“Author Colin Wee drops Master Will Just at American Karate and Taekwondo Organization’s Annual Seminar Event 2023. In the background is GM Mike Swope (RIP) General Secretary of World Chun Kuhn Taekwondo Federation and Publisher of Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata.”

Emptying Your Cup Doesn’t Mean Losing Your Style by Colin Wee

Master Will Just is a fit, talented, and committed Taekwondo practitioner.
Knowing Will online for several years, I invited him in 2023 to meet for the first time at a seminar I was leading in Dallas. Without thinking too hard about it, I also invited him to help as my demonstration partner.
The seminar was focused on traditional applications and close quarter tactics. I didn’t know at the time, but I was soon to discover Will outweighed me by more than 50lbs.

Memories from the seminar in Dallas 2023. Left to right is Colin’s teacher GM Michael Proctor, seminar presenter GM Mike Bonstaff, seminar presenter Master Vivica LaMarche, AKATO President and renown author GM Keith Yates, and Master Colin Wee. The group pose for a picture at a diner pre-seminar.

This meant to shift his mass I needed to call on several skills that many hard style martial artists don’t often practice. But manhandle him I did. Over the course of that week, I not only threw him to the ground countless of times, I injected so much power into that man, his whole body was riddled in bruises by the end of it.
There were several reasons I amped it up. One was that Will had been searching for a wellspring of knowledge, and the information he wanted was proving elusive. Next, but not least, was that.
seminar participants in attendance needed to see how innocuous tactics could be misleading and brutally efficient.
Various International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) Instructors pick me up on this every now and then. In the ITF worldview, a Theory of Power governs “the correct” method of delivering techniques. Dependent on the school, this theory would unfold to its full glory as a ‘Sine Wave’ movement during forms practice. The question posed is given I’m a Taekwondo practitioner, shouldn’t I lead with this Theory of Power too?

“The author gap closes on Will Just, connecting with a sequence of mid blocks at the JDKNY Schenectady Seminar 2024.”

I don’t disagree with the Theory, and I don’t dispute ITF Taekwondo’s ‘Sine Wave.’ After all, it is a natural motion, and I use similar myself. However, even with my advocating on their behalf, most ‘Sine Wavers’ would dismiss my broader ideas as heretical, signaling an end to rational discussion.
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m not an ITF practitioner. I practice Taekwondo from a Chung Do Kwan lineage. Brought to the USA in 1956 by GM Jhoon Rhee (the “father of Taekwondo in America”) our lineage pre-dates ITF by well over a decade. My organization adopted the name ‘Taekwondo’ and its early hyungs in the 1960s, but remained uninvolved with ITF as it evolved and spread across the world.
Americans being Americans, and showing great passion for their newfound discovery, explored combative systems with zeal. Many did this without being fettered by the same historical or geopolitical constraints associated with each style of practice.
When I arrived in the US in the early 1990s, this enthusiasm was very much alive. We socialized often with black belts from different styles, and were encouraged to cross train. In fact, part of our black belt requirements included a specialization module. ‘Specialization’ was to ensure Black Belts train under a different system for long enough to rank, and then to report on this experience.
Trained in this mindset, and since leaving the US, I have delved into terms like: kime, ikken hisatsu, chinkuchi, kuzushi, muchimi, neigong, fajin, chi, dantien rotation, makiwara, Peter Consterdine’s Double Hip Twist, and modern combat sport ideas on kinetic chaining.

Colin stands at the front of class, but leads by sharing from the ground up. This sets the scene for the seminar in Upstate NY 2024.

This is not a betrayal of my original style. I’m still a custodian of the pattern sets I was taught. But the expression of that training has shifted from when I was a young black belt. While I’m still fit and could still go several rounds, there’s no wisdom in my going head-to-head with someone like Will … on his terms. The guy has reflexes of a person 20 years younger, is three weight classes above me, and can take a massive amount of punishment with a smile on his face.
Of course, I’ve grown as a practitioner since. The Dallas 2023 seminar coincided with my 40th anniversary in martial arts. With the auspices of Grandmaster Keith Yates, that event helped launched my book “Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata.” Breaking Through is a snapshot of the training methodology we use in my school, the journey to gain such insight, and the improvement I’ve experienced despite ageing as a practitioner.


A peak inside the book shows an innovative improvised blunt-edge impact tool. It’s amazing what happens when you stop justifying the pattern or copying applications and start considering the situation at hand.

The methodology anticipates and invites non-compliance from an opponent. Then solves for it using counters from that one martial art form, or if none seem available, to look further afield for answers. Before you think I’m blowing my own horn, I share only because it’s given me immense fulfilment, and makes sense of the source material I’ve been gifted. Most importantly, it maximizes my ability to cope with the physicality in this field.
The seminars showcase interesting tactical concepts and behind-the-scenes information from the book. While these exercises are challenging to learn within the time constraints of a seminar setting, I firmly believe that if I can do it, anyone else with a similar background can arrive here too. Just follow the approach, work the variations together, and plumb your own lineage to your heart’s
content.

Colin’s book has opened opportunities to network and promote knowledge sharing. Here Colin exchanges books with Hanshi Dean Chapman.

Throughout the sessions, you’ll see power generation is not mutually exclusive from other tactical skills. Dishing out hurt on a dynamic opponent is not like hitting a heavy bag. No, I don’t get my demo partner to hold that one-step sparring pose. Yes, he’s going slower but he is still targeting my face. And of course he doesn’t want to get hurt, so there’ll be a tangled mess of arms in the way. My point is: how does the form teach anyone to get a clean shot through? Well, this is where the methodology, and a shortened kinetic chain is a game changer.

Colin demonstrates numerous ways to displace a person’s structure. This particular example looks fantastical, was unscripted, and corresponds to form and function.

My progress in this area of practice did not result from a ton of gains at the gym. This is not muscular strength I rely on. If it were, I’d be at the losing end of most exchanges. Chinese Martial Artists would call it ‘Ground Force.’ In their parlance, they would summon jin energy from the ground, transmit it through vertical elastic lines running through the body, then release it anywhere they need it.


Will Just shows souvenirs from traditional training on his second day of the weeklong road trip, Dallas 2023.

Yes, that’s esoteric; I myself prefer concepts an English-speaking crowd would get, and then maybe throw in the odd movie reference to entertain. Instead of jin or fajin, I would center on ‘kinetic chaining.’ The Human Kinetics Website describes a kinetic chain as “interrelated parts of the body … and how they work together to perform movement” (https://us.humankinetics.com/blogs/excerpt/understanding-the-kinetic-chain). Specifically at my seminars, the demos would focus on generating power from as short a kinetic chain as possible.
This is what I call forth when engaging Will. It isn’t technique-focused, meaning I could punch past his body, then use an elbow bump to drop him to the ground. It’s not just an elbow strike though, it’s the body transmitting “ground force” into him. The audience sees my elbow twitch, but on the receiving end, if I want it to be, it will feel like my entire 145lbs had just slammed into Will’s chest.

 

This still doesn’t refute Taekwondo’s Theory of Power nor the techniques I was trained in, it’s just that the Theory doesn’t deliver on an ancillary benefit of understanding the opponent’s skeletal structure. That comes from cavorting with all those other esoterica. Just ‘giving it a go’ has allowed me to explore the opponent’s body structure, movement, and balance. And in this way, I can tap into both power generation, and the ability to disrupt the opponent’s endoskeleton. Without much effort, it has improved my standing clinch game, and given better insight on the interplay between both hard style and soft style systems.
During my last seminar in New York in January 2024, I was asked by one of the seminar participants what I meant when I say there’s “no technique.” What I was attempting to say is there are always several techniques which can accomplish the same goal. Collectively they help consider angle of entry, relative height, which foot leads, and how the guard is stopping you; basically, how the situation is stopping you from doing your thing.

Invited by Kancho Kelly Cox at Marudo dojo, Colin extends his sensitivity through the connection in order to feel Will’s structure.

Yet, when you figure out the secret of how those techniques work, and can read the opponent’s physical structure, you won’t need to scramble for any one technique. Expert kickers know this – you see an opening, you fly the leg through the air, extend the hip, and transmit body mass through the extended limb. Just like that, I deal with the dynamic situation, and drop the opponent because I simply know his structure better than he does.
After the seminar I sent a message to participants thanking them and reminding them legacy forms had to be fleshed out. “Emptying your cup” doesn’t mean we throw away legacy knowledge or fundamental training for something new. The more we embrace the idea of form-as-framework, and look for solutions to fill-in-the-blanks, the better it serves our needs.
Readers would be happy to note the New York Seminar did not leave Will as bruised and battered as he was in Dallas. He experienced what he needed, he’s grown from it, and didn’t need to undergo the same tortuous basics again.

Jeff Palm, Will Just, Taekwondo Times Editor Jack Berry, and Colin Wee enjoy a meal but keep it dry at the local pub Katie O’Byrne’s before the seminar Jan 2024

A year out from Dallas to his credit, I’ve seen Will’s understanding of kinetic chaining take a huge leap forward. Just by ‘giving it a go,’ he’s punched past his previous power generating ability, and is now at a new and very scary upper limit. An upper limit that can be summoned at any instance during the form – any form, and not just at the end of a technique.
This is what happens when someone turns theory into practice.
Keep it up the good form, Will!

Bio: Colin Wee is primarily trained by instructors from American Karate and Taekwondo Organization in Dallas, Texas. He is the author of the award-winning book Breaking Through: The Secrets of Bassai Dai Kata. In a previous life, Colin was a National Representative and Assistant National Coach in Archery. Based in Western Australia, he heads a boutique school called Joong Do Kwan. Search for him at goodreads.com. Or look for the book at any of your favorite online retailers.

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