Over the past 40+ years that NK has existed, we have on occasion, been approached from various outside martial arts organizations to expand our curriculum to include whatever martial art is (was) popular at the time. Everything from Kung Fu (Chinese MA popularized by the Kung Fu TV series) to Tae Bo (Billy Blanks hugely popular video “martial arts” exercise series) to Jui Jitsu and other types of grappling arts to Krav Maga (Israeli self defense program) have been proposed to us .
The people who have presented these options have warned us that if we didn’t take advantage of their offer, we would be doomed to failure and that our schools would fail when “the ship sails without us”. While all of these various arts have some positive aspects we have resisted the urge to make dramatic and\or frequent changes in the curriculum that we have presented for these many years.
In 1970, as a young man, my first martial arts teaching experience was in the Jhoon Rhee Institute in Washington, DC. Master Rhee, known as the “Father of American Tae Kwon Do” taught me and Master Larry Carnahan much of the classical martial arts and basic mechanics that NK instructors are teaching still today. As young martial arts enthusiasts, we would occasionally approach Mr. Rhee about adding or changing the curriculum. He would respond with a story about his childhood while growing up in a small farming village in South Korea.
“When I was a very young boy”, he would tell us, “My first job was to pick berries from bushes in huge fields outside my village. Many men, women and other children worked as pickers and we were paid by how many berries we could pick. I watched as some of the people would go to a bush, pick a few berries that were easy to reach and then they would see some berries on a different bush and run to that bush, pick a few more and so on. I would find a bush, pick EVERY berry on the bush before I moved to the next bush and then I would pick EVERY berry on that bush……and, at the end of the day, I always had the most berries. So, STICK TO YOUR BUSH!”
What we have learned over the past 40+ years of martial arts training is that there is always more to learn about our art. It’s been said that a student could do nothing but practice riding stance punching every day for one full year and, at the end of that year would still been improving and learning. The pursuit of any single martial art is a lifetime effort.
Although we have made slight changes and additions to the NK curriculum over the years, we are still basically teaching the same as we did in 1973 when we started the first school. We know that the NK curriculum is a very effective self defense, an excellent physical conditioning tool, produces world class martial arts athletes and is an enduring martial art.
And, since Master Carnahan and I are still learning, we think Mr Rhee’s words “Stick to your bush” are very wise advice.
John G. Worley
Ninth Degree Grand Master
Co-Founder, National Karate Academy of Martial Arts