Tag Archives: atlantic taekwondo

training Phoenix – beginners

on saturday I was delighted to welcome a new student, aged 8, named Phoenix. unfortunately i had no dan grades available at the time to run my class, or to give Phoenix some proper initial attention, so I started with my usual spiel I try to give to all beginners:

  • you may feel a bit silly and that everyone is looking at you.  they’re not – they are too busy training hard to care about how you look
  • everyone else was a beginner once
  • just try and copy everyone and do the best the can, and i will help you when i get a moment
  • if you got everything right straight away, i wouldn’t need to teach you anything!
  • shout a lot.  lots and lots and lots

i then did my beginner’s warm up session – this is like a normal warm up, but with the crucial addition of racing up and down the hall, with everyone shouting as much as they can.  this can really help normalise shouting and making a noise, and helps to get shy students of any age over the hurdle of hearing their own voice. it generally makes people laugh too, because inevitably someone will scream or otherwise yodel entertainingly. in the rare absence of comedy noise, i will make some myself. for special occasions, i will insist on cheese-themed kiyups.

still in beginner mode, we move on to absolute basics, complete with a recap of how to assume the various positions.  this is a great opportunity that i missed – on this occasion – to involve senior students.  i remind the not-beginners that it never hurts to recap this stuff, then i stand near Phoenix, or at least where he can see my clearly, and describe what i am doing, as i am doing it.  don’t over-egg the description though, once or twice should be enough.

we progress through basics, and i will take the opportunity to wander the class making small adjustments to any student that requires some.  i don’t dwell on the young fella too much, he’s not going to get it perfect – its enough that he’s there for now.

i notice that Phoenix is struggling with the long stance, and foot placement in general, and knees, the whole thing really.  i ask a blue belt, the most senior grade i currently have, to continue the drilling for the rest of the class.  i take Phoenix aside for some one to one tuition, and though he is very attentive and eager to be correct, he struggles with bending of leading knee, straight back leg, foot angles, hip position.  its then that I notice the parallel lines of the tennis court markings, and they come to my rescue, once again.  this is the main point of this article.

we play follow the leader.  first of all i lead my way up a single line, baby steps, once foot in front of the other on the same line.  then longer steps, giant steps, all on the one line.  i use the baby and giant words.  then Phoenix leads and I follow.  now we swap to using both of the parallel lines, again with the baby and giant, but this time paying attention to each foot being on its own line.

by swapping between baby and giant, and tightrope and train-tracks, Phoenix makes enormous progress in all of his long stance work, and they are considerably better than at first.  the use of lines, language and swapping gives us an opportunity to establish some common terms – fun terms – for leg spacing, both vertically and horizontally, length of stride, being balanced versus unbalanced, as well as a chance to feel the difference between them all.  we now have a shared vocabulary based on something tangible, on the floor, rather than difficult abstract ideas for eight year olds.  at this point, i was then able to start introducing front kicks and front punches, again using the parallel lines with the added geometry of the front punch making a triangle shape.

as an added extra, it gave two out of three blue belts an opportunity to lead the class, a new article to write, and a proven approach for beginners stance work.  i will revisit this approach this saturday, and perhaps get the whole class to do the same, as there are still some with poor hip and shoulder positioning.

i was delighted with the learning outcomes by the end of the class, both for me and Phoenix.  i was very lucky that my friend and teacher,  Master Niall Grange, turned up to help for the rest of the lesson.

a space hopper

end of year training with Jeffries

its christmas time, and so today I delivered the last training session of the year for Atlantic Taekwondo.   at the end of year, I like to run sessions that concentrate on having fun more than I usually do.   I have yet to obtain the hallowed Santa’s Dobok, so it was plain old black and whites for me again this year…however, the colours were enlivened today by use of my fantastic bright orange space hopper, that the students nicknamed Jeffries, for some reason.   I was delighted today as for the first time ever, I was presented with a box of chocolates by one of my students, and a different student exclaimed a loud “thank you for the training” during the line up.   I was touched.


warm up

usual stuff here, but whilst jogging around the dojang, students take it in turns ride Jeffries up and down the hall, before handing over to the next student.  you can’t help but smile whilst bouncing away on the big orange fella.

twelve kicks of christmas

pretty much self-explanatory. students each pick one technique, and demonstrate it in front of the class. when twelve techniques have been demonstrated, proceed as follows, substituting your techniques:

  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs, 3 front kicks
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs, 3 front kicks, 4 turning kicks
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs, 3 front kicks, 4 turning kicks, 5 jumping spinning upper cuts (Street Fighter style)
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs, 3 front kicks, 4 turning kicks, 5 jumping spinning upper cuts, 6 side kicks
  • 1 spinning jumping turning kick, 2 jabs, 3 front kicks, 4 turning kicks, 5 jumping spinning upper cuts, 6 side kicks, 7 spinning backfists
  • et cetera et cetera

its a pretty grueling exercise, especially when enthusiastic students pick difficult or spinning techniques.   ideally, all students will count each technique, thus hammering home the foreign vocabulary.

strictly come poomsae

based on a television show, this activity involves four judges selected from the class.  each student performs alone, and the judges get fifteen seconds to confer and get their score cards in order. students perform the pattern they needed for their current belt.   after introducing the idea and arranging the dojang, the instructor elicits ideas on how to judge the student performance.   start by stating that the maximum score is ten per judge, and that the judges must deduct a half point for each mistake spotted.   instructor then asks what sort of things to be judged on – I was pleasantly surprised by the response from my judges today, as they added extras to the list I already had in my mind:

  • footwork
  • technique execution
  • finishing spot
  • pace or rhythm (as opposed to just speed)
  • hesitation
  • extra – correct pattern. if you can’t remember your pattern, you can do the previous pattern for a maximum score of nine instead of ten
  • extra – pattern name
  • extra – finishing techniques instead of rushing them
  • extra – breathing
  • extra – finishing each step with rear foot flat on floor – was particularly pleased with this, as I have been drumming it into the students all year

I was a little nervous about the reception this would get, after all, how many children watch a ballroom dancing show?   turns out, lots of them do.   there was much enthusiasm from each judge, and each judge had the opportunity to explain their scores.  often this was done humour, comments describing technique including crispness, tenderness and even a new word, memoration.   this is a great technique for disguising the training for a serious competition and also for performance at grading.   instead of just rushing their patterns, each student really was thinking about each aspect, which is a great result.   for white belts, judges were instructed not to mark down students for not knowing the pattern, and instead to judge solely on techniques being delivered.   judges are then swapped out and become the performers.   this gives each judge a chance to offer honest critique and to speak in front of the class, good personal skills development

santa’s kyuk-pa

this year’s destruction competition involved each student performing a side kick, a back kick and an elbow strike, allowed two attempts at each. the purpose of destruction is to demonstrate technique, and refine until the board is broken.  again, eliciting a verbal description of each technique demonstrates both learning and teaching and gives each student a chance to thwack something.   almost every student was 100% successful

last year’s destruction competition was slightly different, as we had more senior grades available to hold the breaking boards.  holders stand at each corner of an imaginary triangle, and each student chooses their own path around the three boards, the intention being to deliver side kicks to break the boards, and resorting to elbow strikes upon failure.   this is a timed competition where students have to strike a balance between speed and technique.  this was great fun last year.

where next?

  • jeffries slalom – each student slaloms around a line of students, each holding a pad, which must be struck with a good clean technique before proceeding to the next
  • twelve kicks of christmas – each student must remember their own technique and lead the class when it comes to their count.   this will help to ensure everybody knows what they are doing, as they only to remember their own technique, and how many of them are required.   this also gives each student a chance to the lead the group, without much pressure
  • strictly come poomsae – today i used hand written score sheets, it would improve with nicely printed A4 cards with the scores on. synchronised poomsae performance where students performing in pairs

i would love to receive more ideas for next year’s christmas session.   as always, comments welcome.   have a great christmas and new year, come back fighting next year!

Celebrating the Martial Arts – MASC 2013

genesis of MASC

ORIGINALLY inspired by a wonderful week spent training with Master Mark Worsfold at Loch Rannoch, Martial Arts Summer Camp 2013 marks the fourth annual consecutive camp.   our first camp, back in 2010 was at a site within walking distance from Corfe Castle.   back in the day, we based the training program on Mark’s successful routine of morning taiji followed by taekwondo, then non-martial pastimes.  twelve students from Surrey and Halwill Junction, Devon, attended.  2011 saw camp relocate to Upper Lynstone, Bude, where it has been ever since.  student attendance has grown steadily each year, as the good word spreads around the club network.  2013 peeked at nearly forty attendees.   what makes camp so successful?  dedicated, hungry students.   an attitude of openness – all styles are welcome, all levels are welcome, and total beginners are greatly encouraged.  generous and talented instructors.

THE MAINSTAY of our instructor base is undoubtedly Masters Niall and Liam Grange, a father-son team with 60 years of martial experience between them.   unpaid but definitely not unloved, Niall and Liam bring taekwondo, hapkido, taiji, kungfu, silat and more, and give freely to those who seek.  adding further to the instructor mix, Masters Mark Worsfold, Matthew Hobbs, Bob Rowley, John Rodgers, Tony Butcher, Con Halpin and Jitsu-Jamie have all contributed further: taekwondo, bokken, jo-staff, aikido, jujitsu, pressure point fighting, patterns.

IT TAKES a special kind of student, and teacher, to stand in a field, in all kinds of weather – training hard, barefooted, without rank, in plain clothes and plain view.   those students and their teachers are kin, family.   practitioners rarely realise, but when training, you give and expect the ultimate trust from your partners, teachers and students: your lives are in each other’s hands.  this generosity of spirit, trust, love and giving at camp can be a life-changing event for children and adults alike.   strong bonds are forged, and examples are set for us all to follow.   a time to inspire, and to be inspired.

NEW FEATURES this year: good strong sunshine, our very own field, debilitating injury, Wolverine, a purple belt for a hero, MASC tee-shirts and hoodies, poomsae DVDs, camp romance, new shower and toilet block, new friends and guest instructors, water balloons, videos on facebook, the establishment of camp traditions: homous and halloumi kebabs as a last night ritual, trig point photography, shooting stars

SADLY MISSED: Mark Worsfold, Tony Butcher, Nicola Avery, Matthew Hobbs, Nina and Ben, Jamie, Seth and Charlie, Chaney, Luca, Marie, Natasha Brewer, Alex and Emma, Beard Brothers Jamie and Craig , and anyone else from our wider training family.   please come next year

this year’s diary

Picture of The Fast Show's Jessie's Diets

…eating kungfu


Arrival at camp for most people.  If anyone can remember today’s training, please get in touch.


that’s the badger. when training, be sure to keep your fluids up


  • Liam – taiji: introduction to the five animals/elements
    • basic qigong
    • monkey/wood
    • tiger/fire
    • bear/earth
    • stag/metal
    • bird/animal
    • the secret sixth animal, the phoenix.
  • Jase – taekwondo footwork combinations, all grades
    • front kick, turning kick, back kick, concentrating on foot placement and stances between kicks
    • turning kick, back kick, knife hand strike
    • straight line footwork combination – back stance to pushing kick landing in horse riding stance, sliding side kick, back kick, reverse punch, elbow strike
  • Niall – hapkido, basic release from grab
mincing instructor examines back kicks

mincing instructor examines back kicks


today, there were approximately 30 students training. great turn out.

  • Liam – taiji: recap of the five animals/elements, application of taiji principles to poomse
  • Jase – beginners’ taekwondo, 5 absolute beginners
    • ready stance, front/long stance, back stance
    • front kick, turning kick
    • low block, punch
    • Old Man Kelly’s front kick recap, including excellent miniature session on leading with the shoulder
  • Niall – progression from yesterday’s session, hosinsul / hapkido, release from grabs:
    • mirror wrist grabs
    • cross wrist grabs
    • both wrists
    • lapels
  • Jase & Niall – patterns and pads for first kups
  • Liam – session on the beach – applications of the 5 animals
students practicing taiji

great turn out for Cheng Man Ching


approximately 40 students training, including campers from around the site. new camp record for attendance

  • Liam – taiji
    • Master Liang’s Yang Style Qigong and massage set
    • kwai taiji: Master Liang’s fast form
    • Cheng Man Ching’s five Animals
  • Bob the Blackbelt & Old Man Kelly – beginners’ taekwondo continued. By the end of this session, the beginners are looking great, strong kicks, fluid combinations
    • revision of yesterday’s basics
    • back kick
    • jab and cross punch
    • push away followed by back side kick
    • combinations of the above
  • Niall – more releases from grabs, now including takedowns
  • Niall & Jase – destruction
  • Liam – taiji appliations of the five animals, defence against zombie attack!
  • Jase & Liam – sword forms to music
  • Everyone – pizza and other takeaway
"whatever you do, put some bloody sun cream on"

“whatever you do, put some bloody sun cream on”


  • Liam – taiji
    • qigong
    • kwai taiji – fast
    • silk reeling
  • Liam – five ancestor double dagger
  • Everyone – Atlantic Diner. Hot food on a plate, with cutlery!
students enjoying a meal

warm, dry, plates, cutlery


special guests from Tintagel today – hooray! Sadly, Norman and Wendy’s instruction commitments meant we didn’t see as much of them and their team as we would have liked, and every participant really enjoyed the stick work

  • Liam – taiji
    • qigong
    • kwai taiji – fast
    • five animals
  • Liam – Xingyi – five element boxing and linking form
  • Norman, Wendy and students from Tintagel’s Jeet Kune Do club – Kali (stick work)
    • Angles 1 – 5
    • stick defence 1 & 2
    • basic amarra (strike patterns)
  • Niall – padwork
  • Most – Dinner at The Port William, Trebarwith Strand. Mediocre food after a long wait, but in a beautiful location
students training with sticks



particularly inspiring training routintes from Con today. more about these in a seperate article

  • Liam – taiji
  • Con Halpin – taekwondo combinations
    • hand work – jab and cross, reverse ridge hand, back fist and roundhouse punch. Put all these together into a sequence
    • whack-a-mole hand techniques (four pad holders, one attacker utilising earlier hand techniques)
    • kick combination – right leg crescent kick followed by on the spot left leg turning kick
    • explosive kicking padwork – 4 kickers in a line (not a queue), one pad holder putting the pad in at random
  • Aiki John – aikido
  • Niall – patterns and one-step for grading
  • Jase and Con – patterns for grading students
  • Everyone – the now-traditional houmous and halloumi kebab night
students performing basic moves

…in the beginning…


end of camp, always emotional. The last remaining students put in some effort, but eventually tiredness, rain and departure take their toll

A picture of slate with flavours of tai chi written on it

Liam’s menu

Aside from this great variety of group training, there was plenty of individual support outside of larger sessions, including guitar lessons, one step sparring, poomsae, the walking stick form, mantis form, Cheng Man Ching goodness, and an intensive tutorial by Liam for Joe ‘Baby Blackbelt’, Richard ‘Handstand’ and Young Man Kelly on the double dagger form.   these excellent young men soaked it up like sponges

some of the usual suspects

which one is Keyser Soze?

which one is Keyser Soze?

skills development

CAMP ATTENDANCE this year was brilliant.  students and teachers traveled from as far as Middlesbrough (Hey Bert!), Eastbourne and within the M25 to be with us.   some students were absolute beginners, some just two months in to their training, some were total strangers staying onsite.   all students worked hard, battling the elements, self-consciousness, and their own fears of failure.   there was no failure.   every year we see progression in the students, both between and during camps, and that is one of hidden joys of regular attendance.   a day after camp ended, numerous students progressed up the ranks, but particular mention goes to new poom grade (junior black belt) students Ellis, Alice and Tia, dan grade students Hannah and Tom.

WE ARE ALL of us students.   those of us who instruct, assist or partner up with someone for training can pick up instructional skills, techniques and training routines, to help us develop ourselves and our students

enormous thanks

to everyone that attended and contributed in any way, pastoral care, cooking, photography, washing up, de-trashing the site, including, nurturing, welcoming, giving, hugging, kissing, fighting, dancing, loving – may Ra and Selene warm your souls forever

MASC 2013 is dead. Long live MASC2014, 9th August 2014, Upper Lynstone

Wolverine and Superman

Wolverine and Superman