With heavy hearts, we bid farewell to a cherished member of our community, Mike Swope, who, at 55, left us on October 1, 2023, after a motorcycle accident. Beyond a publisher, Mike was a beacon of light, etching an indelible mark on our hearts and the martial arts world.
Mike joined The Study of Taekwondo Facebook group in 2009, becoming an integral part of our community. His passion for martial arts resonated in every post, forging connections that transcended the digital realm.
In 2018, Mike’s talents as a writer and interviewer shone in Totally TaeKwonDo magazine. “An Interview with Sabumnim Colin Wee” showcased not just literary prowess but an understanding of camaraderie among high-level instructors. Little did we know, this marked the start of a beautiful collaboration.
In 2020, our paths crossed again with a manuscript. Entrusting Mike with “Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata” was an investment in a friendship that bloomed into something extraordinary.
Mike’s dedication was awe-inspiring. He saw beyond words, encouraging a rewrite to infuse more of “my voice.” A testament to his commitment, understanding of the interplay between words and illustration, and belief in authentic storytelling.
In March 2023, during a road trip around Dallas for the book launch, we met Mike in person. His warm smile mirrored the online friendship. Mike’s discreet contributions to our seminars showcased his humility and passion for martial arts.
Mike wasn’t just a publisher; he was a friend sharing our joys, challenges, and triumphs. His reviews reflected an authentic voice resonating with readers. His belief in our work fueled motivation during creative ups and downs.
As we grapple with Mike’s void, solace comes in tributes from the community. Phrases like “a stand-up guy” and “a great person who loved TKD” echo sentiments of many whose lives he touched.
Mike’s legacy transcends publishing. His passion for comic books, motorcycles, and sci-fi showcased the depth of his personality.
For condolences or Mike’s obituary, visit Mike Swope’s Obituary. As we navigate life without our friend and publisher, let’s cherish memories, shared wisdom, and the enduring impact of Mike Swope on our lives and the martial arts community.
Bassai Dai opens with a leap into a cross stance, backfist, and an open hand guarding block.
Bypassing an opponent’s lead guard, or oncoming strike, the immediate application we derive from this opening sequence has the technician take control of the opponent’s head and neck. What happens next rather depends on the situation. If absolutely necessary, we manipulate the opponent, crankshafting him around, and then propel his head like a basketball into the floor. Though it will not bounce. Much.
If we are surrounded by multiple opponents, we can instead accelerate the opponent’s head hard laterally into an object or structure, or catapult it straight into opponents who think they’re standing safely out of range.
Variations around the theme are equally brutal and unpleasant – for him.
If you’ve seen this application in my recent book, Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata, we have Hanshi Bruce Clayton to thank for all the fun.
No, this application is not stolen from Hanshi Clayton’s popular book, Shotokan’s Secret: The Hidden Truth Behind Karate’s Fighting Origins. But Dr. Clayton may still be held accountable. Shotokan’s Secret encouraged me to investigate the human condition of those early Karate pioneers, the combat scenarios they prepared for, the purpose of their various kata, and the absolute need for applications to be explosive.
Breaking Through, the title of my book, calls to the translation of Bassai as “breaking down the fortress” or “breaking out of the fortress.” As a spoiler, Shotokan’s Secret hypothesizes that Bassai was a team-based bodyguarding system, and along with several other kata, was central to the extraction of the royal family of Okinawa in times of threat.
Breaking Through is also thus titled because it required a huge shift in perspective on my part and no small effort to crack the secrets hidden in traditional source material.
I believe Breaking Through is the first book of its kind as it’s a book on kata application written by a Taekwondo teacher. Bassai Dai is, of course, a well-known Okinawan pattern, a precursor system to several modern hard-style fighting arts including Japanese Karate and traditional Taekwondo. So more than one lineage lays claim to it in their syllabus.
While modern systems often emphasize the differences between styles, my ongoing research leads me to believe that practitioners prior to the 20th century frequently sought cross training opportunities from other systems. This meant that prior to the 1900s old school practitioners who braved the difficulties and dangers of travel could study a mix of Northern and Southern Shaolin arts, Okinawan Te, Japanese Koryu arts, and precursors of modern Muay Thai.
When South Korean Grandmaster Jhoon Rhee brought his system of training to the Southwest United States in the mid-1950s, what he taught wasn’t yet called Tae Kwon Do. It was Tang Soo Do, a literal translation of Karate as The Way of the China Hand, China Hand being a reference to the original name of Japanese Karate.
Tang Soo Do instructors taught Karate kata like Pyung Ahn 1-5, Tekki 1-3, Bassai Dai and Sho, Jitte, Jion, and Jiin. Grandmaster Rhee only started using the term Tae Kwon Do in 1962, though most Americans would continue to use the terms Karate and Taekwondo interchangeably. Our members then adopted the more modern Tae Kwon Do Chang Hon patterns in 1967 at the behest of General Choi Hong Hi, Founder of Taekwon-do.
Our lineage’s proximity to Japanese and Okinawan arts persisted beyond the conversion to the Chang Hon forms. When I arrived in the United States from Singapore in the early 1990s, my teachers used Chang Hon forms to put us through our paces, but black belts enjoyed an expanded curriculum, which included elements of Okinawan and Japanese patterns, aspects of Ju-Jutsu, and an Okinawan weapons-based system called Kobudo. Such was the training with AKATO, American Karate and Taekwondo Organization.
I had an early affinity for Bassai Dai and was pleased to see the appearance of the kata in Hanshi Clayton’s Shotokan’s Secret. The similarities various Chang Hon patterns shared with Bassai was a plus when I sought to use patterns as the syllabus for my training in 2005.
While I was interested to identify applications from all my patterns, the goal in 2005 was to understand the tactical worth of the traditional source material – to see the world through the eyes of the Karate pioneers. Bassai Dai, woven into the tapestry of our Chung Do Kwan lineage, was the oldest of the patterns I knew and it became a lens for me to peer back through time.
Working with Bassai Dai, we were often able to compare and contrast individual tactical phrases with the more modern forms we knew. We would deconstruct and explore technique sequences using the JDK Method. As one feature, the JDK Method applies tactics to oncoming initiatives from the same side, or from the opposite side. The best applications allow us to apply one technique to receive a strike irrespective of the opponent’s left or right side.
The JDK Method also assumes critical failure somewhere along the sequence. We always assume non-compliance. Such an obstacle forces us to search for solutions from within the pattern to create workarounds. If these workarounds are nowhere to be extrapolated in the form under consideration, we then seek inspiration further abroad, sometimes dredging through soft style concepts for the advantage we seek. This variegated approach to pattern analysis has reaped us huge rewards and led to a depth of understanding which simply had to be shared.
While the book centers on Bassai Dai kata, it isn’t solely a how-to book. I share my journey and growth from being a white belt to becoming a black belt instructor, how I found myself 10,000 miles away from the mothership and on the verge of giving up martial arts altogether. That personal journey is juxtaposed with the challenges of a fixed pattern-based training environment, the various pitfalls or opportunities the modern practitioner may experience on his or her own journey, and various ways to extract the best results from traditional source material. This is the first part of the book.
The book’s value to the Taekwondo community lies in its ability to offer a fresh perspective on traditional, or old school, training material. My fundamental training in hard style Taekwondo does not need reinvention, I myself train new students very similarly to the way I was trained when I first started. The esoteric insight I have since acquired from the likes of Bassai Dai does not shake the foundations of hard style martial arts training nor the basics taught to me by my teachers. In reality, application training as I present in the book fills out that training framework and makes it come alive.
Any talk of a written martial art resource for the Taekwondo community eventually brings up the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-do written by the art’s Founder, General Choi Hong Hi. Undeniably, the Encyclopedia is an excellent resource. It provides amazing information that helps develop and structure a worldwide martial art. To this day, there is still nothing like it. But an over-reliance on any single source of knowledge might not always facilitate one’s progression in the martial art. If practitioners are open to assessing other perspectives while still understanding and enjoying the value the Encyclopedia brings, they are richer for it. The assessment of other perspectives may validate what they already know. Or might, in fact, identify areas they do not know.
Aside from theory and fundamentals, Taekwondo practitioners focus on fast and powerful strikes, often delivered from a distance, and often demonstrating a penchant for head-high techniques or techniques which require a lot of athletic ability. Close-range fighting, trapping, stand-up grappling, and joint manipulation are not equally emphasized in training. This is where Breaking Through offers an edge, as it presents skills that can enhance hard style training.
Such skills are not simply taken from systems like Judo, Jujitsu, or Wing Chun, as is often the case. The applications in Breaking Through are drawn directly from material within the pattern set. Extrapolated, pressure tested, and drilled, they point to the prerequisite knowledge the pioneers of the patterns developed and ensconced in their kata.
I didn’t stop at the boundaries of hard style concepts, either. Hard style techniques involve linear, forceful movements designed to displace and destroy an opponent’s structure. Soft style techniques, on the other hand, emphasize the immobilization and disruption of an opponent’s structure and center of gravity. By being platform agnostic and incorporating the discussion of both hard style and soft style tactical concepts, the analysis of forms comes alive! We then get to cherry pick tactics that work well at specific distances. This is the 21st century after all. If we want to learn certain tactical elements or develop defenses when faced with such opposition, we should have the freedom to do so. Just as the early pioneers traveled in order to broaden their knowledge.
Recently, it was my honor to be invited to present at the American Karate and Taekwondo Organization (AKATO) Annual Seminar in Dallas, Texas. AKATO is the organization with which I started my journey in Traditional Taekwondo. For my seminar, I chose to show skills drawn from those older forms that are part of our Karate and Chung Do Kwan legacy.
However, these aren’t sparring skills to be used in a sport-based martial arts setting. They are incredibly deceptive, subversive, and subtle. The applications include their own self-correcting mechanisms to match the dynamic situations you’d face with a live opponent. And like my first example where the opponent’s head becomes your basketball, all come with a level of shock and awe. Some have called it magic!
The smiles and nods of appreciation from the 130 or so participants became more enthusiastic as the level of discomfort inflicted on my demonstration partner increased. This is one of the reasons I wrote this book in the first place. Black Belts want this kind of information. It might have been informative talking about where the pattern originates, but when we see it for its tactical value, when we learn to shut down an opponent, when we feel the ease at which this happens, when we acquire the ability to account for multiple opponents — demonstration trumps everything!
As I reach the conclusion of the remarkable journey to write and present Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata, my heart swells with immense pride and fulfillment. This book has been a deeply personal endeavour, driven by my passion for martial arts and my need to express a gratitude to my teachers by showing what I have learned based on their teaching. It is a testament to my growth in their system and a testament to the continuing benefits of traditional training.
I hope that Breaking Through serves as a guiding light for practitioners looking to explore the depths of their own training. It is my desire to empower martial artists with a fresh perspective, to bridge the gap between hard style and soft style techniques, to foster a deeper understanding of traditional martial arts training, and to encourage all to “break through” their own barriers in their lifelong quest for self-improvement. May this book be a source of inspiration, a catalyst for growth, and a taste of the exciting possibilities that await us on our martial arts journey.
About: Colin Wee has practiced three martial arts systems over three continents in the past 40 years. Colin was inducted into the Australasian Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2020, and was formerly an Asst National Coach in Archery.
The original version of this article was submitted to and published in Totally Taekwondo Magazine July 2023 Issue 173.
The most rewarding aspect of being a writer in the martial arts niche is the opportunity to deeply connect with fellow practitioners who share my passion. This niche may not be a lucrative market, but the personal motivation behind my work stems from a genuine desire to contribute, inspire, leave a lasting impact, and to express my gratitude to those whom have contributed to my journey. The countless hours invested are fueled by the belief that sharing my insights and experiences can truly resonate with others on a profound level, fostering a sense of community and personal growth. It’s this shared journey and the potential to make a meaningful difference that makes the effort incredibly worthwhile.
Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata is a book written by a Taekwondo instructor that delves into the intricacies of Bassai Dai kata, a traditional martial arts form.
While it seems focused on the one Karate kata, Breaking Through dismantles the boundaries of a stylistic approach to training. The book explores the concept of seeking efficiency, anticipating and circumventing the resistance from opponents, and preferencing modern training methodology to nurture individual practitioners. This shift in perspective expands our ability to extract value from fundamental techniques, and the deciphering of fixed pattern sets from their enduring but sometimes obfuscated method of oral transmission.
Goal Oriented v Process Oriented Thinking: In the context of business, goal-oriented thinking is often advocated, which sets organizations to verbalize specific objectives and work towards achieving them. However, “Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata” suggests that while goals are important, embracing a process-oriented approach can enhance the likelihood of achieving those goals.
By adopting a process-oriented mindset, business executives can clear their minds and focus on the underlying principles, tactics, and actions that contribute to the desired outcomes. Rather than being solely fixated on the goal itself, they recognize the importance of understanding the journey and seek the flexibility involved in reaching their goals.
A process-oriented approach allows executives to take a deep dive into the intricacies of their tactics, look for operational support, and ensure quality interactions. It encourages them to examine the underlying processes, identify potential bottlenecks or areas for improvement, and develop effective systems and practices that support their goals.
This approach also promotes a mindset of continuous improvement and learning. Executives understand that goals need to adapt to evolving circumstances, and being process-oriented allows each of us to make these micro-adjustments accordingly. It enables us to be agile, responsive, and innovative in the face of challenges or unexpected changes.
Furthermore, by embracing process-oriented thinking, executives foster a culture of collaboration and teamwork. They recognize that achieving goals requires the collective effort and commitment of their teams. By focusing on the process and creating an environment that supports it, executives can empower their teams to take ownership, contribute their unique perspectives, and collectively work towards the shared goals.
Broadening Perspectives: A key lesson from the author’s journey is the value of exploring beyond the boundaries of one’s own discipline. Just as martial arts pioneers sought cross-training opportunities from various systems, business executives can benefit from broadening their perspectives and seeking knowledge outside of their immediate field. This openness allows for a more rarefied understanding of the business landscape, enabling executives to make informed decisions and identify new opportunities.
Broadening perspectives for business executives involves actively seeking knowledge, insights, and experiences from diverse fields and disciplines that may not immediately seem related to their own. This includes:
Seeking information from multiple sources: Stay informed about industry trends, competitors’ activities, and emerging technologies. Consider viewpoints from customers, suppliers, employees, and other stakeholders to gain a comprehensive understanding of the business landscape.
Embracing a diverse network: Engage with professionals from different backgrounds, industries, and disciplines. Connect with individuals who offer diverse perspectives to gain exposure to new ideas and alternative approaches.
Encouraging cross-functional collaboration: Foster a culture of collaboration within the organization. Promote interactions and knowledge-sharing across different departments and teams to break down silos, foster innovation, and encourage the exchange of diverse perspectives.
Developing mental flexibility: Challenge assumptions, question established norms, and embrace new ways of thinking. Engage in critical thinking, consider alternative viewpoints, and actively seek feedback and input from others.
Fostering a learning culture: Create an environment that promotes continuous learning and growth. Encourage ongoing education, workshops, and exploration outside immediate expertise to foster curiosity, adaptability, and intellectual growth.
You can go around Obstacles: The concept of “breaking down the fortress” in Bassai Dai kata – a transliteration of its name – serves as a metaphor for breaking through barriers in business. Executives can apply this principle by anticipating resistance or critical failure and proactively seeking ways to circumvent these obstacles. This requires a proactive mindset, tactical thinking, and the ability to adapt swiftly to changing circumstances.
In the context of aligning the vision and objectives of the business plan with operational reports and controls, executives can adopt the following approach:
Regularly revisit and review the business plan: Executives should periodically revisit the overarching vision and objectives outlined in the business plan. This allows them to assess its relevance, make necessary updates, and ensure alignment with the current market conditions and organizational goals.
Ingest updates and feedback: Stay informed about the progress and performance of various operational aspects through regular reports and feedback mechanisms. Actively gather data and insights from different departments and teams to have a comprehensive view of the organization’s operations.
Identify potential points of failure: Analyze the operational reports and controls to identify areas that might be prone to resistance or critical failure. Look for patterns, trends, and potential bottlenecks that could hinder progress towards the defined objectives.
Enable processes to circumvent obstacles: With the identified potential points of failure in mind, executives should develop contingency plans and alternative strategies to circumvent obstacles. This proactive approach involves anticipating challenges and having pre-defined processes in place to address them swiftly and effectively.
Embrace a culture of continual improvement: Encourage a culture of continuous improvement within the organization. When obstacles are encountered, view them as opportunities for growth rather than as failures. Encourage teams to analyze and learn from setbacks, and implement necessary changes to enhance performance.
By adopting this approach, executives can bridge the gap between the vision and objectives of the business plan and the operational reports and controls. They can ensure that strategic goals are consistently evaluated, updated, and aligned with operational realities. This proactive mindset and agile approach enable executives to anticipate and address obstacles, promote resilience, and drive success.
Bring Mental Visualisation with You: Another valuable insight from the book is the emphasis on mental visualization. The author highlights the power of mental rehearsal and visualization for performance improvement in martial arts. Similarly, business executives can utilize mental visualization techniques to enhance their performance in various professional settings. Whether it’s preparing for a high-stakes presentation, envisioning successful negotiations, or visualizing effective leadership, mental visualization can help executives build confidence, focus, and enhance their overall effectiveness.
Here are three takeaways on mental visualization that can help executives enhance their performance; taking the idea of the dojo as a mental space and allowing the transferability on this construct beyond its physical walls:
Creating a mental dojo: Executives can harness the concept of the dojo, not just as a physical training and meditative space but as a mental sanctuary characterized by rituals, discipline, and focus. By cultivating a mental dojo, executives can establish a dedicated space within their minds for deep concentration, reflection, and personal growth. This mental space can serve as a retreat from distractions, allowing executives to engage in purposeful thinking and problem-solving.
Rituals for focus and clarity: Just as martial artists perform rituals before training or competition to clear their minds and center themselves, executives can adopt rituals to enhance their focus and mental clarity in professional settings. These rituals could include practices such as mindful breathing exercises, internal scripting, visualization techniques, or even brief moments of solitude before important meetings or decisions. These rituals help executives establish a state of calm, enhance their ability to make informed decisions, and bring a sense of purpose to their actions.
Practicing for performance: Mental visualization serves as a valuable tool for practicing and refining executive skills. Executives can mentally rehearse challenging scenarios, envisioning themselves successfully overcoming obstacles and demonstrating the desired behaviors. This mental practice helps to reinforce neural pathways, improve muscle memory, and enhance executive abilities. It also provides an opportunity to identify areas for improvement and develop strategies for addressing them.
By embracing the idea of the dojo as a mental space and incorporating its principles and rituals into their professional lives, executives can create a conducive environment for personal and organizational growth. This approach fosters focus, discipline, and clarity of mind, enabling executives to navigate challenges, make sound decisions, and cultivate a high-performance culture within their organizations.
Fundamentals improve with Continuous Learning: The author’s exploration of the historical context and origins of Bassai Dai kata sheds light on the importance of understanding the fundamentals while expanding one’s knowledge. In the business world, executives need to strike a balance between staying grounded in core business fundamentals and continuously seeking new knowledge. By combining a strong foundation with a willingness to explore new perspectives and industry trends, executives can navigate the complexities of the business landscape and make well-informed decisions.
Takeaway: Executives should prioritize a solid understanding of fundamental business concepts, which serve as the foundation for effective decision-making. However, they should also actively pursue new knowledge and insights, drawing from diverse sources and disciplines.
One valuable perspective to consider is Sun Tzu’s Art of War, a renowned strategic treatise. By studying Sun Tzu’s principles and logically comparing them with their existing business fundamentals, executives can gain new insights and approaches to strategy, leadership, and competitive advantage.
This pursuit of new knowledge, coupled with critical thinking and strategic analysis, empowers executives to adapt their business strategies and tactics to changing circumstances. It enables them to make well-informed decisions, seize opportunities, and outmaneuver competitors in the dynamic business landscape.
By embracing both the enduring wisdom of their core business fundamentals and the strategic thinking proposed by Sun Tzu, executives can develop a well-rounded perspective that drives their organizations towards sustainable success.
In conclusion, Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata while not a business book, offers business executives valuable lessons that are analogous to martial arts training. By embracing a process-oriented mindset, broadening perspectives, anticipating and overcoming obstacles, utilizing mental visualization, and balancing fundamentals with continuous learning, executives can unlock their full potential and drive success in their professional endeavors.”
NEW: We are thrilled to announce that The Breaking Through Blog has been recognized as one of Feedspot’s Top 50 Best Martial Arts Blogs on the Internet.
About: Colin Wee has practiced three martial arts systems over three continents in the past 40 years. Recently inducted into the Australasian Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 2020, Colin has a BBA (Hons) from Cox School of Business in Dallas, Texas, and an MBT from University New South Wales.
Introduction: The martial arts world has witnessed a long-standing rivalry between Taekwondo and Karate practitioners. Both disciplines have their unique characteristics and cultural significance. However, beneath the surface of rivalry lies a rich history and shared principles that bind these two martial arts together. In this article, we delve into the historical tensions between Taekwondo and Karate, explore their similarities, and shed light on the significance of a Taekwondo practitioner authoring a book on Karate.
Historical Tensions: The historical tensions between Taekwondo and Karate practitioners can be traced back to the evolution and cultural contexts of these martial arts. Taekwondo, with its roots in classical Karate, has become deeply ingrained in Korean culture and is considered a significant practice in Korea. On the other hand, modern Karate reflects the cultural characteristics and interests of Japan. These associations with cultural heritage and the evolution of the martial arts have sometimes led to a sense of rivalry and competition between the two styles.
Exploring Similarities: Despite the perceived differences, Taekwondo and Karate share a common lineage and underlying principles. Both styles emphasize discipline, respect, and the development of physical and mental strength. They incorporate variously similar techniques, including strikes, kicks, blocks, and forms (kata). By examining the historical connections and shared techniques, practitioners can discover the threads that bind Taekwondo and Karate together.
A Taekwondo Practitioner’s Karate Book: In a fascinating and significant development, this Taekwondo practitioner has recently authored a Karate book titled ‘Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata.’ This remarkable achievement has garnered attention within the martial arts community for its in-depth exploration of a central form practiced across various styles in both the Karate and Taekwondo communities. The author’s ability to delve into the heart of this form, facilitated by his training in Traditional Taekwondo, is a testament to their similarities and his open-mindedness in seeking a deeper understanding of martial arts.
Beyond Superficial Differences: By delving into the source material and history of Taekwondo and Karate, the author of ‘Breaking Through’ has uncovered the profound essence that transcends superficial differences between the two disciplines. This book serves as a bridge, connecting practitioners from both styles and providing valuable insights into the shared heritage and underlying principles that bind them (See Bassai: Transforming Disadvantage into Advantage in Martial Arts and Life). Through this comprehensive exploration, practitioners are encouraged to break free from siloed approaches, access their analytical framework, and gain a holistic perspective that goes beyond the boundaries of any specific martial art, enriching their overall martial arts journey.
The Value of Martial Arts: While Taekwondo and Karate have their unique characteristics and applications, there is great value to be found in any training hall which offers combative sport, self-defense training, and traditional martial arts. Each approach serves different purposes and caters to the goals and aspirations of practitioners. Combative sport offers a platform for competition, physical fitness, and honing skills, while self-defense training equips individuals with practical techniques for real-life situations. Traditional martial arts provide a pathway for personal growth, discipline, and connecting with cultural heritage. The key lies in being clear about what one aims to achieve and aligning the chosen martial art accordingly.
Conclusion: The long-standing rivalry between Taekwondo and Karate practitioners has shaped their relationship throughout history. However, the 21st century presents an opportune time to shift our focus towards supporting individuals, elevating our understanding of the human condition which created this cultural practice, and celebrating the rich historical tapestry of each martial art. The publication of ‘Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata’ serves as a reminder that by embracing diversity and understanding the underlying principles, practitioners can unlock a deeper understanding of martial arts, finding profound value that extends far beyond superficial differences. Let us embrace this new era and celebrate the vibrant and interconnected nature of the martial arts community.
One valuable aspect of martial arts training is the practice of mental visualization. Mental visualization is the process of creating vivid mental images or scenarios in your mind. It involves imagining yourself performing techniques, strategies, or movements with precision and success. While etiquette rules may seem unfamiliar at first, they play a significant role in cultivating a mindset that complements your training and martial readiness, including the practice of mental visualization.
By adhering to etiquette guidelines, you learn to enter the training hall with intention and focus. As you bow upon entering, it serves as a physical and mental cue to leave behind your worldly concerns and distractions. The act of bowing signifies a transition from the outside world to the training space, creating a mental shift that helps you become present and ready for the challenges ahead.
Etiquette also creates an environment of respect and discipline, which is essential for mental visualization. When you enter a training hall with a sense of respect for the space, your instructors, and your fellow students, you create a positive and supportive atmosphere that encourages growth and learning. This mindset allows you to fully engage in mental visualization exercises.
In the training hall, etiquette helps establish a sense of safety and trust. When you know that everyone is following the same rules and guidelines, you can focus your energy on your training without worrying about unnecessary distractions or potential harm. This sense of safety enables you to open up mentally and visualize techniques and movements more effectively.
Furthermore, etiquette prepares you mentally for the training you will receive. The structure and rituals involved in following etiquette provide a framework that allows you to transition from one training phase to another smoothly. Each etiquette practice, such as bowing to the instructor or following specific sequences, helps you prepare your mind for the upcoming training session, and resets you from the previous exercise. Such physical rituals cultivate a mindset of readiness and receptiveness, allowing you to absorb instructions and feedback more effectively.
By practicing mental visualization in conjunction with etiquette, you can enhance your martial arts training in several ways. First, mental visualization allows you to reinforce your ‘muscle memory’ (your mind-body connection) and technique execution. By mentally rehearsing techniques and movements, you strengthen the neural connections associated with those actions, leading to improved physical performance.
Second, mental visualization helps develop focus and concentration. As you create vivid mental images of successful performances, you train your mind to remain focused on the task at hand. This enhanced mental focus can translate to improved performance during actual training or sparring situations.
Third, mental visualization aids in developing strategy and tactical awareness. By visualizing different scenarios and situations, you can explore different strategies, anticipate your opponent’s moves, and plan your own actions effectively. This mental rehearsal allows you to develop a strategic mindset and make more informed decisions during training and martial arts practice.
While etiquette guidelines in the training hall may initially feel unfamiliar, they play a vital role in fostering a mindset that complements your training and prepares you mentally. Mental visualization, complemented by the rituals associated with etiquette, allows you to enter the training space with intention, leave distractions behind, create a safe and supportive environment, and enhance your focus, technique, and strategic thinking. Embracing etiquette and practicing mental visualization can significantly benefit your martial arts journey, both on and off the mat.
Etiquette in the training hall is not meant to make you socially uncomfortable, change who you are, or confuse you on how to behave. Don’t let the extensive etiquette guidelines discourage you. Learn them to understand the lessons they teach.
Arrive early to warm up before class; inform your instructor in advance if you can’t come, disclose any pertinent issues to your instructor which might affect your performance or safety whilst practicing.
Review material from previous classes.
Wear a clean and presentable uniform.
Ensure your feet are clean.
Practice personal hygiene.
Prioritize safety by using controlled techniques, seeking collaborative exchanges with training partners, keeping your fingernails trimmed short, removing jewelry, regularly exercising for strength and flexibility, getting enough sleep, and staying hydrated.
Avoid attendance if you are unwell; do not spread your illness to fellow practitioners.
Greeting Instructors upon Entering the Training Hall: Upon entering the training hall, practitioners should bow first to the highest-ranking instructor present, followed by bowing to each instructor in descending order of rank. When approaching your instructor, use formal greetings such as Mr./Mrs./Ms., their official organizational title, or the appropriate title for their specific martial art lineage (Sahbumnim for Korean arts, Sensei for Japanese arts, and Sifu for Chinese arts). When an instructor addresses you, respond promptly with “sir” or “ma’am,” avoiding informal language. If you don’t know the instructor’s name, use “Sir” or “Ma’am” until you can properly greet them by name.
Bowing Protocol: Bowing is a form of greeting and respect, similar to a handshake. The angle and duration of a bow vary depending on the situation. In our dojang, the general bow is a 30-degree forward bow from the waist, lasting about 3 seconds. During the bow, men keep their hands flat on their sides, while women may place their palms on the front of their thighs. Avoid nodding your head and keep your eyes slightly lowered toward the angle of the bow while maintaining awareness of the person you’re bowing to. If someone from a different culture bows to you in acknowledgment or greeting, it’s customary to return the bow. This may lead to a series of bows, depending on the situation. A 5-degree bow is a simple greeting or acknowledgement, 15 degrees is a common salutation, 30 degrees is a respectful bow to show appreciation, 45 degrees signifies deep respect, extreme gratitude, or an apology, and a 90-degree bow is reserved for ceremonial occasions.
Approaching an Instructor in a Group: If you approach an instructor while in a group, allow the highest-ranking member of your group to initiate the greeting or conversation unless you’re invited by that member or the instructor to speak.
Stepping onto the Training Area: Before stepping onto the mat, place your footwear facing outward and off the mat. Bow before stepping onto the mat.
Regular Class Start: After the regular class starts, it is important to follow the instructions and commands given by the instructor. When the instructor claps his hands to signal the start of class, all students should immediately stop what they are doing and move into a standing formation based on seniority. The highest ranking student will give the commands for the class, as instructed by the instructor.
Formal Class Start: During formal class, the instructor will again clap his hands to gather the attention of all students. At this point, students should stop what they are doing and move into a kneeling formation based on seniority. Assistant instructors will position themselves on the left edge of the room, facing both the instructor and the students. Students will then wait for the commands to bow to the flags or kamidana, bow to the instructor, and bow to the assistant instructors.
To kneel properly, make sure there is a fist width between your knees and cross your right toe over your left. Keep your back upright and rest your palms on your thighs. When bowing, extend your left hand in front of you, followed by your right hand, forming a diamond shape on the floor. Lower your head to about a hand span above your hands. When sitting back up, pull your right hand up first, followed by your left hand.
Recitation of Tenets or Precepts: During the class, there may be a recitation of precepts or tenets led by the instructor or assistants. Pay attention to these recitations and be aware that different schools may have variations in the specific wording.
On Lateness: If you arrive late to class due to circumstances beyond your control, enter the dojang quietly and wait at the edge of the mat. Wait for an instructor to acknowledge you before bowing in and quietly joining the class. Being punctual is important, as habitual tardiness can disrupt the training environment and show disrespect to fellow students.
Talking in Class: While in class, it is important to maintain a focused and serious attitude. Avoid extraneous talking, coaching, or commenting on other students’ techniques, unless it is necessary for safety or constructive feedback. If you have observations or difficulties, discuss them in a respectful manner that does not disrupt the class or interrupt the instructor.
On Having Fun: Remember to enjoy yourself during class, but always work with dedication and effort. Follow the instructions given by your instructor and strive to repeat the techniques as demonstrated, without modifying them unless specifically encouraged to do so.
Following Training Instruction: If you have any concerns about the training, do not request special treatment, challenge opponents, argue with the instructor, or compare different instructors. Instead, communicate with your partner about any safety issues or discuss the matter with the instructor when appropriate. Focus on your own training and support the progress of your fellow students.
Walking Around a Group: When moving around the training area, be respectful and mindful of others. Choose to cross behind people who are practicing, seated, or waiting for instruction. Never cross between the instructor and the students he is teaching, unless you are physically unable to do so. In that case, apologize and cross while holding your right hand in front of you, palm facing left, and lowering your head.
Compliance with General Orders: Compliance with general orders is essential. When asked to move into formation within the dojang, do so quickly without shouting any acknowledgments. Refrain from using language you are not familiar with and avoid swearing. Maintain a respectful and disciplined demeanor at all times.
Begin and End with a Bow: Always begin and end any practice or interaction with a bow. Before engaging in practice with your partner, bow first. When finished, bow to conclude the session. If you are asked to assist the instructor with a demonstration or as a partner during the lesson, approach the instructor, bow, and stand ready for instruction. If the instructor turns away from you, drop to your left knee with your hands folded on your right. When the instructor turns back to you, quickly get up and assume the ready position until told otherwise. Remember to thank the instructor after the demonstration or practice session by bowing.
Working Collaboratively: Throughout the class, maintain a respectful attitude towards your fellow students. Treat everyone with courtesy, regardless of their rank or skill level. If you are working with a partner, always show consideration for their safety and well-being. Avoid excessive force or aggressive behavior during training. Remember that martial arts are not about dominating others but about self-improvement and mutual growth.
Leaving the Training Area: If you need to leave the training area during class for any reason, seek permission from an instructor before doing so, explaining the reason for your exit. If you need to use the restroom or take a break, do so in a timely manner, but try to minimize your absence, and do not disrupt the class on your return. If you are injured, please make sure to inform the instructor and communicate if you require medical attention.
End of Class: At the end of the class, the instructor will again gather everyone’s attention. Follow the instructions given by the instructor for the closing formalities. This may include bowing to the flags or shomen or kamidana, bowing to the head instructor, and bowing to the assistant instructors. Pay attention to the specific commands and sequences and follow them accordingly.
After the class is officially dismissed, it is customary to thank the instructor and the assistant instructors for their guidance. You can do this by approaching them, bowing, and expressing your gratitude. It is also a good practice to show respect to your training partners by acknowledging their efforts and thanking them for their cooperation during the class. Additionally, if you are unable to make the following training session, this is a good time to advise your instructor and apologise for the lack of attendance.
When you return home, wash your uniform, air-dry equipment if needed, and revise your material before your next class.
Visiting External Schools or Seminars: The principles and etiquette discussed here may vary slightly depending on the specific martial art style or school you are training in; it is important to ask ahead about the specific rules and customs of any martial arts school you visit and follow them accordingly. This extends to the insignias you use on your uniform, the grade you display, and the fees you might have to pay on the day. It might also be appropriate to bring a small gift or token of appreciation when visiting a school for the first time. Refrain from taking photos or videos until you have sought permission to do so.
By adhering to the guidelines and etiquette of the class, you will contribute to a positive and respectful training environment. Martial arts training is not only about physical techniques but also about developing discipline, respect, and character. Embrace the opportunity to learn and grow both as a martial artist and as an individual.
Introduction: “Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata” by Colin Wee is a groundbreaking publication that delves into the depths of martial arts philosophy and provides invaluable insights into Bassai Dai Kata. To commemorate this significant milestone, Colin was invited to lead a seminar in conjunction with the American Karate and Taekwondo Organization Annual Seminar and Banquet in Dallas, Texas, bringing together martial arts enthusiasts from near and far. In this blog post, we will take you on a journey through the unforgettable book launch event and the enlightening seminar that left participants inspired and empowered.
Book Launch Event: The book launch of “Breaking Through” was a momentous occasion filled with excitement and anticipation. Martial arts enthusiasts, and other members of AKATO gathered to attend a series of seminars to celebrate the release of this extraordinary publication. Colin shared the profound lessons learned through Bassai Dai Kata, his personal journey, and was on hand to answer questions. Attendees had the opportunity to meet the author, get signed copies of the book, and engage in insightful conversations about martial arts, personal growth, and the power of perseverance.
Seminar Highlights: The AKATO seminar was held at the Richardson YMCA and took place on March 25, 2023. 130 participants and additional guests made up of family and friends had a unique opportunity to delve deeper into the teachings of traditional martial arts systems. Led by Colin and his demonstration partners, the seminar was an immersive experience that combined practical demonstrations, and hands-on training. Participants had the chance to learn and refine their techniques, explore the deeper meanings behind traditional martial art tactics, and gain valuable insights into combative strategies.
The seminar in Dallas, Texas, fostered a supportive and collaborative environment, allowing participants to connect with fellow martial artists and share their experiences. It was a truly enriching experience, as individuals from different backgrounds and skill levels came together to learn, grow, and inspire one another.
Impact and Feedback: The book launch and seminar left a lasting impact on all those who attended. Participants expressed their gratitude for the profound and insightful material shared by Colin, praising the Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata for its comprehensive exploration of traditional martial art tactics and its applications in real-world scenarios. Many highlighted the transformative nature of the seminar, noting how it deepened their understanding of martial arts principles and instilled a sense of empowerment and confidence.
Conclusion: The book launch of “Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata” and the accompanying seminar in Dallas, Texas, brought together a community of martial artists, eager learners, and enthusiasts, united by their passion for personal growth and the pursuit of excellence. The book’s insightful material and the seminar’s immersive experience left a lasting impact on all those in attendance, empowering them to break through barriers and discover hidden potential.
We are overjoyed to share a momentous achievement with our readers – the captivating cover artwork from Colin Wee’s book, “Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata,” has been chosen to grace the cover of Totally Taekwondo Magazine in the May 2023 Issue 171 edition (see TotallyTKD on FB).
The Honored Cover Feature: Being chosen as the cover artwork for Totally Taekwondo Magazine is a prestigious honor. The cover artwork shows a current day practitioner performing a modern technique, with a backdrop of Shuri castle emerging from the mists of time. We are grateful to Totally Taekwondo for the opportunity to showcase Traditional Taekwondo training as we know it, and for helping us to introduce “Breaking Through” to a wider audience.
A Sneak Peek into the Magazine Article: We also provide an exclusive glimpse into the article inside titled “Breaking Through: The Writing of a Martial Arts Book,” which accompanies our cover artwork within the magazine’s pages. We highlight key sections and insights, offering readers a taste of the transformative ideas explored in the article.
Gratitude and Collaboration: We extend our sincere appreciation to Master Stuart Anslow, the editor of Totally Taekwondo Magazine, for recognizing the significance of Colin Wee’s book and showcasing its cover artwork. We acknowledge the collaborative effort between our team and the magazine, celebrating the fusion of art and martial arts that has led to this exceptional milestone.
Conclusion: The inclusion of our cover artwork on Totally Taekwondo Magazine’s front cover is a celebration of martial arts excellence. It serves as an invitation for readers to embark on a transformative journey through the pages of “Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata.” We encourage you to watch our exclusive video snippet, explore the remarkable cover artwork, and dive into the profound insights awaiting you within the magazine’s article.
Have you ever heard of Bassai or Passai? It’s a fascinating group of kata practiced in various styles of martial arts, including karate and Korean martial arts like Taekwondo. Kata are a set of choreographed movements that simulate combat situations, helping practitioners develop their techniques and skills (see Passai-Bassai-Patsai Applications and Resources).
What sets Bassai apart and makes it unique is its profound emphasis on transforming disadvantage into advantage. Through the kata’s choreographed movements, practitioners learn to navigate challenging situations with sensitivity and tactical awareness. They explore the art of turning adversity into opportunity, both in combat and in life.
In my own journey with Bassai, I have experienced firsthand the transformative power of this martial art. As I immersed myself and my school in the practice, I discovered that it was not just about physical techniques but also about developing a mindset of flexibility and skills in problem solving.
In the face of challenges, Bassai taught me to approach them with a different perspective. Instead of viewing obstacles as insurmountable barriers, I learned to see them as opportunities for growth and self-improvement. The concept of breaking through became deeply ingrained in my life.
Bassai encouraged me to break through the barriers between hard style and soft style martial arts, expanding my understanding and embracing a more versatile approach. It pushed me to break through the limits of my initial hard-style training, to integrate soft-style skills, and constantly challenging myself to reach new heights.
Through this continuous process of breaking through, I not only improved my physical abilities but also developed a stronger mental fortitude. I learned to adapt to changing circumstances, think critically, and find creative solutions to problems. Bassai became a guiding force in my personal development journey.
In the fast-paced and ever-changing landscape of the 21st century, the lessons taught through Bassai hold significant relevance. The ability to adapt, think critically, and transform disadvantages into advantages is invaluable in facing the challenges of our modern world.
Bassai provides a framework for developing problem-solving skills, strategic thinking, and the mental fortitude needed to tackle obstacles head-on. It equips practitioners with the tools to break through the barriers that stand in their way and achieve personal growth and success.
So, whether you’re a martial artist or someone seeking personal development, I encourage you to explore the depths of Bassai. Embrace its teachings and apply its principles in your own life. You’ll be amazed at how transforming disadvantage into advantage can profoundly impact your journey and help you break through to new levels of achievement and fulfillment.
Breaking Through: The Journey of Writing a Martial Arts Book
Introduction: In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, martial arts enthusiast Colin Wee took on the ambitious task of writing a martial arts applications book. Little did he know the amount of work and dedication it would require. In this article, we will delve into Colin’s experience and the challenges he faced while writing his recently published book, Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata.
The Motivation to Write: Colin’s decision to write a martial arts book stemmed from multiple sources of inspiration. Seeking approval from his teachers and seniors, along with the persistent requests from friends over the years, motivated him to share his valuable knowledge with others on the same martial arts path. Reflecting on his previous manuscript, which didn’t turn out as intended, Colin discovered that even perceived failures can lay the foundation for future success.
The Development of the JDK Method: Colin’s collaboration with his students led to the development of the Joong Do Kwan (JDK) Method, a unique training methodology for dynamic martial arts situations using fixed pattern sets. This method became the core of his book, showcasing how traditional training can be applied effectively in real-world scenarios.
The Challenges Faced: Writing a martial arts book proved to be a demanding undertaking. Colin recounts the extensive timeline of the project, including the year spent writing the manuscript, two years of submitting, rewriting, and editing, as well as the need for commissioned cover artwork and multiple photo shoots. Despite the hurdles, Colin’s determination remained unwavering.
The Unique Perspective: Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata stands out from traditional martial arts books. It challenges the belief of guaranteed success in martial arts techniques and introduces the possibility of failure, emphasizing the importance of adaptation and workarounds. By inviting non-compliance from opponents, the JDK Method trains practitioners to expect and respond to dynamic situations effectively.
The Collaborative Process: Colin sought the expertise of Master Mike Swope to help refine his manuscript. Mike’s valuable insights and recommendations pushed Colin to reframe his story, allowing readers to experience his journey alongside the exploration of kata-based training. The editing process, which extended even after the manuscript was submitted, ensured the accuracy, flow, and clarity of the content.
The Impactful Seminars: To coincide with the book launch, Colin organized seminars in Dallas, Texas, where he aimed to present high-level concepts to participants. The seminars mirrored the content of Breaking Through, encouraging attendees to make connections with their own training and gain combative insights while exploring traditional forms.
The Road Trip and Meeting Fellow Practitioners: Colin’s road trip to Dallas with Master Mike Swope turned out to be an incredible adventure. Joined by two fellow black belts, Jeff Palm and Will Just, they shared their passion for martial arts and had the opportunity to train and bond with like-minded individuals. The experience was a testament to the positive impact martial arts can have on personal growth and connection.
The Gratitude and Fulfillment: Completing Breaking Through and sharing it with the martial arts community brought an overwhelming sense of fulfillment to Colin. The positive reception from seminar attendees and the opportunity to express gratitude to his teachers and supporters filled him with gratitude. Holding the finished book in his hands symbolized the culmination of 40 years of training and a deep sense of appreciation.
Conclusion: Colin’s journey of writing Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata is a testament to the unwavering dedication and immense passion needed to craft a martial arts book. It vividly portrays the initial inspiration, the obstacles confronted, and the ultimate sense of accomplishment that comes from sharing knowledge with fellow enthusiasts. Through his book, Colin not only reveals the profound transformative impact of martial arts but also emphasizes the significance of imparting wisdom to those treading a similar path. Breaking Through stands as an invaluable resource, providing practitioners with invaluable guidance to enhance their comprehension and practical application of traditional martial arts principles.