Hwa Rang Do Student’s Progress

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The raw student brings with them a mixture of physical, attitudinal and social attributes. The high-end skills of martial arts require a state of attunement with circumstances which transcend attitudes, beliefs and prejudices. The physical requirements are not just learned methods, but the wired-in automatic judgements about what to do (and not do), and confidence (spirit) in the ability to carry out what one has committed to do.

The commitment is in a flash – ie, ‘conditioned’, or ‘automatic’, but is also integrated with the daily preparation for life that both training and living provides. Every minute of training is preparation and development of this level of attunement – as is every minute of life. There must be an openness or willingness (acceptance) to learn from every opportunity.

For this kind of progress, the student moves through stages of development which conform roughly to the following five stages:

Beginning – from Raw to Participating.

Physically, the beginner is simply there in class. Mentally and spiritually, the beginner has made some kind of commitment to do something about it achieving martial capabilities.

This stage is initially painful, due to lack of specific strength, tone and condition, balance, and so on – but the rewards are real and significant.

Hwa Rang Do Thorw

Mentally, the foundations for future progress need to be laid. The student needs to separate and identify two different aspects of mind – the rational mind (an enquiring, but chattering entity), and the ‘heart mind’, or ‘overview mind’ (which assumes a quietened poise while it oversees the body’s and the rational mind’s activities). Finding and developing the latter is a main goal, as is quitening the rational mind – let it observe rather than rule!

The emotional centres develop through experience and hard work, and need to establish a responsiveness to the ‘heart mind’, and a kind of submissiveness to the rational mind – which is learning to tell when you lose your ‘cool’.

The rational mind needs to learn to listen – and to shut up when it’s not being useful. A sense of truth and honesty comes with this.

Deep down, the student will start to experience the limitations of the minds and body, and by work and reflection, begin to move these limitations.

Acquisition of Technique – Towards Competence.
Once some competence has developed in basic movement and strength, the student is challenged by co-ordination and dealing with the sensory system. Firstly, the student becomes more aware of situation , and also possibilities. From this, the student develops a sense of freedom and necessity – needing to move, yet having a choice.

Applying choice and exploiting opportunity needs a keen sense of intent, and some guidance (and feedback) about what is feasible, control over levels of arousal, and mental focus (both narrow and broad).

The body begins to develop a sense of optimal muscle tone. This could be called ‘relaxation’ or ‘lack of tension’. This differs completely from ‘slumping’ or collapsing.

Power – Destructive Capability and Responsibility.
When a need presents itself, techniques must be capable of extreme power, subtlty, and appropriateness. Firstly, this means the techniques must be honed to a high level to deliver strong impulses in order to strike, to unbalance or control an adversary, etc.

Power comes partly from repetitive drills – high quality practice where the student seeks to work better and better. The power also comes from attention to detail about what supports optimal effort.

The rational mind relaxes a little – since its continual prompts only confuse the body. Now the student is cultivating the spirit and can focus effort ‘at will’. This kind of training is ‘self-less’ – in that you don’t stop because you feel fatigue. You stop when you’ve done enough good work.

This level also includes the comprehension of subtlty – operating with least power. This improves stamina and leads to the next level.

Flow and Ki – Being There.
The key progression of a student start with calmness, relaxation, and a sense of fluidity with hidden power. When one of these students moves quickly, they move fluidly. The techniques of fighting emphasise the value of soft defence techniques and good footwork (and connection to the ground). Only a few moments in any fight would involve an explosive (Ki moderated) action.

The vitality of this level of engagement ensure physical and mental health, and a long life with few enemies. Deep down, a martial virtue underpins the acquisition and exercise of all refined Hwa Rang Do technique. A sense of harmony is developing.

At this level, the student is really training themselves. They have the right kind of attunement in their body to know fairly well what is functional and what is not. Instruction is now a guided way to further refinement and correction of details. When the “Ki” is robust, every aspect of every movement is related to every other aspect – sometimes like young children in a harmonious play group, and other times like the integrated and concerted smashing of a large concrete block by a heavy sledge hammer.

Unification – spirit and perpetual involvement.
This is when it all works. Everything is vital. No petty concerns matter. Primarily, the person has cultivated a sense of gratitude and concern for the universe, and feels connected to it.

It is also when every event, every instance, every notion is fresh and anew. You don’t rest on your laurels. You have no need of deception or charades. ~ Tom Osborn