THE NATURE OF POWER

            Every student has a level of power, which needs further development.  The new student generally does not understand the issues surrounding the use of power.  The mathematical formula for power (½ MV2) is not comprehended at the beginning stage of training.  Regardless of the level of power and their personal understanding of how much power they possess, each student has a level of power available to them.   Their power level when they begin Taekwondo is not the same as the potential power they can achieve through training, nor is it the same as the inherent power they have not yet perceived.  As the student develops a higher level of power, they must be taught the proper use of that inherent and developed power. 

            Students must be taught a philosophy regarding power.  This philosophy of power includes a proper attitude toward the power they have and will achieve, the responsibility to handle the power wisely, and how to achieve greater understanding of controlled power in their lives.  I realize that the philosophy set forth in this thesis is my personal opinion and that others may have a different perspective or philosophy.   However, I have desired to find a balance between the power achieved and the proper use of that power.  The power to destroy or build a person’s life is at the center of this concept.  What does my life represent?  How far should I go before taking drastic, life-changing steps to stop an opponent?  How does my ego affect the use of power?  These are questions I consistently ask myself.  I have seen certain individuals begin their training, who are already physically powerful by virtue of their size and age.  Some were not able to achieve a balance between the power they were further developing and the control to use that power during class time and sparring.  Eventually, these students left the program, because they were not able to make the necessary adjustments.   Several students were physically gifted with great power.  However, they were able to make the adjustments and have discontinued training.  Their philosophy affected their decision to quit or to continue in their Taekwondo career.

            Some martial arts schools take a “kill and maim” approach to training, while others take a less aggressive approach.  Which is correct?  The instructor must consider what the goal of their art is in a public arena.  It is obvious that all martial arts are inherently dangerous and can be used to destroy an opponent.  Then, what is the purpose of power?  I believe that with great power comes great responsibility.  As a police officer, I was taught the progressive nature regarding the use of power.  I was taught to never escalate to the highest level of power (taking a life), without having a reason warranting lethal force.  We were taught to use appropriate force.  Why kill a mosquito with a stick of dynamite?  I was always taught to do what was necessary to control the situation, not to be injured, and to be prepared to carry the use of power to its next level, when it was required.  My original Karate instructor taught the mind set of devastation from the onset of any aggression.  He believed and taught the “old school” approach.   The methodology for our teaching, and the philosophy of power derived from that method, are partly based upon our approach and attitude toward life.  As a Christian, I wish to take a responsible approach to the use of power, but still reserve the right to use that power for the benefit of myself and mankind or the protection of others.   In other words, in my life I have determined that this developed power has set guidelines, established by my personal philosophy. 

 THE EXPLOSIVE NATURE OF POWER

            The explosive nature of power has not been fully realized by the new student, nor by every rank student.  New students generally have difficulty with lead hand front stance punch.  They most often perform the punch as a reach, moving the punching hand at the same speed as the rear leg steps forward to a front stance.  They must be taught to hold the punch until the lead foot is nearly touching the floor, and then punch (the implementation of matched timing).  The loaded position for the punch from point A (the chambered position) to point B (the ending point of the punch) should be accomplished in the shortest possible time.  It is obvious that the shorter the time frame from point A to point B (increased speed), the more power is developed at the end of the technique.   Even as this idea is grasped, it is still easy to fall into the habit of moving the attacking hand or blocking hand toward point B, prior to actually attempting the movement.  In other words, there is movement forward (as an example, about 1/3 of the distance) prior to the student actually beginning the fast motion toward the target area, thus effectively eliminating the rapidity of the movement (without interruption) from A to B in the shortest time possible.

            It is my position that we should explode from point A from the very onset of the movement, and not stop this movement until we have fully reached the ending point of the movement.  The goal of every movement within any given pattern should involve this principle.  Although a certain level of power can be achieved performing any movement (whether hand or foot technique), it is certain that more power can be achieved when we explode through the movement, thus increasing the speed from point A to point B. 

            The greatest care should be taken to have the same loading position and the same ending point (including direction of movement) for each movement.  Following this idea to its conclusion, allows our mind to “measure” the distance each time we perform that particular movement.  Over time, we are able to measure the distance between ourselves, and a sparring opponent, as well as the distance to the wood when performing a break.  As we strive to accomplish this task, we gain confidence in the movement and mentally become aware of the power and distance involved.  When we “marry” the concepts of exploding through the movement, matched timing, and confidence, into one cohesive unit, the result is greater and more efficiently controlled power.  These concepts of the explosive nature of power may be applied to either hand or foot techniques. 

AGING AND POWER: "The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head."  Solomon in Proverbs 20:29

            In all the Mid-California Tae Kwon Do schools in California, I am the oldest student.  This distinction has allowed me to develop a perspective of power that is unique among the younger students.  Over the course of the last twenty years, I have discussed the aging issue with many older martial artists.  Their perspectives have challenged me in several areas.  The old phrase “Wisdom will win over youth” may or may not be true in some instances.  Over the years, I have noticed that as we age and mature our power is increased in many areas, but has become subtle in nature.   Our movements achieve a greater dimension as we mature.  We may not be able to perform the movements with the same flexibility or jump as high as we once did.  I make mention of this after listening to interviews with Chuck Norris (now about sixty-one years old) and Jackie Chan (now around 45 years old).  Each of these great athletes now has student doubles performing several of the movements, which, when they were younger, they were able to perform themselves without injury.   We must be careful not to use age as an excuse, but we must be mindful of the changes in our body, which necessitate wisdom when we are performing our patterns or sparring.  For myself, several hand movements have become stronger over the years and yet, other movements are not as powerful.  Although I train using those movements, and strive for improvement, injury and age has become a factor. 

The process of change provides the older martial artist with the opportunity to be humbled and to grow spiritually in several areas.  As we observe the teens and young adults perform floor exercises or patterns, we may think, “I used to do that when I was their age.”  Conversely, when we perform in front of our students, they may be saying to themselves, “I hope to achieve the level of power and ease of movement as my instructor some day.”   The younger student desires to match the grace and ease of movement, coupled with a mysterious “power” they cannot comprehend at their age.  The older and more mature student has a different view of the art of Taekwondo.  We begin to understand the development of our spiritual lives as more important than our physical development.  We should not stop training, but this realization is critical to our continued growth as a person.  To continue training will enhance the true development of the art in our lives.

The aging martial artist has much to offer the younger students. Our continued training through injuries and the trials of life provides an impetus to other students to persevere and not to quit.  Matt is a member of the church that I pastor.  Matt has shifted in recent years from using a cane to needing a walker.  Although he suffers from Lou Gehrig’s Disease (about 30 years, which is quite remarkable), he never gives up. At the age of 75 he was still mowing yards and on his hands and would stay on his knees weeding the garden for hours.  When others are home with a cold, Matt rolls into church and maintains a high level of dignity.  Matt is now 82 years old and his 5’ 0” thin frame is atrophying, but his indomitable spirit keeps him walking into the building each week.  I have always admired this man.  His level of manhood is one I hope to achieve some day.   I often think to myself, “If Matt can continue on through this daily pain and difficulty, I can keep moving forward in my life.”  His personal strength does not reside in his stature or personal physical strength, but in his inner life as a man.

            The key in our training as “more mature” martial artists is to continue training physically, grow in our understanding of movement and technique, develop subtle power, and, then, pass that information on to the next generation of students.  This principle is taught in the Bible, where the Apostle Paul wrote,  Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.  Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. (2 Timothy 2:1-3)

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