31 July 2011

Damian Mavis

Damian Mavis as the main villain in the Thai movie "Hannuman"
Currently hanging out with Damian Mavis, who is a martial artist (ITF Taekwon-Do, Muay Thai, Kyokushin, grappling, BJJ, MMA, Shaolin Kenpo Kung-Fu, and others), actor and stuntman living in Thailand. Some recent projects Mr Mavis worked on included Hangover II, Scorpion King III and The Impossible.

Mr Mavis is the pioneer for ITF Taekwon-Do in Thailand; he opened the first ITF Taekwon-dojang in Thailand in Bangkok 2004. I will be writing a feature of Mr Mavis for a future issue of Totally Tae Kwon Do.

Check out a Muay Thai fight he competed in Thailand some time back.

17 July 2011


I'm currently traveling in South-East Asia: Thailand, Laos and southern China. Therefore my posts will be less regular over the next few weeks.
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12 July 2011


A student in class got a concussion yesterday and had to go to hospital. The interesting thing about it was that no single hit to the head looked that serious. I really do not think that any of them were, in and of themselves, that traumatic, but this just points out the problem with concussions: They do not always occur because of a single big trauma; instead, they could occur because of several small traumas.

So what is a concussion? Basically it is when the brain gets bruised. A knock to the head makes the brain bump against the skull and this causes it to bruise. Every time the knock is repeated, the severity of the bruise increases.

Some concussion symptoms are immediate, for instance getting knocked out, feeling dizzy, seeing stars and / or a ringing in the ears.

Other symptoms often come later for instance:

  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • problems concentrating
  • not remembering what happened
  • slurred speech
  • nausea
  • tiredness
  • loss of balance
  • persistent or increasing headache 
  • a feeling of pressure in the head
  • light sensitivity
  • irritability
  • dilated pupils or pupils of unequal size
Any or all of these symptoms could indicate concussion. A little headache or dizziness is usually not something to worry about, but a persistent or increasing headache, and the addition of any of these other symptoms should be taken seriously and requires medical assessment. 

Unless there is brain swelling, bleeding or other severe problems, the best medicine is merely resting and keeping still. Remember that the severity of a concussion increases with repetition, so do not do any activity that could cause your head to bump or shake. A two weak rest from sport activities (including sparring) is usually required, maybe longer depending on the trauma.

Bruising, including bruising of the brain, i.e. concussion, is common in martial art training. It is part of the risk and often an inevitable part of practicing a contact / combat sport. Concussion could occur accidentally, for instance you running into your opponent's technique or slipping and hitting your head on the floor. Sometimes it is not accidental and either you did not guard / block properly or your opponent purposed to knocked you out, which may or may not be legal in your system. Either way, it comes with the territory. Sparring in the martial arts are often about hitting and getting hit. The main idea is to hit your opponent without being hit yourself. Often easier said than done, but that, after all, is what training is about. I say this not to play down the seriousness of concussions, but to emphasize the reality of what a martial art is intrinsically about. If you decide to participate in a contact / combat sport, then know that there are obviously risks involved.

Read more at Martial Arts and Sport Science.

06 July 2011

Totally Tae Kwon Do

For the latest issue (Issue #29) of Totally Tae Kwon Do I submitted an edited version of my post "Defensive Techniques in ITF Taekwon-Do". You can read it on p.19-21 and features Cory who recently tested for 1st Dan.

Another article I think is the valuable reading is the essay by Mr. Doug Cook about the "Influence of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism in Traditional Taekwondo" (p. 11-13).

Patricia DeArmas' essay on the recent "Taekwon-Do Goodwill Tour" (p. 15-17) by the North Korean ITF Taekwon-Do Team that visited the USA also makes for interesting reading. This is the second such a Goodwill Tour. The first occurred in 2007 and is a focus of a documentary by LUVFilms: Tong-Il: Breaking Boards, Bricks and Borders.

As always, Totally Tae Kwon Do features a variety of interesting articles and this issue is no exceptions. Other topics covered are marketing, nutrition, conditioning, relationships, and pressure point strike pattern application.

03 July 2011

Signs of "Dis-Ease"

Note: This post is not purposed as medical advice. Please consult a health practitioner if you are concerned about your health.

Health is something we emphasise at the Soo Shim Kwan. I believe that the martial arts could be an excellent contributor to one's health as it is an excellent form of exercise. The first point in our charter states that we aim at developing “the whole person--physically, mentally and morally: stressing a healthy lifestyle by means of certain 'Health Principles' and encouraging the virtues reflected in the 'Moral Culture', the 'Student Oath' and 'Tenets of Taekwon-Do'.” We also “encourage responsible training that will ensure active involvement in Taekwon-Do into old age.”

Ultimately, martial arts is about preserving your life; not only from an assailant, but also from the stress of life, including the stress of an unhealthy lifestyle. As [martial] artists our art medium is the human body. It is therefore important to be intimately familiar with the human body in general, but especially with our own bodies. One's body often presents clear signs, indicating its state of health. Becoming familiar with such signs is an important part of being a martial artist.

Following are some signs that can warn you if your body is in a state of “dis-ease”:


Make a habit of taking your pulse. A healthy martial artist's pulse would be below 70 beats per minute when at rest. If you are fit your heart will beat slower, but stronger. A well conditioned athlete may have a pulse rate of around 40-60 beats per minute. A high pulse rate when at rest or an irregular heart beat are not good signs.

(Note that infants and children have a faster pulse rate than adults and does not necessarily indicate an unhealthy condition.)

Blood Pressure

Healthy blood pressure has a systolic pressure under 120 and diastolic blood pressure under 80. If you follow the health recommendations advised in our Health Principles, your blood pressure will generally be well under 120/80, especially if you follow a balanced primarily plant based diet. (Some sources suggest the optimal blood pressure to be 115/76). Too low blood pressure, however, is also not a good sign. If you regularly want to faint when standing up from a reclining or sitting position, you may have too low blood pressure.

Body Odour

Unless you experienced an adrenalin rush or do not wash regularly, you ought not to have a strong body odour. Our skin is one of the main organs for ridding the body of toxins, so if  you have smelly body odour it is likely a sign of a body burdened with toxins. During hard exercise, your sweat ought not to smell too strong or offensive. If your sweat is generally smelly during or after exercise you should seriously consider a detox program.

(Remember also to wash your training uniform regularly, especially after sweating as the moisture could encourage mould and unpleasant odours. While not strictly a health hazard, it does make the training environment quite unpleasant!)

Urine Colour and Smell

When you are healthy your urine will be a pale tan colour. If your urine is a dark colour it usually indicates a system burdened with toxins. You may be dehydrated or your system is fighting off an infection. (Note that some foods and supplements like a Vitamin B-Complex may colour your urine.) When your body is healthy and well hydrated your urine will not have a strong smell. If your urine has a distinctly noticeably and unusually strong smell it is an indication that your kidneys are burdened to rid toxins from your body, that your urine is highly concentrated. Make sure to always drink enough water.


Your body generally use mucous to flush things out of it. Clear mucous could indicate outside stressors like pollen which your body cannot combat because of a weak immune system. Yellow or coloured mucous may indicate that you already have an infection. If you have a mucous discharge, know that your body feels under attack and is trying to rid itself of foreign entities through this emergency avenue. The presence of mucous usually indicates your immune system struggling, so take measures to enhance your immune system. At least increase your consumption of Vitamin C and alkalise your diet.


When your tongue is white and furry, it could indicate that your digestive system is clogged or burdened under unhealthy foods, particularly foods that are too rich or contains too many empty carbs. A clear, pink tongue tends to indicate a healthy digestive system. Read more about "What Your Tongue Is Telling You About Your Health."


If your diet is healthy and your digestive system working properly you ought to go regularly—a meal should pass the body within 24 hours of consumption. The stool should leave the body with not much effort. If this is not the case, it usually indicates a struggling digestive system because of an unhealthy diet. The stool should be an elongated S-shape that slips effortlessly into the water, not hard pellets popping into the water. Help keep your digestive tract healthy by including enough fiber in your diet. You could also add flax seed to your diet. When in moisture, flax seeds produce a gel coating that can lubricate the digestive track.


If you do not sleep well, it is clear that something is wrong. This could either be from psychological stress or physiological unease. If you do not rest well, your whole system will be affected, so it is paramount that you find the cause of your restlessness. About seven hours of sleep is usually considered healthy.


It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. They can also be windows to your body's state of well being. Bloodshot eyes, puffy eyes, the white of the eyes appearing yellow, and dark circles around the eyes are all possible signs of an unhealthy or stressed system. You might not be getting enough rest, your body may be burdened with toxins, your liver or kidneys may not be functioning at optimum, you may have too salty a diet. Clear, bright eyes are considered attractive, in part because they reflect a healthy constitution.


Any swelling in your body is a sign of something being wrong, generally inflammation of some sort.

Joint Aches

Aching joints tend to signal inflammation. There could be many causes; one thing it might indicate is an overly acidic system. Achy joints are a martial artists enemy. Make sure to drink enough water, and try to alkalise your body through a diet rich in leafy greens vegetables and low acid-forming foods.


If you notice any of these signs, know that your body is not at ease—literally or figuratively under attack. Look at your life style and see what could be the probable causes and visit a health practitioner if any symptoms persist.

A healthy life style is part of the discipline of a true martial artist.