a teacher of morality or virtue. Hyeon can also mean “the present” / 現. Understood philosophically, the Taekwon-Do master is a teacher of the moment. This might suggest a Zen understanding where the master teaches their practitioners to “be in the moment” or to bring the principles taught in Taekwon-Do into their everyday lives. While a sabeom could literally mean coach and be restricted to mere physical training, the sahyeon is definitely more than a coach. The sahyeon—master—nurtures both the body and mind of his or her students.

Lastly, the 9th Dan grandmaster is called saseong / 사성. Once again “sa-” means teacher. Seong / 聖, here, means “sage.” A sage is a mentor in spiritual and philosophical topics, with wisdom gained through age and experience. In ITF Taekwon-Do, it is implied that the grandmaster is not merely a technical teacher (body), nor just a moral teacher (mind), but also a teacher of philosophy (spirit); someone that can guide you on your life’s journey and give you insight into the deeper truths in life.

While practically all Korean martial arts use the term “sabeom” to refer to instructors, ITF Taekwon-Do is the only one to use the terms “sahyeon” and “saseong.”* General Choi Hong-Hi created these terms and included them into the ITF system to indicate that Taekwon-Do is not merely a combat sport and Taekwon-Do teachers are not merely sport coaches. The terms “sahyeon” (moral-teacher) and “saseong” (sage-teacher) suggest that Taekwon-Do is an ascetic activity; an activity that ought to lead to moral and intellectual improvement. The idea that Taekwon-Do is a means towards character development places a great responsibility on Taekwon-Do teachers. Hopefully instructors, masters, and grandmasters will live up to the implied responsibility imbedded in their titles.

* It is possible that some Taekwon-Do groups that splintered off from ITF Taekwon-Do may also use these terms.

Totally Tae Kwon Do

In the latest issue of Totally Tae Kwon Do (Issue #23) my essay on the difference between the ITF tenets “perseverance” and “indomitable spirit” based on an earlier post from this blog is featured (p. 27). In a related essay, Master George Vitale describes how the tenets of Taekwon-Do have been a valuable force in his life, in his somewhat autobiographical essay, “Taekwon-Do & Life” (p. 17).

Apart from my submission, this issue of Totally Tae Kwon Do also features another South African submission, with the title “Interview With a Black Belt” (p. 49). Marc Chon Seng is a first degree black belt and speaks about his Taekwon-Do journey in South Africa; he is originally from the Seashells. He especially mentions his instructor Sabeomnim Gerd Hümmel of Bulsaju Kwan (Phoenix Taekwon-Do). Bulsaju Kwan is a sister Kwan of the Soo Shim Kwan as we both originated in the Vaal Triangle. Both Sabeominm Gerd Hümmel and I have as our original instructor Mr Johan Bolton. There was also a time (when I was blue belt) that Sabeomnim Gerd Hümmel was my instructor and I can concur with Marc Chon Seng's praise of him as an excellent instructor.

On this note, I wish all Taekwon-Do practitioners in South Africa, Korea, and around the world a prosperous 2011!