ckd


30th Year of Choi Kwang Do and 2nd Dan Grading

This week sees the 30th year of Choi Kwang Do as a martial art. Many from the art are travelling to Atlanta for the celebrations. we were not in a position to go with this the last week of school and work commitments, but I think we managed to celebrate in our own way.
A few sunday’s ago predlet 2.0 and I stepped onto the floor of the dojang in Farnborough to face our biggest challenge yet in Choi Kwang Do. Together we went through the grading for our EE Dan (2nd Degree) Black Belts. We shared the floor with other students heading for their 1st Dan. It was an amazing and gruelling experience with 2.5 hours of full on effort. Also Predlet 1.0 took her tag grading for 1st Dan blue tag afterwards, which is about another year or so until she will be doing her 2nd Dan. She may well be doing that at the same time as Jan does her 1st Dan too, another family double grading. To do 2nd Dan you have to also effectively do 1st Dan again, then add another layer to that. These gradings are as much a test of mental strength as they are of physical conditioning. Remaining focussed but remembering what to do and to be as flowing as possible whilst still delivering aggressive energy is a challenge. I know during the course of my patterns my mind lots its way for one set, and in speed drills I transposed two of the kicks in the wrong order. The experience from the 1st Dan of something similar helped a great deal as that is the time to reset, acknowledge it and get on with it. There is to much to do to be annoyed or worried about mistakes. An extra problem this time ardour was the humidity. It was pushing 30C outside the hall and Doboks are heavy fabric that soak up a lot of sweat. During our spinning kicks though I kept having to move around a bit as a slippery puddle was forming under my feet and falling over risks not only losing focus but injury towards the start. For most of the grading we were shuffled around in the line up to avoid predlet 2.0 and I being next door to one another which can be a distraction. However for the 2nd Dan elements it was just us. He is so fast at his patterns that it can throw me as I he is 1 or 2 ahead but we had practiced that so I learned to try and ignore him and focus on mine. This is tricky when you are combining being a proud or concerned dad, an instructor and a fellow student doing their own thing all in one. You also have the amazing panel of very experienced chief instructors and Masters watching your every move and family and friends behind you also watching. Unlike being on stage or TV though this does not feel like a performance, it is important to try and suppress the performance elements, so I find a different me and try and work internally, but being human its hard not to look up and wonder what anyone is thinking, am I doing it right? am I letting my teacher down. These fleeting moments can interrupt the flow that one is trying to achieve whilst also managing heart rate and breathing to give maximum effort but not take everything from the tank for the rest of the grading. We all managed to achieve our goals though.
2nd dan
I had spent a good few months focussing on conditioning, PACE training and doing full sets of curriculum in order to be ready. On the Monday before the grading I had tried to do almost a full grading of techniques, patterns and speed drills plus some heavy work on the bag and BoB but with a few more breaks and lots of water just to rehearse enough. My in class preparation from Master Scrimshaw and with my fellow students set the foundations for being able to do this. It is certainly not something you just turn up to and hope you can do it. After my various teeth extractions at the start of the year my energy levels had dropped and a few months ago in class at Basingstoke CKD I couldn’t do even just the kicks in order at a good pace without a water break. That was my Rocky steps moment, each training session I explored how much of that I could do until that full set on the Monday.
These are incredible experiences and I am really appreciative of the instructors and masters who give up their time to run these gradings on a Sunday. The feedback and advice before and after is always very useful and the ecouragment partnering for some of the energy sapping drills really helps too. I am really please for predlet 2.0 too. At 10 he has achieved not 1 but 2 black belts and is enjoying the next stage of the journey too. He was worn out for the week after this (as we both were) which given how energetic he normally is indicated the effort he put in too.
We did it - 2nd dan black belts in Choi Kwang do. More to learn still #ckd4life
These belts represent a milestone in a journey, they are called degree’s because they are the result of many years of study and practice. They are as much about mental strength as physical and whilst the belt is an external indicator it is the feeling and sense of achievement that is inside that counts. It is also a reminder of how much there is yet to learn, each belt brings new challenges, chapters in a book, and the black belts are like a whole new book in a series. I remember my first grading and at white belt, thinking how can I get through this it is hard. 1st to 2nd Dan is the same feeling. Yet each technique that is learned works on the base of those very first techniques and the attitude to them. They are all equally as important, and learning new things makes the previous new things seem familiar. Familiarity doesn’t become complacency though, ever time you think “I’ve got this” a new twist, distraction or realization makes itself known.
As we say in Choi, Pil Seung! and a very happy 30th anniversary to everyone.

More instrumented training – Hykso, CKD, Power tests

I was probably not expecting this blog to end up as a gym bore, but as this is tech and IoT related but blends with Choi Kwang Do I think it can be excused. Number are all relative, regardless of the units or apparent speeds and counts they need to have previous states to compare them to in order to make sense. (Something we see all the time in IoT analytics 🙂 )
I have had a few sessions of the 2min, 1min, 30 sec punches to see how the punch count and power is affected, plus to track if I am getting anywhere with the training. I have also mixed and matched going for power with just sheer punch count, both variant of a PACE drill for hi intensity bursts. I am not neglecting the kicks or other techniques, but theses are what I can record.
Over a few session I tried 3x1min30 rounds with the aim to get the punch count consistent and fast across each. Around the 3rd go at this I managed to get over 200 strikes per round and the same 8mph avg velocity across them.
The recording of what was a straight or a power shot is a little distorted as I am not using boxing strikes so may be confusing the kit. It does show favouring the right 366 strikes to 246. Even when I thought I was using both side equally, so that is a handy insight. It is probably the really fast combinations have an extra start and stop on the right so I can work on that. Thats 136 strikes per minute, which is wonderfully surprising to be able to achieve. I will revise that as a bench mark in elements of the training, to see if power increases over time.
The other metric was to start to do PACE rounds with decreasing amounts of time
From bottom up 2 min, 1 min, 30 second and 15 second pace drill with kicks only punches logged #ckd4life
In this one (above) the First round at the bottom is 2mins steady heavy but controlled strikes, 91 at avg 16.7 mph (Twice the velocity of impact of the flat out drills). Each session then seeks to up the pace but reduce the time. This worked out quote well as the velocity only dropped from 16.7 to 11.5 but it still meant a punch rate of 172 per second on the 15 second flat out round.

After this I went back to flowing pattern drills and gave my body a rest from impacts, but just out of interest when I was the most relaxed I tried pure concentrated power. By this time there is not energy to think about hitting hard, only relaxed efficient movement, which is what the aim is to produce.
The following was 16 strikes going up from punches to reverse knifehand.
Power test front punches, then reverse knife and round after pace drill #ckd4life
The punches came out at 19mph but the reverse knife hand hit 45 mph. Whether these numbers are right I am not sure, but previously a standard punch was registering at 10mph when I was not so worn out, and a reverse knifehand was 24mph.
To be scientific, I isolated these again. So this is right at the end of a training session. Both right and left rear hand rear inward punches (with a stance change) followed by right and left hand rear reverse knifehand. Just 4 strikes, and sure enough it registered in a similar.
Hykso data #ckd4life
2 punches at 22 and two reverse knife hands one at 54mph and one at 47mph.
What this shows is that the principles of our training in being as relaxed as possible to generate as much power as possible, whilst they often feel at odds with one another, are in fact true. Fluidity of motion comes with years and years of practice, but wearing yourself out a little beforehand helps you practice technique in the right way.
It is nice to also just get away from the numbers and get into the patterns and the mindset too, focussing on targets can be distracting so its good to mix and match.
Pil Seung!

A free offering for World Choi Kwang Do week

This week is, for our martial art, Choi Kwang Do, starting to be known as World CKD week. Primarily that is because March 2nd is the anniversary of Grandmaster Choi founding the art, originally in 1987. The week is being themed with the tag line Science meets Martial Arts. This is one of the main reasons Choi Kwang Do works for me. In class we learn, practice and teach things based on the reason they work.
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I have written about our family’s martial art of choice many times and my exploration of technology in the art and how I arrived at the art via technology and serendipity too. There is also the more formal article in my writing portfolio about Virtual athletes
All this has led to Choi Kwang Do being a huge part of our family life and we have made so many good friends through it. There is a bond we all feel in the positive spirit of the art. It was shown this weekend as we celebrated with Master Scrimshaw the 5th Anniversary of BasingstokeCKD Our dohjang was full on Saturday with fellow students from Basingstoke, but also some good friends, old and new from other schools. We had black belt tag grading, colour belt grading, an incredible set of routines to go through in class and then a great social event with food and cakes. It was incredibly uplifting, and an ideal lead into World CKD week too!
To celebrate this World CKD week I have made Cont3xt free to download. It has an awful lot in it, pivotal to the story inspired by Choi Kwang Do as an art and a state of mind. It fits with the Science (Fiction) meets Martial Arts tagline for the week. Whilst I am doing this to encourage my fellow practitioners to see ways we can introduce Choi Kwang Do in many different ways, and as a way of saying thank you to them all there will of course be other people able to download and experience the books for free. All my author bio’s mention Choi Kwang Do.
We pledge Humility and Integrity, amongst other things, in the art. So promotion of one’s own work like this could feel a little uncomfortable. However I really want to share how CKD inspired elements fit into a science fiction techno thriller in a very positive way. It was the just getting on with it unbreakable spirit that we learn, that even got me to write these two books.
As Cont3xt is the follow up book I have also made Reconfigure free for the week too. The martial arts arrives in Cont3xt but not in the way you might think to start off with, in Reconfigure (book 1) Roisin has no such skills, but the book is there for free too for completeness.
I hope a few people get a chance to take a look, maybe even pop a few stars of reviews on Amazon. I would also love for someone to have read the Cont3xt, who doesn’t do CKD yet, and to look up the art , find their nearest school and start to train. It’s a long shot, but every person in the World is a potential student to join us, have some fun and learn something really useful about themselves.
Choi Kwang Do is practical self defence, but we aim to never need to use it, and we also don’t fight and hurt our fellow students via competition and sparring. I believe the quote is “It is better to be a warrior in a garden than a gardener in a war.”
So there we have it, the books are available free on Amazon, to be used in whatever way works for whom so ever needs it. Cont3xt and Reconfigure here.
Pil Seung! (Certain victory)

Lucky 7 years – Feeding Edge birthday

Wow. It is seven years since I started Feeding Edge Ltd. That is quite a long while isn’t it? The past year has been a more difficult one with less work in the pipeline for most of it. It has meant I have had to take stock and look to do other things, whilst the World catches up. It does seem strange given the dawn of the new wave of Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality that I have not managed to find the right people to engage my expertise and background in both regular technology and virtual worlds. In part that was because I was focussing on one major contract, when that dried up suddenly there was no where to go. It is starting from zero again to build up and sell who I am and what I do.
My other startup work has always been ticking along under the covers, as we try and work the system to find the right person with the right vision to fund what we have in mind. It is a big a glorious project, but it all takes time. Lots of no, yes but and even a few lets do it, followed by oh hang can’t now other stuff has come up.
On the summer holiday, I had a good long think about whether to give this all up and try and find a regular position back in corporate life, I was hit with a flash of inspiration for the science fiction concept. It was so obvious that I just had to give it a go. That is not to say I would not accept a well paid job with slightly more structure to help pay my way. However, the books flowed out of me. It was an incredibly exciting end to the year. Learning how to write and structure Reconfigure, how to package and build the ebook and the print version. How to release and then try and promote it. I have learned so much doing it that helps me personally, helps my business and also will help in any consulting work I do in the future. I realised too that the products of both Reconfigure and Cont3xt are like a CV for me. They represent a state of the virtual world, virtual reality, augmented reality and Internet of Things industry, combined with the coding and use of game tech that comes directly from my experiences, extrapolated for the purpose of story telling.
Write what you know, and that appears to be the future, in this case the near future.
This year I have also been continuing my journey in Choi Kwang Do. This time with a black suit on as a head instructor. It has led me to give talks to schools on science and why it is important, with a backdrop of Choi Kwang Do as a hook for them. I am constantly trying to evolve as a teacher and a student. Once again the reflective nature of the art was woven into the second book Cont3xt. I did not brand any of the martial arts action in the book as Choi Kwang Do as that may mis-represent the art and I don’t want to do that, but it did influence the start of the story with its more reflective elements, later on a degree of poetic licence kicked in, but the feelings of performing the moves is very real.
I have continued my pursuit of the unusual throughout the year. The books as a product provide, rather like the Feeding Edge logo has in the past, a vehicle to explore ideas.
I still really like my Forza 6 book branded Lambo, demonstrating the concept of digital in world product placement.

If you have read the books, and if not why not? they are only 99p, you will know that Roisin like Marmite. Why not ? I like Marmite, again write what you know. It became a vehicle and an ongoing thread in the stories, and even a bit of a calling card. It is a real world brand, so that can be tricky, but I think I use it in a positive way, as well as showing that not everyone is a fan. So the it is just another real world hook to make the science fiction elements believable. So I was really pleased when i saw that Marmite had a print your own label customisation. It is print on demand Marmite, just as my books are print on demand. It uses the web and the internet to accept the order and the then there is physical delivery. I know its a bit meta but thats the same pattern Roisin uses, just the physical movement of things is a little more quirky 🙂
Http://www.cont3xtbook.co.uk meets #marmite
I have another two jars on the way. One for Reconfigure and one for Roisin herself.
I am sure she will change her own twitter icon from the regular jar to one of these later as @axelweight Yes she does have a Twitter account, she had to otherwise she would not have been able to accidentally Tweet “ls -l” and get introduced to the World changing device @RayKonfigure would she?
All this interweaving of tech and experience, in this case related to the books, is what I do and have always done. I hope my ideas are inspirational to some, and one day obvious to others. I will keep trying to do the right thing, be positive and share as much as possible.
I am available to talk through any opportunities you have, anytime. epredator at feedingedge.co.uk or @epredator
Finally, last but not least, I have to say a huge thank you to my wife Jan @elemming She has the pressure of the corporate role, one that she enjoys but still it is the pressure. She is the major breadwinner. You can imagine how many 99p books you have to sell make any money to pay anything. She puts up with the downs whilst we at for the ups. Those ups will re-emerge, this year has shown that too me. No matter how bleak it looks, something happens to offer hope. I have some new projects in the pipeline, mostly speculative, but with all these crazy ideas buzzing around something will pop one day.
As we say in Choi Kwang Do – Pil Seung! which means certain victory. Happy lucky 7th birthday Feeding Edge 🙂

Using the Real World – IoT, WebGL, MQTT, Marmite, Unity3d and CKD

All the technology and projects I have worked on in my career take what we currently have at the moment and create or push something further. Development projects of any kind will enhance or replace existing systems or create brand new ones. A regular systems update will tweak and fix older code and operations and make them fresher and new. This happens even in legacy systems. In both studying and living some of the history of our current wave of technology, powered by the presence of the Internet, I find it interesting to reflect of certain technology trajectories. Not least to try and find a way to help and grow this industries, and with a bit of luck actually get paid to do that. I find that things finding out about other things is fascinating. With Predlet 2.0 birthday party we took them all Karting. There was a spare seat going so I joined in. The Karts are all instrumented enough that the lap times are automatically grabbed as you pass the line. Just that one piece of data for each Kart is then formulated and aggregated. Not just with your group, but with the “ProSkill” ongoing tracking of your performance. The track knows who I am now I have registered. So if I turn up and rice again it will show me more metrics and information about my performance, just from that single tag crossing the end of lap sensor. Yes that IoT in action, and we have had that for a while.
Great fun karting. Yay for being faster than 9 year olds :)
The area of Web services is an interesting one to look at. Back in 1997, whilst working on very early website for a car manufacturer, we had a process to get to some data about skiing conditions. It required a regular CRON job to be scheduled and perform a secure FTP to grab the current text file containing all the ski resorts snowfall, so that we could parse it and push it into a form that could be viewed on the Web. i.e. it had a nice set of graphics around it. That is nearly 20 years ago, and it was a pioneering application. It was not really a service or an API to talk to. It used the available automation we had, but it started as a manual process. Pulling the file and running a few scripts to try and parse the comma delimited data. The data, of course, came from both human observation and sensors. It was collated into one place for us to use. It was a real World set of measurements, pulled together and then adjusted and presented in a different form over the Internet via the Web. I think we can legitimately call that an Internet of Things (IoT) application?
We had a lot of fancy and interesting projects then, well before their time, but that are templates for what we do today. Hence I am heavily influenced by those, and having absorbed what may seem new today, a few years ago, I like to look to the next steps.
Another element of technology that features in my work is the ways we write code and deploy it. In particular the richer, dynamic game style environments that I build for training people in. I use Unity3d mostly. It has stood the test of time and moved on with the underlying technology. In the development environment I can place 3D objects and interact with them, sometimes stand alone, sometimes as networked objects. I tend to write in C# rather than Javascript, but it can cope with both. Any object can have code associated with it. It understands the virtual environment, where something is, what it is made of etc. A common piece of code I use picks one of the objects in the view and then using the mouse, the virtual camera view can orbit that object. It is an interesting feeling still to be able to spin around something that initial looks flat and 2D. It is like a drones eye view. Hovering or passing over objects.
Increasingly I have had to get the Unity applications to talk to the rest of the Web. They need to integrate with existing services, or with databases and API’s that I create. User logons, question data sets, training logs etc. In many ways it is the same as back in 1997. The pattern is the same, yet we have a lot more technology to help us as programmers. We have self defining data sets now. XML used to be the one everyone raved about. Basically web like take around data to start and stop a particular data element. It was always a little to heavy on payload though. When I interacted with the XML dat from the tennis ball locations for Wimbledon the XML was too big for Second Life to cope with at the time. The data had to be mashed down a little, removing the long descriptions of each field. Now we have JSON a much tighter description of data. It is all pretty much the same of course. An implied comma delimited file, such as the ski resort weather worked really well, if the export didn’t corrupt it. XML version would be able to be tightly controlled and parsed in a more formal language style way, JSON is between the two. In JSON the data is just name:value, as opposed to XML value. It is the sort of data format that I used to end up creating anyway, before we had the formality off this as a standard.
Unity3d copes well with JSON natively now. It used to need a few extra bits of code, but as I found out recently it is very easy to parse a web based API using code and extra those pieces of information and adjust the contents of the 3d Environment accordingly. By easy, I mean easy if you are a techie. I am sure I could help most people get to the point of understanding how to do this. I appreciate too that having done this sort of thing for years there is a different definition of easy.
It is this grounding in real World pulling info data and manipulating it, from the Internet and serving it to the Web that seems to be a constant pattern. It is the pattern of IoT and of Big Data.
As part of the ongoing promotion of the science fiction books I have written I created a version of the view Roisin has of the World in the first novel Reconfigure. In that she discovers and API that can transcribed and described the World around her.
This video shows a simulation of the FMM v1.0 (Roisin’s application) working as it would for her. A live WebGL version that just lets you move the camera around to get a feel for it is here.

WebGL is a new target that Unity3d can publish too. Unity used to be really good because it had a web plugin that let us deploy applications, rich 3d ones, to any web browser not just build for PC, mac and tablets. Every application I have done over the past 7 years has generally had the web plugin version at its core to make life easier for the users. Plugins are dying and no longer supported on many browsers. Instead the browser has functions to draw things, move things about on screen etc. So Unity3d now generates the same thing as the plugin, which was common code, but creates a mini version for each application that is published. It is still very early days for WebGl, but it is interesting to be using it for this purpose as a test and for some other API interactions with sensors across the Web.
In the story, the interaction Roisin starts as a basic command line ( but over Twitter DM), almost like the skiing FTP of 1997. She interrogates the API and figures out the syntax, which she then builds a user interface for. Using Unity3d of course. The API only provides names and positions of objects, hence the cube view of the World. Roisin is able to move virtual objects and the API then, using some Quantum theory, is able to move the real World objects. In the follow up, this basic interface gets massively enhanced, with more IoT style ways of interacting with the data, such as with MQTT for messaging instead of Twitter DM’s as in the first book. All real World stuff, except the moving things around. All evolved through long experience in the industry to explain it in relatively simple terms and then let the adventure fly.
I hope you can see the lineage of the technology in the books. I think the story and the twists and turns are the key though. The base tech makes it real enough to start to accept the storyline on top. When I wrote the tech parts, and built the storyboard they were the easy bits. How to weave some intrigue danger and peril in was something else. From what I have been told, and what I feel, this has worked. I would love to know what more people think about it though. It may work as a teaching aid for how the internet works, what IoT is etc for any age group, from schools to boardroom? The history and the feelings of awe and anger at the technology are something we all feel at some point with some element of out lives too.
Whilst I am on real World though. One of the biggest constants in Roisin’s life is the like it or love it taste of Marmite. It has become, through the course of the stories, almost a muse like character. When writing you have to be careful with real life brands. I believe I have used the ones I have in these books as proper grounding with the real World. I try to be positive about everyone else products, brands and efforts.
In Cont3xt I also added in some martial arts, from my own personal experience again, but adjusted a little her and there. The initial use of it in Cont3xt is not what you might think when you hear martial art. I am a practitioner of Choi Kwang Do, though I do not specially call any of the arts used in the book by that name as there are times it is used aggressively, not purely for defence. The element of self improvement is in there, but with a twist.
Without the background in technology over the years and the seeing it evolve and without my own personal gradual journey in Choi Kwang Do, I would not have had the base material to draw upon, to evolve the story on top of.
I hope you get a chance to read them, it’s just a quick download. Please let me know what you think, if you have not already. Thank you 🙂

Memory and depth of experience is a fascinating thing

I like to explore how things, usually tech related, end up feeling. The human experience is a central one that often gets ignored in any apparent automation or solving of a problem with tech. Products that we all get to use on a regular basis, or trends we buy into are obviously engineered into the user experiences and adverts and branding appeal to a sense of belonging too. Memory though, and how ‘into’ something you can be at any point in time is fascinating.
Many of us have had a few weeks away from training in Choi Kwang Do, classes are starting again this week. Four years ago, this month, predlet 2.0 and I knew nothing about it
Choi kwang do
Constant practice, and constant learning maintain the philosophy, the physical flexibility and the combinations of movements in our brains and bodies. We are all aiming for it to be something we don’t have to remember, just something we do. The form and shapes are built to remember though. They have start and end points that match, making it suitable chunk for memory to deal with. It knows where it is going. Different belts layer upon the foundation, but the circular nature of memory and practice continues until it starts to become automatic. Though we all know we can always improve and there is always more to learn. It is still in there, ready for instant recall. I know I draw a blank sometimes in practice, when the subconscious and conscious get all mixed up with one another. The importance he is structure and pattern, and where it then goes awry with other types of activity.

Today I was back into my role as a writer/author/publisher/publicist for the first time for a few weeks. The holidays I had pretty much shutdown mentally on the subject. I was still very much following tech, seeing what was going on in the World, but my own self made World was on hold. Maybe there was the odd tweet or response to a reader, but in general I wanted to experiment with walking away from it for a few weeks.

My return needed a kickstart, that has been one that for the next few hours (until about 9am UK Wednesday 6th Jan 2016) of having Reconfigure available for free download. The Uk version is here US version is here

I had to do this to patch back in the feelings of urgency I had for people to read this story. It was still selling over christmas, even copies on xmas day which is humbling. It is still being read on the free library that Amazon runs to Kindle Unlimited. I needed to feel, and be abel to share what was going on and be back in the moment with it though. Obviously I hope I get more readers and reviews too.
This was also to cause a cascade kick start to editing the book I finished just before the holiday. To then start re-reading and editing Cont3xt, the follow up.
Now this is where it got a bit weird. As I started to read it again, I felt like I was returning home, filled with the buzz of the first book. I also though had not spent as much time going over the words as I had with the first one. So in many ways I had just written it and then forgot it.

In forgetting it, I was actually able to enchant and surprise myself at things I had created. I started to think if I had actually written the words. Obviously I did, but in such a state of Flow my conscious mind had not really taken it all in. It must have been there a little. Having read the first 1/3 of the book I remember the story board I did. However, my characters have said and done things that almost seem autonomous. That is a bizarre feeling.
Or at least is was until I related it to code. All my fellow techies out there will have felt the same. Even with code comments, returning to an intricate piece of code after a time away from it, maybe witting something else completely different, there is a sense of ‘did I write that?’ It can be dread at how bad it is, or elation at how clever or elegant it is. Code of course is built from some design or architecture, though that may be a mental model lost into the depths of the brain on the individual who did it. Code is an expression of that, but equally its an abstraction. You can exercise the code and read the code, plus look at the comments. So there are multiple ways to patch it back into your brain.

With a book its a bit different. You have to fund the emotions you felt, the tricks you were playing, with twists and turns, pretty much through the text itself. The storyboard certainly helps, but it seems a good test of the story if you can surprise yourself.
I had seen some writing help suggestions to metaphorically put the book in a drawer and leave it, before going back to it. It is an approach I think I can recommend. Whilst it has been a bit strange, I have gone back to something I like. That could of course go horribly wrong the other way or I am just delusional. Still I don’t have time for that sort of imposter syndrome problem that we all get.

Martial Arts, Science and Tech for Secondary School

Having returned for a great snowboarding and skiing holiday with the family,

I dived straight back into presenting and explaining science and tech. This was a slightly different request through STEMnet though. A local secondary school teacher asked if I could come and take about biomechanics and martial arts to try and help her students see why science is still an important subject to stick with.

I ran two sessions but built a new presentation specifically for this audience and reason.
Usually I am explaining tech, the future, metaverses etc but putting things like Choi Kwang Do and learning guitar into the mix to make things a little more human.
This time though the hook was martial arts. As Martial arts are not generally taught in school (though the should ideally be part of the curriculum) they are something that has a degree of intrigue to people. Choi Kwang Do in particular is based around a lot of ground up application of scientific principles. It is also not a combat sport, but a defence art aimed at improving your overall mental and physical well being. i.e. it’s idea; for this sort of talk.
I am not going to post the presentation as it featured a lot of video, very few words on slides and a lot of talking and demonstration.

The format though was….
1. Intro to who I am, what I do. I was wearing my Dobok and belt as part of the impact, but indicating my background and work as a techie. I also showed some custard pie throwing from The Cool Stuff Collective. My aim was to show that breadth of knowledge and experience is important and the ability to change is key.
2. I gave a potted history of CKD and showed some of the variety of people performing CKD. I showed predlet 1.0 in a video at a showcase event. It had all ages, sizes and abilities of people in it. The aim to remove the macho, teenage boys only, type of image and engage the entire class. I explained the classes that Master Scrimshaw runs in basingstoke too. I also had the values and pledge on screen to mention.
3. Next up was to talk about Psychology. In part this was about mental states. Dealing with the transition from relaxed, to wary to fight or flight. How the fight or flight state causes massive physical and chemical changes. How being aware of those changes, finding ways to avoid or positively use those is a fundamental part of any martial art. How being in the red and stressed when you don’t need to be will make you ill etc.

4. Physics was next. I pointed out that in a martial art Force = Mass x Acceleration is key. Learning ways to project as much of your mass as possible, as fast as possible is what the techniques are designed to do. Understanding forces and what they are apply to any sport, golf, football, tennis. However I also broke out into showing how we need to understand forces like gravity and cohesion in game development and animations. Here I was aiming to jump subjects to show that the same science and understanding is needing in something very physical and in something, like games development, that is more sat at a desk. The same science.
Also here I played a little trick. Whilst talking about the forces I suddenly jumped into stance and gave a very loud guttural kihap (Martial art shout). This made pretty much everyone jump. A fairly drastic pace change but the aim was to then remind everyone of the conversation about fight of flight earlier on. I pointed out that for me as the shouter, I had gained control, I had positive vibes and chemicals flowing and I was ready. For the class they were for a fraction of a second confused. Their body will have gone straight to code red, in fact jumping was part of fight or flight but almost taking them into tonic immobility, frozen in fear. A simple loud noise, out of context had caused metabolic changes in all of them. i.e. make the science personal and relevant.
Those that already did martial arts, there were a few in each class, were less bothered, seemed more relaxed as they were subconsciously dealing with the threat assessment.
5. I continued to talk about physics and relate that to biomechanics and anatomy. Understanding how to flow movements across your body to generate the acceleration.
6. This led to the neuroscience part. I shared how we learn patterns and sequential movement fits with the way the brain likes to absorb information. Moving from short to long term memory and able to operate when in flow mode works better if the thing you are learning has a completeness to it and a known pattern. In CKD we start and finish in the same place in most moves, we also follow a rounded non stressful sequence. Again I related this to video games and how we learn patterns to deal with situations in games. Discovering the pattern is the joy of play, followed by the mastery of that pattern, getting faster and better scores. Good games need to layer new patterns on old to avoid boredom. Likewise in CKD training we layer onto of mastered moves and patterns with new ones. At its root it all goes back to basics.
I also discussed contralateral movement, working the whole body on both sides for both parts of the brain to create cross hemisphere pathways as the brains neuroplasticity is exercised.
I used the example from Heston Blumenthal of the cinnamon and vanilla ice cream too. Again this was to break the subject, change the mental senses used by the group. With the ice cream made from both vanilla and cinnamon if you sniff cinnamon before tasting the ice cream you will only taste vanilla, like wise with vanilla sniffed first you will only taste cinnamon. This illustrates how you brain and neurochemistry is rigged to look for large changes. You brain filters things out to avoid overloading. The familiar is relegated in favour of the new.
I also discussed how the brain goes into an intense learning mode after a burst of exercise. This seems to be related to reflecting on what a situation was that caused you you be stressed and to escape, how you did it and how you won’t get eaten/killed/caught next time. So we can use our naturally evolved mechanism to increase out learning ability by piggy backing on that fight or flight calm down state.
7.Last up was metabolism. A basic example of the Krebbs cycle, the production and use of ATP as a mini fast access energy source in cells. I did not major on this but used it as a framework to discuss the 15 second bursts of exercise versus the 30 minute aerobic ones. In a defence situation you need to be explosive and able to release the ATP energy, quickly and efficiently and then get away. (Or not be there in the first place which is much better!)
Before heading into the last section I also shared the amazing journey of Sabunim Robbie Close. He went from a very quiet and shy teenage to an assistant instructor then a blackbelt and was then picked to go to Hanseo University in Korea to study a Degree in Choi Kwang Do. This martial art had transformed his outlook, and his life. We had the pleasure of him popping along to Basingstoke for a visit. As the class I was talking to was the age he was when he started it was great to have such a positive role model to share.

8.My final section moved more into the normal territory of discussion using the kinect to see how the body works. I related this again to biomechanics and then also to how we animate game characters and rig bones and joints. I ended up showing Microsoft HoloLens as a mandatory virtual world/metaverse, look here is the future and you can be part of it… the of conversation.
It was a very productive session I think on both occasions, and I hope to run some more. It covers all sorts of science and tech and it may help a few people see the relevance of science in life, or even better see the relevance of a martial art such as Choi Kwang Do.

Learning to teach – CKD and suppressing ego.

This weekend both @elemming and I, along with 140+ fellow Choi Kwang Do practitioners in the UK met for the annual instructors course led by Master Nigel Brophy (6th Dan Black Belt). @elemming has been promoted, along with her fellow cohort of willing students to an assistant instructor at Basingstoke CKD and so now wears a blue dobok. I along with 2 other fellow blackbelts were promoted to Chief Instructors and now wear black and gold.

We are all volunteers, but are willing to forego some of our personal training in order to help and explain Choi Kwang Do to others in the class. I think we all generally find that teaching, having to explain how something works, responding to questions and helping others is as rewarding as just getting on with your own techniques. IT is what makes CKD such a friendly and interesting environment to learn in.
Different people have different approaches to teaching, but everything we do is done in a positive way. This is about a journey, and meandering turns and detours are all part of it. We do have discipline, but it is more of a positive re-enforcement of the good. Who ever is out front guiding, teaching, calling etc is in charge.
One of the hardest things to work on, is not the punching and kicking, but the removal of ego. Watching and listening to Master Brophy I noticed it is possible to be a highly passionate speaker and presenter, an expert in an art form and yet not do it for the applause or the instant buzz of being the ‘star’. To motivate and educate a large body of people they have to believe in you. To do this you have to show your credentials, give them something to say, aha! they know what they are doing. If you truly have the skills, time served, awards etc that is really the easy bit. However it is so easy to tip over the top and let your brain, and mostly your ego, slip into a comfort mode of adoration, or celebrity.
When I do presentations, or evangelise about things, such as the metaverse or STEM in schools I have to switch to a more amplified version of me. If you are put in front of a camera on a TV show, standing on stage with a conference hall full of people, in a classroom full of pupils, you have to enthuse, you have to say look at this and look at me, otherwise it won’t be very interesting. I remember when I used to not want to stand up in front of people and talk. Thinking, well everyone must know what I know, I will just be boring them with the obvious. I also know the feeling of election that people do want to hear what you have to say. When what you are saying is getting a lot of traction and you are very much in demand. It is there you have to check yourself. Unless the thing you sell, enthuse etc is just your own fame and celebrity, in which case just carry on 🙂
So I came to CKD at a time when I had felt a lot of demand for me presenting, but the classes gave me a chance to empty the mental cup and just learn, just be part of a group with no specific responsibilty. It gave me time to practice the off switch.
The problem is, when I get something, when I believe in something and enjoy something so much I have to share it with others. I have forever been told I should be a teacher, but I prefer to not lecture but bring people along with me, help them discover their own path. Luckily, that is precisely what working as an instructor in CKD has enabled me to do. In class I get to both be part of the class, to switch off and focus, I get to teach individually or small groups and I also get to stand up front and do the whole thing. I feel the balance of expectations to please others, or duty to get it right and that little good part of the ego that gets fed by helping others and seeing them progress.
Master Brophy put it well, he mentioned the more you know the more you realise how much you don’t. That is the experts dilemma. He also tempered that with pointing out than when you stand in front of a new student in your blue suit or black suit to teach them something they have never done before, they may well look at you and think you are Bruce Lee.
I think the trick here is to use the fact your are Bruce Lee to them, without deluding yourself you are in fact Bruce Lee.
As with all aspects of CKD other than the physicality of the martial art it is a constant learning experience and evaluation of how we work as humans. The technology, in this case, is our bodies and minds. We explore what we can do with them, for ourselves and others. We deal with scary situations all the time. It may be not being able to remember a pattern, counting out load in Korean in front of others, wondering how to reach a distracted fellow student or holding a shield for a powerful kick. All these prepare the brain to deal with adversity. Teaching and instructing gives the scary part of ego to deal with.
So it seems to me the sooner we get people to experience this sort of thing, in schools and offices, the better. We have a cult of celebrity. This feeds directly to the ego, to the wow I want to be famous feeling. Either wanting to be a premiership footballer or a big brother winner seems to be many a kids ambition. The trappings of fame at a major level can be experienced and felt in a much simpler way, in a safe environment. Stand out in front of class and have everyone follow your every word, then stand back in the class with everyone, whilst the next person takes the stage. That I think teaches a little humility. Having felt that, the next time up front starts, just a little, to become more about the audience.
Whether you believe me or not, that is how I feel about all my evangelising, the TV show was that. I wanted to everyone to know how cool all this tech was, to feel it, to take it and do something with it. I had dabbled with the “fame” thing as one of the corporate poster children for virtual worlds. I had seen the jealousy that created in others. I felt the pressure of the spotlight. I also felt the waning of the “fame”. I dabbled with various ways of exploring my outward persona, trying very publicly to keep aligned with my private persona too, whilst also dealing with these conflicting pressures. It was a a feedback loop though, the more I had done the more I had to do to keep it going. That is not a bad thing though.
I see in Master Brophy a fellow evangelist, though one with much more experience!. Evangelists believe in something, know that its the right thing and the right way forward and want to help, really help, people to see that for themselves. What I hope to do is take my still fledgling knowledge of this martial art and make it as much a part of my willingness to share and enthuse as any of the other cool technologies. The tech I talk about has always been about how people can benefit from it, get some fun or productivity from it. Obviously I have written and blended a few time with the two like here and here. CKD is a scientific based martial art, from the neuroplasticity or the brain, to the biomechanics of the human form to the psychology of teaching and inspiring.
In all that, trying to keep that ego in check too 🙂 (though here is a picture look at me!)

Black Belt experience

Last sunday 7th December 2014 I achieved another life ambition and graded to receive my Choi Kwang Do Il Dan (1st Degree) Black belt. What is interesting about this is that the ambition and reason to get a black belt has turned out to be very different in almost every way than my initial thoughts. So this is not a post to say “look at me aren’t I clever” which is what many qualifications need to be for. Instead it is about a transformation and a journey and a whole set of other ideas.

As a kid I thought martial arts looked amazingly cool. The 70’s posters of Bruce Lee and the occasional glimpses of stylish fighting on TV certainly left their mark on me. We didn’t really have much in the way of martial arts near my home. I also, and this might sound strange, wanted to avoid learning them because the techniques were so potentially deadly. I never experienced full on physical bullying for very long at school as I was always willing to fight back if need be. Being relatively mild mannered it was usually a shock to a potential bully if I retaliated. I thought I might learn things and then turn to the dark side and go and use them, or go all vigilante.
As I got older I then wished I had started younger and was probably put off by the fact that the later I started the less high a level I would be able to attain. If it was worth doing something I wanted to make sure I was really really good at it. All very odd reasons and excuses not to do something.
My friend Jamie and I got a self defence book from out local library when we were 8 years old and occasionally practiced what you do if someone came at you with a bat or a knife. It was all very informal, and a bit scary but us would be super heroes had to learn some stuff 🙂
Zoom on a good few years, I was feeling very overweight (and actually very overweight) and I also wanted predlet 2.0 to get a chance at a martial art that I never had. Something father and son could do together. I thought there would be no chance for me of rocking up at a place of fighting in the state I was in, so strangely I trained for about a year to get ready to go and do a martial art. That and the tech I used features in the article I wrote in Flush The Fashion in 2012
A leaflet in Predlet 2.0 school bag for Choi Kwang Do got my attention. It was coming up to his 5th birthday and I was intrigued as Choi Kwang Do looked like something new. I like new!
The trepidation and nervous excitement with which I took myself and predlet 2.0 to our first session is something I will no forget. 40+ years of wanting to try a martial art but not, plus a year of getting in some sort of shape and learning some fight moves so I didn’t get whooped straight away all bundled together.
Within seconds of walking into South Coast CKD and meeting Sabunim Webster for the first time, and all the other students and instructors I realised how completely and utterly incorrect my perceptions of all martial arts had been. Everyone was calm, happy and above all friendly. I had nothing to worry about with respect to getting beaten up or schooled in front of predlet 2.0. CKD just isn’t like that. So having stepped into an art with thoughts of gaining some sort of prowess, a degree of domination and aggression to get something, to win something… all that was suddenly not what I wanted to do, nor happen and we were in a place where that was not what it was all about.
This particular AHA! moment is only the second such one I remember. The first was when I suddenly realised what you could do with computer code and how it all worked, from just one little concept. It is when something clicks, and the excitement that there is a world of answers out there waiting to be discovered and visited. That set me on my career. It led to a degree in Information Technology, twenty years in IBM with some amazing people and equally amazing projects and firsts in the world. It still keeps me going to day and is the cornerstone of Feeding Edge Ltd.
My CKD aha moment has not had quite so many years to bed in but is unfolding nicely. The learning in Choi has proved to be so much more than just punches and kicks. It has been, and continues to be constant personal challenges. We all learn how to defend ourselves in what is a very dramatic, fast and potentially deadly way. That though is just a small part of the journey and experience. We learn to help our own bodies physically and mentally improve. We have have think faster, think and operate calmly under all sorts of conditions. we learn how to help other learn. Teaching and sharing is done in a completely positive way. We all aim to point out the good things, offer a tweak in technique or attitude, then strengthen with more positive comments. That creates a virtuous circle. It means all the things we learn feel good. Frustration, anger, pressure to conform etc all are out of the equation. We all push ourselves just a little bit more each time because it is a safe environment to explore what we can do. As there is no competition, there is no need to hunker down into the particular ways in order to survive.
The family nature, and subsequent family involvement in Choi (all 4 of us do it now) was a major stabilising factor when we upped and moved house. Whilst we had to say goodbye to South Coast CKD we got to say hello to Basingstoke CKD and to Master Scrimshaw. (Master is a term used for anyone with a 5th Dan (i.e. 5 levels of Black belt) or above). That family atmosphere and friendliness we experience on day 1 applies everywhere. So it is alway great to meet and train with new people, but you do know it is going to be good and welcoming.
As months pass for each belt rank we all learn a piece of syllabus. Each thing we learn builds on everything that we have learned before. At a grading you show you belt syllabus. You don’t go to a grading unless you do know it. So gradings are not exams, they are not there to trick you but to offer a place to focus on what you know. Before you know it though 3 or more years of training, of experiencing the art form, of practice and sharing lead to a Black Belt grading. This is where I found myself last Sunday.
I would say that most people, even if they are not into “fighting”, action movies, or martial arts get what a Black Belt can mean. It is, rather like a university degree, a qualification. It is not obscure, in that clearly it is about physical effort. It is not a quota system either, you do the work, you can achieve a black belt, but you do have to do the work, for real.
I was excited and nervous, but very focussed on getting to the black belt grading. I wanted to make sure I had prepared mentally and physically for it. I received lots of help and focussed training from Master Scrimshaw and my fellow students and assistant instructors. So there we are lining up doing the same pledge and principles we do in every class. I am thinking about everything that led me to this point. Yet I am not thinking about me and what I needed to get out of it. I felt pressure in that I did not want to fail, or mess up, but I felt an overwhelming need to do this for everyone who I have trained with, taught, shared time with in Choi. I was expecting to switch to my “performance” persona and brain. The one that I go to on stage on when doing TV. That is a kind of focussed mental state but directed outwards and towards the subject and to the crowd. That, however, did not happen. I wasn’t there to put on a show. Instead I felt something else. It was as if the original aha moment came back. I was very much there and doing the grading, making adjustments when the automatic elements were not tweaked quite right, but I was also off experiencing the potential. I had some time to ponder all this as I was grading with some people who were doing their 2nd and 3rd Dan black belts. This meant we all did my stuff in each section then I stood down whilst they continued to do 2nd Dan, then finally the 3rd dan was left to do his thing. Keeping warmed up, keeping on task was tricky because I tend to have always just carried on with things, as we do in class. Short breaks then intense action. Whilst watching them and seeing what was coming in the next few years I got to understand that it was the aha moment and joy of the future journey, of learning more and those constant achievements that felt so unusual. I then related to it back to my passion for tech and for understanding where it fits in the world and where it is going. I had always though my tech aha moment was purely in the past but I realise that it happens to me every day as I explore the future.
When the grading was done and we stood lined up Master Brophy, who brought CKD to the UK, built it up and whom we all owe a lot too, explained to us that the Black Belt is not just a test of memory and physical ability, as he explained it is also a test of character and much more I felt I had a true understanding of his words.
It is my black belt, it has my name on it, but it is not just my qualification to crow about, or to wave to prove my worth (as we have to do with school and university qualifications). It is the sum of life experiences that have led up to this point, it is a the sum of all the effort of all those who I have trained with in whatever capacity. It is the start of the next part of an even more interesting journey. It is an indication that anything can be overcome and just getting on with it, applying a positive attitude to things, not getting disheartened just works.
So this is a constant and eternal thankyou to everyone. as we say in CKD Pil Seung! (certain victory).

Kinect 2.0 and Choi Kwang Do

My kinect 2.0 arrived this afternoon so I got straight to trying it out. The previous Kinect was less able to cope with shoulders and some of the subtle extra s of joints.
The new Kinect 2.0 seems to be able to cope much better. Though maybe not with the speed of a martial art like Choi Kwang Do.
However, with the basics of form it is doing a very good job just in the Kinect Studio. This enables developers to turn on and off features. As I was using this out of the box it may well be doing more than it needed to do. e.g. just focusing on the skeleton might be smoother than dealing with all the point cloud data and and the ghost image.
The studio has the same thing I tried in my previous example of being able to change the view form front to side to top. The video shows this in this order. The side view is about 40 seconds in and I think is the most useful in terms of technique. We often train with mirrors or looking at another person but seldom see side on unless it is recorded and played back. This is a live mirror from the side view 🙂
I seem to confuse it with a twisting kick too 🙂

Now to look at specific code and trying to match movements to a reference move. Spotting the weight transfer etc.
Still it looks like this might be another step forward to another helpful tool for training.
Lets see how this goes. I have not seen if there is a unity3d plugin yet but thats next on the list.