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​This morning during my routine, I managed to hit a landmark at 80 pushups, which is a far cry from not even being about to be 10 in June of this same year. I’ve also noticed that my muscle memory is in overdrive. In the midst of a form, I started to forget the next move, so I settled into the motions and let my body do the work for me. It worked perfectly. You really have to experience that to appreciate it. 

I believe I’m due for a day of rest tomorrow, since this made 5 days in a row. Even though I’m working on Monday, I’ll still enjoy the reset to the fullest. I also need to note that I did 3 wind sprints on Friday morning. They actually felt good; and I was surprised at how much speed this 44 year old body can still generate when called upon.

It’s been a good week, and my Nike NRC app helps me track it.

One final note I need to mention is that all of this physical activity has reminded me to breathe through everything I do. I need to remain conscious of my breath, and when I’m focused on an activity, to use my breathing wisely. That applies to physical activity and life itself.

I continue to be amazed at how 20 years of training hall lessons apply to so much of real life. 

Boozer

I Gots Questions

For the past month and a half, I’ve been refreshing my ability to do all of the hyung I was taught during my years of Tang Soo Do training. It’s actually gone very well for me; I’m finding that my recall ability had not failed me, and my muscle memory is kicking in.

You may remember that back in the day, I occasionally lamented that Korean martial arts sometimes only tell part of the story, and that one of the misgivings of Tang Soo Do is that practicioners only get a partial translation of older Okinawan and Chinese martial arts. In the past, I was hesitant to voice this opinion due to my association with a nationally recognized federation. Well, time and years of inactivity have changed all that.

This morning, while doing hyung as part of my morning routine, that nagging thought of only doing an interpretive dance started to gnaw at me again. I really don’t know a lot about the uses of the forms I spent almost 2 decades learning. I’m not blaming that on any of my instructors, it’s just how we’re taught. It’s always been about the “how” and never the why.

Something tells me I’m going to be repeating this to myself…a lot.


Well, I’m no longer under the constraints of stifling uncomfortable questions, and I have plenty of them. Even if I’m just practicing for the wealth of my own knowledge, if I don’t at least make an attempt to learn why, I’m still just dancing. I know that there are other sources of information out there. Needless to say, it’ll be interesting to see if this new journey changes how I perform certain movements, cause I know that a part of me will fight changing something I’ve done for 20 years. 

So, I ask you, Korean martial artist….

How much do you really know about Pyong Ahn Chodan?

Bookmark: Oct 31, 2016

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that I started training on my own again back in late August due to the physical demands of my new job at a local grocery store. Soon after starting, it became very apparent to me that if I did not take measures to get mussels back into shape, at my age I’d soon not be able to keep up.

Since then, I’ve lost about 20 pounds, I’m back to my 1 mile run, at 70 of my once 100 pushups per day, and I’ve been doing forms daily. I do NOT feel like I’m 44 years old. 

Today at the park where I do forms to break up my run, I noticed in introspect that I was once again able to put myself on autopilot and let my body run through the form for me, which is something I haven’t been able to do since 2012. That’s a good thing. For me, doing forms like that is as spiritually charging as my daily prayer. I’m particularly enjoying the feeling. It’s meditation.

As of today’s date, my plan is to return to my proficiency in all forms that I had to learn in order to reach the rank of master in Tang Soo Do. I also plan to revisit all of the basic techniques that make up the skeleton of the art. 

I’m still dealing with a poorly healed rotator cuff tear on my left shoulder, which I’ll eventually have to get examined and fixed, but I’m finding that the stronger I get, the less it bothers me. That’s a definite relief. Years ago, I used to toy with the idea of ceasing all physical activity, getting out of shape on purpose and seeing if I could bring myself back. 2016 has shown me that I actually can. Instead of feeling like I’m growing older, I feel strong again, I feel fast, and I feel centered. Such is the advantage of the martial artist. 

Let’s see where this goes, shall we?

Anywhere, anyplace….

This morning, I did forms under a tree in a park.

In my days of active training, I used to tell students that training should never be dependent on location. Too often, we get comfortable with the floors of our training hall and the direction in which we’re pointing to practice. That can, unfortunately, stunt your growth as a martial artist, and in other areas of life too. Gotta constantly step out of that comfort zone. Change directions. Shake things up.

In a perfect world, adventure and conflict happen in controlled environments. The floor is cushy, there’s air conditioning, and a water fountain in the hallway if you get thirsty. The outside world is quite different though. There ground is uneven. The weather isn’t perfect, you may find yourself with the sun in your face instead of at your back. It’s often very unpredictable. It’s under those conditions that you have the ideal training ground, because you have little control of what’s going on around you. It’s there where you have to focus, shut out the distractions, adapt to the terrain, and concentrate on the task at hand, one form at a time. 

If I continue to train, the outdoor aspect will always be part of it, because doing forms in unfamiliar surroundings is quite analogous to dealing with life and its uncontrolled environment, distractions, and unpredictability. 

This morning, I practiced forms under a tree.

Where will your adventures take you today?

When I was in training, I often spoke about sparring with different students and utilizing a different strategy depending upon my opponent’s approach to the match. When you first start training in martial arts, you learn the basic rules for sparring and you start applying those rules when faced off with another student. Experience, as time goes on, normally shows the the student which attacks and defenses are useful against certain opponents, and which ones to avoid. Eventually, your sorting strategy develops a personality of its own, which can bed both good and bad if you’re not careful. 

I have very distinct memories of watching seasoned (and I mean 2 or more years of training) students that would consistently attempt to apply the same strategic principles to opponents if varying abilities and skill levels. More often than not, it resulted in that person losing the match. Let’s examine this a bit.  If you are an intermediate student that had become quite proficient in throwing rear-leg side kick, what good will that kick do against an opponent that quickly closes the distance and wants to fight at close quarters? If it’s not valuable against that particular opponent then you may have to shelve that tool until you can use it where it’s effective. Unfortunately, not everyone learns this “evolution of strategy”, and the result is a one-dimensional fighter. 

You know there’s an easier way to do this, right?

I chose sparring as an example because human interaction often works the same way. Depending upon who are communicating with, there are certain strategies you can use to make forward progress, and certain strategies to avoid, resulting in pitfalls. Like sparring, everyone is slightly different. I may, for example, tell two different people the exact same thing; but, having learned how they communicate by careful observation, my approach with each person may be completely different. Pulling something like that off takes multi-dimensional communication skills, which is something we get better at with practice. 

In martial arts, I was taught to believe that the best fighters after never overly aggressive or defensive. I think communication works the same way, particularly at work. You don’t want to dominate the conversation, not do you want it to be one sided from the other person either. There’s give and take in each “match”. While we want to “win” when we spar (communicate), each student should come away from the match having learned a little more about one another, but with no hard feelings.

There really is a lot more to explore on this subject, cause I’m only scratching the surface here. Still, if you train, take time out to observe the parallels between a sparring match and communication. Sometimes you teach. Sometimes you learn. Sometimes you’re the aggressor. Sometimes you take your lumps. Resolve yourself to learn both on multi-dimensional levels. 

When I actively trained in martial arts, I personally defined “mastery” as the ability to recall a conglomeration of techniques as taught by your chosen art and perform those techniques proficiently. By that definition, I dedicated years of my life to training and teaching Tang Soo Do, honing myself both physically and mentally to as close to perfection as I could possibly get. I was never satisfied. Every day presented a new opportunity to train even more and get even better. I powered though everything I was taught. I learned as much detail as I could. I practiced ALL the time and I literally absorbed everything. Finally, I was promoted to the rank of “master”.

ha dan me

Back in the day. Total badass….

As I’m siting here writing this blog entry, I’m nearing 45 years of age. I’m 4 years retired from martial arts practice. I used to tell my students that “martial arts is a lifetime practice and once you get as deeply involved as I once was, you never really quit”. When I retired, I spent a considerable amount of time fighting with following my own advice. I had disconnected myself from my students and exiled myself from my instructors. My perceived path of learning had been totally cut off, and I was alone. Still, it gave me the time I so desperately needed to reconnect with my wife and kids, and also teach myself what it was like to be me outside of the “Master Wayne Boozer” persona. In short, my pursuit of my definition of mastery had led me to forget what it’s like to be a normal human being. I was too busy trying to be Superman.

 

supermanross

Unless you speak in cartoon bubbles, you’re probably not this guy.

 

Nearly 45 years on this planet has taught me to laugh at myself…a lot. It’s also forced me to come to terms with a lot of personal experiences (both good and bad). In your 40’s, physically, things start to hurt inexplicably. You can’t run as fast. You’re not quite as strong. The trade-off is that you have a much better understanding of how your body and mind work. Upon retirement from martial arts, I launched myself into the “normal” workforce. I went through two “normal” desk jobs. I settled into the quiet life of family, church and work. I hung up my belt and just became “Wayne Boozer. While the loss of immersing myself into a regularly scheduled training environment sometimes gnawed at me, I pushed the feeling aside and kept plugging away at “normal” life.

Still, the longer I stayed away from the training hall, the more parallels I saw between life outside of the dojang and lessons I’d learned there. In fact, I’ve since noticed so many similarities that I can no longer ignore them. Nowadays, I will often find myself quoting a lesson learned while training to a friend, a co-worker or even a family member. My latest job is much more physically demanding than any previous breadwinning positions I’ve ever held; and, I’m finding that I’m much more cognizant of my health and well-being, thanks to all the years spent in martial arts. I’ve actually started re-integrating physical training back into my life. I attempted this same venture on two previous occasions since retirement. Both of them failed. The first was an attempt to re-enter the dojang. The second was an attempt to recapture the physical prowess that I enjoyed in my 20’s and 30’s. They both failed because I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I understand that now. This time around, it’s for survival at work, personal longevity, and peace of mind. That makes for a world of difference.

Getting back to my original point for this blog entry, I can genuinely say that my definition of the word “master” has changed. Earning the rank of master in martial arts is just a step in the process of mastering life. Don’t get me wrong, the tenacity, consistency and physicality of years of dedication is no small feat. It’s really just for a few to take it that far; but true mastery, to me, now means applying those lessons in real life. It means integrating how all that training changed who you are as a person, and cannot, or should not, be simplified into a series of static, physical techniques. It’s getting in touch with who you are as a person, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The WORLD becomes your dojang. Life itself becomes your teacher. Reaching the rank of my style of martial arts still means the culmination of 16+ years of blood, sweat and long hours in training. What many of us “masters” believe is that once you reach rank, you remain in your controllable environment and you teach within. I have long preached about stepping out of your comfort zone. Stepping into the real world and applying your training hall lessons to LIFE is doing just that. Get out there and apply those lessons! It’s just like training! Some things will work. Other things will fail miserably. Still, like martial arts, when you get knocked down, you get up, resume your guard and have another go at it.

k_73069

Probably not the best reference, but you get my point. “Go walk the earth, like Kaine in Kung Fu” – Jules from Pulp Fiction

 

Having said that, I now know that the title of this blog, “Be the Master” is not about learning how to properly throw a side kick. It’s about facing off against the opponents in life that you’re afraid to fight. It’s about self-discovery, acceptance, and self-mastery. It’s about endeavoring to never stop learning.

It’s taken me little more than a very necessary 4 years to be able to do this article and effectively get my point across. Will I ever strap on my belt and uniform again? Not sure; but I’m finally comfortable with the fact that I don’t necessarily have to. I start training when I wake up every morning.

Wayne Boozer

 

Yes. I’ve been away.

In the spring of 2012, I received word that there were issues on the home front back in Baton Rouge, LA that demanded my attention. I literally had to shut down “this” side of my life.

….remember that I always say, “life will get in the way”. It just happens. 

So now, here I am, battling back from an extended absence. Time to get back to being in the world. Time to prove that  training is a way of life, not a fad or a phase. 

….time to, once again, be the master.