The Importance of Teaching Basic Principles
By Grandmaster Kim Soo, 10th. Dan & Founder, Chayon-Ryu Martial Arts
Written by Sabomnim Graeme Cox
ChaYon-Ryu is a scientific teaching method developed over many years of training and teaching. As such, it is under constant review, allowing further development and refinement of these teaching methods. It is vitally important that senior belts (blue and above) attend Instructors Clinics, to ensure their teaching methods remain current and standardized. It is essential that all Black Belts attend, as their teaching is reflected in the lower belt’s understanding and performance.
ChaYon-Ryu emphasizes 17 Basic Principles for Forms and Sparring. These Principles are “Truth”. By understanding them you will know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, true and false, beauty and ugliness. Only through years of constant practice, will this understanding lead to enlightenment.
For example: you are given a watermelon and told it tastes sweet and juicy, and you should try it. So you take this watermelon and look at it. It is big, heavy, smooth and tough skinned. It is far too big to stick in your mouth, so you lick the skin. You surely disagree that the watermelon tastes good. If you take the superficial view, then the watermelon is tasteless and unpleasant. Is that the truth? Of course not. You need to dig a little deeper to find the true value and taste of the watermelon. Once you get through the tough outer layers the watermelon is surely sweet and juicy.
It’s the same with martial arts. If you look purely at the physical display you can easily be fooled. It looks spectacular. You must look beyond the flashy kicks and loud screams to get to the truth. If you understand the Principles, you can’t be fooled by the outward display.
Since ChaYon-Ryu revolves around these Principles, it is necessary that they are taught by all Instructors. It is very difficult for Instructors to teach only the Principles. It means they must let go of their own egos and stop teaching their own bad habits. Although you may think you are helping the student by teaching the little “tricks” you use to perform your techniques, this is really your ego that you teaching.
The Instructor’s job is teaching the Principles, not “spoon-feeding” the student. Each student and Instructor has their own limitations and bad habits. Instructors must not teach their bad habits to the students. This contaminates the whole system with the instructor’s impurities. The more students taught, the more students are affected by these bad habits. As it takes a great deal of persistent training to understand the Principles, most new students “mimic” their Instructor’s movements (and even kihop). By the time these students realize they are not following the Principles, they may have to change years of training.
Just as easily, Instructors could teach the Basic Principles, and save these students a great deal of wasted time and effort. Therefore, rather than helping the student, the instructor is really “chaining” the student to their own limitations. As their Instructor, you think they look pretty good because they look like you. It satisfies your ego, but it may have nothing to do with the Basic Principles.
Training has the ability to be medicine or poison. Following the Basic Principles is medicine for the body and mind. Without following the Basic Principles, training can be poison. Over long periods this poison manifests itself as muscle and joint damage, cancer, or heart disease. Perhaps even worse: Ju Hwa Ip Ma – “cancer of the mind (thoughts)”. Without following the Basic Principles, and balancing the spiritual and physical aspects of training, serious misunderstandings are developed by the student. Over time these evolve into improper beliefs and behaviors. This may be exhibited through violent and antisocial behavior, or Instructors who teach their own egos. The very things that good training should prevent are actually caused by not following the Basic Principles.
However, the importance of the Basic Principles goes far beyond practical movements inside the dojang. With so many different styles and schools in the community it is vital that students understand the Basic Principles. With this knowledge, you can recognize phony claims and fanciful stories from so called Masters and Grandmasters. There seems to be a Grandmaster on every street corner, but how many of these people are legitimate?
Most of these people have no understanding of Martial Art history, tradition, or philosophy. Many have trained for a few years and attained Black Belt level, and decided to open their own schools – mostly as a way to make money. To increase their profits, they have tournaments every few months where you can win a plastic trophy and get a big ego for being the “best or baddest.” They also offer rank tests every month, to keep you “storming” your way through the ranks. Sooner or later they join a larger organization where they can be promoted (for a fee) to Masters level, further increasing their profile and profit.
Look in any Martial Art magazine, you can see these organizations on every other page. How tempting it must be for a new Black belt to be able to get promoted in a large organization, and get several training sessions with the founder and so-called “Grandmaster” of that system. While there have been many innovations in the teaching of ChaYon-Ryu since 1968, one was made to prevent the fragmentation of the system.
In the past, one Instructor taught at a specific location. This was changed because the students started to resemble their Instructor. While this is bound to happen, it could be prevented by Instructors teaching the Principles rather than their egos. Instructors who teach the Principles produce students that look better than themselves. To achieve this, instructors should demonstrate only enough for the students to identify the technique. Possibly even demonstrating with only 50% effort, so that the students clearly see the technique, but not the Instructor’s imperfections. In seeing the technique at 50% effort, students are aware that the technique should look stronger. If the demonstration is done with full effort the students think it should be done with the Instructor’s imperfections. Students should find their own identity, not copy their teachers. To prevent looking (and sounding) like one particular Instructor, students are encouraged to train under different Instructors.
ChaYon-Ryu is Sang Hwal Mu Do – lifestyle martial art. Understanding of the Basic Principles goes deeper than just martial art training. Understanding the Principles gives the student “common sense”. Just as you are able to see through the phony claims of other martial art instructors, you are also able to see through the dubious claims of people in your daily lives. You can’t be fooled by people whose interests are more important than your own.
In a self defense situation, you are able to protect yourself through prevention rather than force. This is the ultimate goal of ChaYon-Ryu training. Using your universal knowledge and understanding to improve your lifestyle. To make your goals more achievable, to give you an indomitable spirit, and a positive attitude.
This is only achieved through teaching and understanding of the Basic Principles. Simply because the Basic Principles are the “Truth”. Instructors have a great deal of responsibility in teaching the Basic Principles. There is a great deal at stake if you fail.