Monday, September 22, 2014

Engineering and Taekwondo

Engineering and Moo Sul Kwan Taekwondo at first glance seem to be very different  MSK Taekwondo is an art and sport and engineering was for those math and science geeks in high school and college, but are they really that different?  Engineering is the art or science of making practical application of the knowledge of pure sciences.  Taekwondo or more generally martial arts is codified system or tradition of combat practices, which can be practiced for self defense, competition, physical health and fitness, entertainment, mental, physical and spiritual development.  At first glance there may not seem to be many similarities, but as we look deeper we see that in many ways they are similar.  

It takes years of training and practice to reach the level of black belt and even longer to progress towards 2,3,4 … dan and no matter how long we have been training we can always improve, get better or learn something new.  The same goes for engineering, it takes years of schooling and formal training but that is just the beginning, we must continue to grow and learn new things and stay up on new technology and trends.

In engineering we are required to understand the physical properties of materials and leverage those properties to solve a problem, in MSK Taekwondo we must understand the physics and limitations of our bodies and minds and those of our opponents.  In engineering we are always pushing the envelope to see how much lighter or stronger or faster we can make something. Can we make it better? In martial arts we also pushing ourselves to see how far we can go, stronger, faster, are we improving? Getting better?  We see this at every level, weather it is for a beginner and seeing the gains made every class with our stretching and stamina or as we progress through belt rankings learning new techniques, poomse and even improving on the basics.    Everything in engineering is built off of basics.  Solutions to difficult problems are seldom found all at once,  Often times it is necessary to break down the problem into a series of smaller simpler problems that you already know how to solve.    We see this all the time in Moo Sul Kwan Taekwondo.  How do we learn a new poomse? Do we learn it all at once?  No we learn smaller portions and then tie them all together.

In civil/structural engineering the integrity of a building is only as good as the foundation.  If the foundation is weak (i.e. square, level, in the right location, proper rebar, concrete strength, etc) then the building will be weak.   Regardless if it is a house, a high rise or a back yard shed, all structures are ultimately dependent on the foundation that they sit on.  Does this sound familiar to taekwondo? Have you ever asked why do we spend so much time every class going over basics (stretching, punches, blocks, kicks, poomse, etc)?    Because if we don’t have a good foundation then everything we build on will be weak.  Think about it, if punches, kicks and blocks are not correct when we do them in class why would we expect them to be correct when we do poomse or sparing, or in a worst case scenario when we had to defend ourselves or someone we love.

Let’s go back and look at the idea of engineering as an art.  The definition of art can and often times can be disputed, but it often involves the idea of imaginative or technical skill stemming from intentional act.  In engineering there is almost always more than one solution to a problem.  It often comes down to what works best or looks best or sometime what can be done quickest.  Remember that all buildings don’t look the same and for that matter they don’t all serve the same purpose.  In CTI Taekwondo if we want to block an attack there might be several blocks that would work but which one will work best in this situation. Sometimes it may be that one is better not because it is the strongest or most powerful but it is the quickest and it can be thrown quickly, same thing for attacks.  What is best for the situation.  In sparing often times the decision to throw a certain kick may be as much about what your opponent is doing as it is about what you feel most comfortable with. In Moo Sul Kwan Martial Arts we spend a lot of effort to make things right.  When you are first starting it is more about form than about speed, power or height. All these things come with practice.

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