Lance and Kimberly Clements's Koo Self Defense

Students, Masters & Systems evolving through time

As the time grew closer for my black belt exam I looked at the number of classes next to my name on the attendance sheet and wondered at the difference time can make. It had been almost two years chronologically and one year literally (365+ classes) since I had first walked in the door of Master Roger Koo’s studio in Downtown Cartersville, metro Atlanta, Georgia. I was a completely different person. My level of power and fitness, while still not that of an athlete, was one thousand percent of what it had been just a short time ago. More importantly, my way of life had been altered so that regular exercise was integrated into my busy lifestyle.

This caused me to start thinking about the philosophy that is associated with martial arts...the “do” or “way”. Most people don’t realize that this is not some ancient concept, but arguably the brainchild of Dr. Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo. (Now at this point I probably have your attention, because you are wondering why would a student of Koo Self Defense be writing about traditional arts)

I have two startling revelations for those people who criticize and do not understand Master Koo, yet believe their style is “traditional”!

Here is the first one...99% of the styles in existence today borrowed, modified or mimicked either Judo or Shotokan karate or even a combination of the two. It is like the same song but played in a different key or on a new instrument.

This is the dark secret, the skeleton in your Master’s closet. If you do enough research and find the truth your style will inevitably be able to trace its ancestry right back to Gichin Funokoshi or Dr. Jigoro Kano. The stance has been altered, or you punch higher or your art combines grappling with punching, etc. But fundamentally you have basically the same thing.

Doubtlessly, as some people read this they are shaking their heads and saying...”,no, no, no !”. Before they respond further I want to make startling revelation number two...

Funakoshi and Kano were not traditionalists ! They were the rebels of the nineteenth century broke away from their instructors for many of the same reasons as Master Koo.

Ouch ! That probably hurt some people worse than a spinning sidekick, but it is the truth. Dr. Kano was a student of a “martial art”. Do you know what martial art means ? He was studying a system called jujitsu, designed for physical hand to hand combat in war. (Martial arts are combat strategies for war, not self defense) He saw this tradition dying and wanted to preserve the positive elements, while developing a better system with the focus on physical fitness, sport competition and overall improvement of the individual. Techniques were refined to utilize the maximum efficiency of movement and adjustments made for the subtle differences of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. (i.e., people no longer wore heavy body armor or fought on horseback) Keep in mind that physical fitness and personal improvement were not martial arts concepts, but the concept of the “do”.

Gichin Funakoshi was the first to put strikes and punches into a true, organized , step -by -step system. He took techniques he had learned from two different Chinese styles and blended them. He too, emphasized physical and mental improvement of the individual. His emphasis was self defense oriented rather than sport.

Other issues, such as the history of the colored belt system can also be traced back to these two original masters, although it sort of becomes a “which came first the chicken or the egg “ debate, because disciples of either -do tend to romanticize things.

Most people simply do not understand

You can tell someone that Tae Kwon Do evolved from Tae Kyun and Shotokan, or you can tell them that Bruce Lee used modified Tae Kwon Do kicks he learned from Jhoon Rhee...or my personal favorite is the hardcore grappling advocate who watches too many Ultimate Fighting Championships (It is a sport, it has rules geared to give the grappler the advantage. One of the world championships was won when a contestant put his hand over his opponent’s mouth and “smothered” him. If the guy had done that to Mike Tyson, rules or no rules, he would not have any fingers left !). It goes on forever...people want to believe in Space Aliens, Bigfoot, crop circles and that their system is the result of thousands of years of ancient secrets handed down from monks living in a cave.

I do not want to discredit those who enjoy the aesthetics of “art”. Just don’t try and tell me it's self defense. Funokoshi himself stated that ‘their is no first strike in karate’. Do you really believe that letting the other guy take initiative is a sound strategy for survival?

Maybe it was in Okinawa at that time, but not here and now. I certainly would not tell my wife or daughter to let the guy who is trying to rape her have the first punch.

I also have no quarrel with those who wish to compete in sports. I understand that styles of karate have been created so that friendly competition can be held. Just don’t tell me that you can learn anything from sparring. That is like saying that being shot in the leg with a .22 rifle will improve your accuracy rating with your .357 magnum revolver. (My old instructors used to scold me when I grabbed the foot or hand of our school’s top competitors...the truth was that the tournament stuff was too risky for the street, and that when a person is confronted by a person of superior physical prowess, the fighting will always get dirty.)

Honor and practicality

Koo Self Defense also has an ancestry. You might see the similarities between our kicks and those of Tae Kwon Do, our punches and those of Boxing, our strikes knees and head-butts resemble those of a street brawler. If you attended our class you would notice that we bow at the beginning and end and that we have colored belts, and that black belts are acknowledged as “Mr.” or “Ms.” Then you would notice how much more practical the uniforms much better class time is utilized, and how hard everyone hits. Before you criticize or dismiss what Koo Self Defense is, understand that we all started doing “karate” for the same reasons. Master Koo has just taken the best of everything and put it together into an organized system for the 21st century. Koo Self Defense is not some bastardization or defilement of karate - it is the evolution of it.

Taken April 2002

Lance's Power Drill Class - 1800 non stop hits
Kimberly's Power Drill Class - Addon punches
Kimberly's Power Drill Class - Backward kicking
Kimberly's Power Drill Class - Backward kicking
Kimberly's Power Drill Class - Spaghetti (free choice) Kicks
Taken May 2002. Lance has done 581 Classes and Kimberly 403 Classes
Lance's Power Drill Class - Spaghetti (free Choice) Hands/Feet
Kimberly's Power Drill Class - 1800 non stop hits
Kimberly's Power Drill Class - Addon punches


Site updated May 8, 2002

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