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Drops Against the Stone: Rants and Ravings of a Martial Arts Eccentric

Drops Against the Stone: Rants and Ravings of a Martial Arts Eccentric

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Drops Against the Stone: Rants and Ravings of a Martial Arts Eccentric

367 pages
4 heures
Nov 7, 2013


After fifteen years of teaching martial arts in both the collegiate and commercial setting, author Brandon Sieg has seen just about everything and has an opinion on most. Drops Against the Stone is a compilation of essays written to educate his students beyond a one minute “mat chat” at the end of a class. It goes deeper, to the heart of things. Some discussions might be held over dinner after training—anecdotes and somewhat cathartic tales about students who do or don’t “get it,” or musings of the benefits of the martial arts with real world examples. These are often mingled with martial arts history, culture, and tradition as it is relates through the eyes of an academic. It is martial arts and the world at large viewed from the lens of a martial arts eccentric—a martial arts education through rants, ravings, musings and memoirs. While written to guide his students, chances are much of it relates to your own martial arts journey as well. From training to trends in the martial arts and society at large, you won’t always agree with his opinions, but “Drops” challenges you and encourages you to sincerely pursue the martial way.

Nov 7, 2013

À propos de l'auteur

Brandon Sieg’s martial arts career began in 1984 in Taekwondo. He has a 6th degree black belt recognized by the Chung Do Kwan and the Traditional Taekwondo Chungdokwan Association and a 4th dan recognized by the Kukkiwon. He has two 5th degree black belts in Hapkido (United States Hapkido Federation and Korea Hapkido Federation), a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (Team Atos affiliate Small Axe BJJ), is a certified instructor in Tai Chi Ch’uan (under Grandmaster William CC Chen), FAST Defense (several modules), an apprentice elite instructor in Martial Concepts (hybrid system including Kali and JKD) and was formerly a personal trainer. A professional martial artists and trainer, he co-owns and teachers at Gentry Martial Arts in Martinsville, IN. He also is the martial arts instructor at DePauw University in Greencastle, IN and is one of the instructors in the Indiana University Martial Arts Program. Collegiate courses taught include physical skill classes on TKD, Hapkido, BJJ, Kali, Tai Chi, and self-defense, as well as lectures on the history and culture of the martial arts and also the martial arts industry. He also serves at the VP of the United States Hapkido Federation. He enjoys writing about the martial arts and has had articles published in the Journal of Asian Martial Arts, Faith and Fitness Magazine, and Martial Arts Success. Other books to his credit include the TTCA Student Manual and its Black Belt Companion. Mr. Sieg’s formal education includes a Masters in Kinesiology (Sport Management emphasis), a BS in Biology, and a minor in East Asian Language and Culture, all from Indiana University. He declined his acceptance to medical school after deciding that he could do more good in the world by teaching the martial arts and promoting the same level of professionalism within the martial arts that can be found in other fitness and health related occupations.

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Drops Against the Stone - Brandon Sieg

Drops Against the Stone:

A Martial Arts Education Through Rants, Musings, and Memoirs.

By Brandon L Sieg

Copyright 2013 Brandon Sieg

Smashwords Edition

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you are reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.

LOVE is the highest art. In ancient times you trained so hard, not for the sake of killing people, but for the love of your family, for the love of your mother, your father, your children, your tribe, and your body. It is the love of life. That's why we train so hard, so you can preserve life. -Dan Inosanto

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." John 7:38

Table of Contents



Chapter One: Benefits of a Martial Arts Education

*The Real Cost of Martial Arts Training (Nov 2008)*

*A Place for a Martial Arts Education (Feb 2012)*

*GMA—A World of Possibilities. (Feb 2013) *

GMA and Life is a Series of White Belts (March 2013) *

Martial arts education—more than you bargained for (Feb 2011)*

GMA - A No Fly Zone for Helicopter Parents (June 2007) *

GMA—our compass might not be golden, but it points in the right direction (Dec 2007)

Giving our students the chance to fail—and learning from it. (April 2005)

*GMA—helping to REVERSE THE TIDE (Feb 2005)*

*The Subtle and Not So Subtle Sides of Respect (May 2010)*

Healthy Competition Doesn't Mean Level the Playing Field for Those Who Don't Like Hills—Part II (Feb 2010)

Martial Arts: fitness, self-defense, a life coach and a Tony Robbins seminar all in one. (April 2004)

Even World Peace Can't Get Rid of Us! (May 2013)

Preach the benefits of martial arts; use words if necessary (Oct 2007)

Are Shoe Companies Fans of the Martial Arts? (Jan 2006)

Chapter Two: Training and Living the Martial 'Way'

Why do we Train: Analyzing the why to determine the how

Repetition if the mother of all skill, Redundancy is the mother of all success (May 2009)

*Martial Arts—the idea or the real thing? (Dec 2006) *

Hearing One Voice. (May 2012)

*Bitter is a Key Ingredient in the Black Belt Process (June 2013)*

*Learning to love the martial arts (Oct 2010)

Lifestyles shouldn't take vacations (July 2011)

Buji Kore Kaere Meiba (March 2011)


*There Is No Offseason (March 2009)*

You can pick your friends but not your enemies (April 2009)

Do you know it, cold? by David Yoshida (Aug 2008)

The difference between being a student and a customer (Nov 2007)

We don't need no stinkin building, Just Chong Shin (Feb 2008)

BEING in the Habit of BEING MORE Motivated (Oct 2012)

*BB testing—sometimes 77% is better than 100% * (April 2008)

*Wide and Shallow versus Deep and Narrow (Aug 2010)*

Our students—one in a thousand? (June 2005)

Are you in?—Gentry style. (Dec 2005)

Opportunities are only opportunities if you take advantage of them. (July 2012)

Loyalty (March 2004)

What is a black belt? (July 2004)

Preaching the Martial Arts (March 2012)

It is graduation time again, and sometimes you never know (March 2007)

Chapter Three: Commentaries on Trends and Events in the Martial Arts World

The Black Belt—Epic achievement or Epic Fail? (Dec 2012)

*The Blessing and Curses of the Original Karate Kid (June 2010)*

Velcro Belts, Forms Specialists and other water-down musings (Oct 2002)

XMA: X is not on the mark (Dec 2003)

*Meditate on this!! (June 2008) *

Mr. Sieg's Top Ten (May 2002)

*The Ending of the Golden Era—last chance to catch a glimpse. (Feb 2009)*

Musings on Real Martial Arts Tournaments (Sep 2008)

Bitter in the Right Dosage and A Lot of Other Medical Metaphors (July 2013)

GMA—a martial arts Baskin Robbins maybe, but not babysitters (July 2006)

Chapter Four: Viewing the World Beyond Through a Martial Arts Lens

Healthy Competition Doesn't Mean Level the Playing Field for Those Who Don't Like Hills (Jan 2010)

*If Bobby Knight was a Martial Arts Master (March 2008) *

Thoughts from a Visit to Boston (Aug 2002)

Life is like a bonsai tree (May 2003)

Holiday Musings from a Martial Arts Mind (Jan 2008)

Chapter Five: On Self defense and Violence

Self Defense Lessons to be learned from the Trayvon Martin Shooting (Aug 2013)

Sheep, Pacifists, and Predators O my! (April 2006)

When Coming Full Circle Becomes Heresy (Sept 2013)

Musings on a terrible Friday (April 11)

Memorial Day Musings (June 2009)

The moment of decision—lessons learned and not learned from the Carlie Brucia abduction. (Feb 2004)

Reflections on the Pacer Brawl, from a martial artists perspective. (Dec 2004)


Martial Arts and Violence—the Reality. (Sept 2005)

When will we be Bruce Lee? (Sept 2007)

A little bit on Virginia Tech (May 2007)

Chapter Six: Martial Artists as Servant Leaders and Heroes

Paying it forward, martial arts style (May 2004)

Heroes in Training (July 2010)

Why Random Acts of Kindness are Part of Your Training. (Oct 2006)

RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS: (Sept 2002) [the first year]

RAKS and Ripples (Aug 2011)

Leading by example—kunja in action (Sept 2003)

9-11, RAK's and Heroes (Oct 2004)

Random Acts of Kindness: Exercises for Heroes in Training (Sept 2010)

Chapter Seven: The Bonds of Martial Arts—Why GMA (and Martial Arts) are Socially Special

-A Fraternity of Martial Arts (April 2002)

*Gentry, the Eagles Have Landed (July 2008)*

GMA—a first rate third place (April 2012)

Il Sa Da Sang for Heroes in Training (March 2011)

Students Aren't the Only Ones Who Sacrifice in the Martial Arts. (June 2012)

Kickin it Gentry Style (Sept 2011)

Being Thankful for the Gift of Martial Arts (Dec 2010)

Bragging about our Hands and Feet (Sept 2009)

Our Hands and Feet Part II (Oct 2009)

Chapter Eight: Years in Review and other GMA History and Reminisces

Achieving Balance at GMA (Dec 2011)

GMA-What I Always Wanted in the Martial Arts (May 2006)

2003-2004: A year in review and looking ahead to next year. (Jan 2004)

2004: A year in review and looking ahead to next year. (Jan 2005)

*2006 turned out to be the year of the salmon. (Jan 2007) *

GMA CELEBRATES 5 Years at Current Location , 10 years in existence. (Aug 2007)

A Year in Review -no shortcuts (Jan 2009)

10,000 classes. 100 black belts. 10 years. 1 new era. (March 2010)

2010—GMA Roared in the Year of the Tiger (Jan 2011)

2011 in review: The luckier GMA got (Jan 2012)

15 years of Being and Becoming More (Aug 2013)

GMA on BEING* (Sept 2012)

2012 in Review—Another Year of Improving on What We Call Average (Jan 2013)

Finding Inspiration on Vacation—right here at work (Nov 2009)

FAMILY TIES (Nov 2010)

Madeleine Gonin (MG GOLD) Press Release (Dec 2002)

About the Author

* Indicates an author's favorite


In the following pages, you will not find suggestions about how to refine your martial technique. No balance or strength drills, no professionally-designed training regimens, or courses of martial study complimentary to whatever art you currently practice. There are such books out there, of course. I'm sure Master Sieg is quite able to recommend the better ones to you -

But hopefully, none of that was what you were looking for in the first place.

It took me years to really understand what I was looking for from the martial arts. Upon reflection, I was looking for the kind of life Master Sieg's book asks us to strive toward - a state of being that is tantalizingly close, painfully elusive, and precious for that tension of distance and nearness.

I first met Brandon Sieg during my sophomore year in college in Tae Kwon Do class. I jumped at this course offering as eagerly as I'd jumped at archery and fencing, spurred by a longing to experience a kind of physical mastery I never achieved through my previous sporting experiences. After being on the receiving end of fast-moving objects for all those years, I'd built up the pain threshold and general stubbornness the martial way typically demands. It seemed right. It was right - right enough that I kept taking classes, enrolling in clubs, and following Master Sieg (then Mr. Sieg) all the way down the rough road to my first dan.

It's been more than a decade since then. Students I tutored in their first forms are now completing high school, moving on to college. The physical mastery I achieved is spent mostly on other activities. I wish I could say I still practice my forms daily. But I can't. As much as I loved focusing my whole self toward the sharpened edge of physical purpose, that isn't the part of my martial life I carry around every day. What I carry instead is the unshakeable conviction that I owe the martial way a certain kind of self - the self it helped me become, against the odds of this strange and sometimes adversarial world.

In the following pages, you will find one man's articulation of that way of being, that way of self, in the context of this world.

If we stop to consider what the martial life commands of its practitioners, we see that patience, persistence, loyalty, humility, confidence, focus, and even love are its watchwords. And if we stop to consider the world in which we actually live - a world of conversations by texting, liking and not liking with a cursor-click, threading and trolling and lurking, of fast food, of moral relativism and doctrinaire hatreds and reality television - we see that strikingly few of these concepts are authentically present in it.

It's that world - one of materialism and quick answers and shallow connections - that wants to feed you with books about achieving the largest, leanest muscle mass, or the deadliest combination of skills. It's a world that sells systems and techniques. Quick fixes. And it misses the point of the martial way entirely.

If I did not know the martial way, I would not know that when you fall down seven times, the only choice left is to stand up eight. I would not know that there is such a thing as an appropriate level of response - to everything. I would not know that you don't succeed when you focus on breaking the board (the obstacle), but when aim for the point behind it (the goal). I would not know that it's possible to learn more from failure than from success, and that wisdom is found in knowing what you don't know - even in knowing that some things can't be known. I would not know how much strength I have in me, and not just physical strength. No, the strength I learned lies in between the ears, and in the heart, and buried in that quiet, cryptic place we call the soul.

Not everything Master Sieg has written will speak to that slippery soul of yours, of course. We all need different things and are at different places. That's why the astounding difference between the first page and the last, the range and reach of this book, is so important. Drops Against the Stone is a kind of buffet of thought, something I could jump into and out of from different places, always feeling as if I was in good hands, always certain that the same voice was speaking to me. It is a voice of reason that says, I know. I get it. I live here, too, and sometimes I can't believe what I'm seeing. But stop and think about this. . . And then you do, and in that moment, you slow down, finding substance that was all already there, waiting inside you. You were just too full of fast-moving gimmicks and sound bites and memes to realize.

There's nothing quick about this book, nothing that meshes neatly with our world. It's a creature out of its time, in that way. I shelve it in my mind with Hagakure and Bushido, or even Marcus Aurelius or Quintilian - something that calls me out of the banal and back toward the questions that matter, the ones that demand constant awareness and struggle.

I hope you always keep an eye toward the challenges it poses. I hope you find something in it that takes hold and won't let go.

- Tracy Townsend


gutta cavat lapidem non vi sed saepe cadendo,

(A water drop hollows a stone not by force, but by falling often)—Ovid

My primary Taekwondo teacher of 30 years, Grandmaster Y. S. Choi, often uses this quote. It certainly is an apt metaphor for practicing martial arts. It is a great mental picture for the endless repetition that is at the heart of mastering any craft—martial arts especially so. It is not just a description of the physical process, but of the mentality of the martial artist as well—the persistence to continue despite hitting an obstacle—often referred to as Chong Shin, or indomitable spirit.

As our school's TKD lineage is through the Chung Do Kwan, which means blue wave, the water metaphor is even more apropos. The image of the constant, untiring pounding of the waves into the shoreline, turning rocks into a sandy beach, is a parallel image that is equally motivational and profound. While this book effort does not conjure up such awe inspiring imagery as pounding surf, in my heart and opinion the drop hollowing the stone is no less powerful and meaningful for what I am trying to accomplish.

This book is a compilation of 15 years of essays featured in the monthly newsletters for my martial arts school, Gentry Martial Arts, in Martinsville, Indiana. Over the years, the articles have served many purposes. They are part memoirs and part musings. Admittedly, one secondary purpose has been a personal catharsis—be it a general social commentary or a reaction to an incident at the school that I would hope to keep from happening again. Many people over the years have affectionately (at least I would like to think so) referred to the articles as my monthly rant. But the primary purpose has always been education. I labored over these discourses (disproportionately so for appearing alongside a list of birthdays and a calendar of events) in hopes that they would be a means to further educate and expound on the martial arts lifestyle and mindset beyond what I could possibly do from the teaching floor. As a lifelong martial artist, it is my hope that many of the lessons that my martial arts journey has taught me are conveyed through these writings.

Thus, the title of the book has another layer of meaning. For sometimes trying to impart these drops of knowledge to my students/readers has certainly felt like banging my head against the rocks. And rarely do students have epiphanies and instantly become stoic samurai for the modern world. The transformation into a martial artist, or at least my ideal of one (an important distinction I will grant you), is a slow, imperceptible process akin to hollowing the stone. But as an instructor who sees the value in persistence, I press on. This compilation is perhaps a flash flood attempt to expedite the natural process.

I have attempted to organize the essays somewhat according to theme rather than keeping them chronological. Perhaps that sometimes makes them feel a bit redundant. But just as on the mats, every so often you must teach the same lessons to a new crop of white belts while the upper ranks roll their eyes for having to endure the same bad jokes again. But it does the student well to be reminded of an important lesson, and sometimes there is even a new twist to an old lesson, one that resonates with a particular student in a new way.

Through the years, I have been pleased to know that at least sometimes my writings have touched a student or reader. I have been both pleased to receive and humbled to hear from former students from around the world concerning something I have written in the newsletters. Such feedback is in part why I have the courage to proceed with this current anthology.

It is my hope that something will resonate with all the readers of this book—students, parents, or otherwise— on the values of a martial arts education and lifestyle. To those non Gentry Martial Arts readers, I apologize for the gentry-centric nature of the writings, but I believe the concepts to certainly be universal. I suspect a lot of the personal examples cited within could have just as easily occurred at your martial arts school. Nevertheless, I have tried to keep the ones that might only interest GMA students and families to the last section. Lastly, I hope I don't touch a chord in a negative way, if one of my criticisms of other schools sounds a little too familiar. My opinions can be strong, but they are what I believe in, and hope you can respect that.

I want to thank everyone for allowing me the chance to teach a little more (however far you make it through these pages) and for listening to me rant even more.

Yours in the martial arts—


* I must thank Brian Williams, who when he flippantly suggested the title, had no idea how much I would latch onto and elaborate on it.

Chapter One

Benefits of a Martial Arts Education

The Real Cost of Martial Arts Training (Nov 2008)*

If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.—Andy McIntyre

An investment in your education always yields the best dividends. Benjamin Franklin

The state of the economy and raising prices are certainly at the fore-front of most everyone's mind. And conventional wisdom states that when things tighten up, leisure and recreational spending are one of the first things to go, so businesses like ours are hit hard. To be sure, we are feeling a pinch as well. I am sure that some of our prospects are weighing costs more heavily, and perhaps some of our students have even re-evaluated classes as an expense. While I will admit, food and lights are certainly more important, I havealways maintained that this isn't just another leisure activity for yourself or your child. Martial arts training is truly an investment in yourself and your future. If parents can't afford boarding school, I believe the next best education you can give your child happens in the dojang.

Obviously I am biased on the perspective that I am going to share, but keep in mind that I was on the consuming end of martial arts 15 years before I was ever on the producing end…and my perspective is what got me in the business in the first place. As I stated above, martial arts is an education, not only in the sordid details of mortality, but more importantly, in the traditional values and attitudes that are needed to achieve success: respect, humility, self control, black belt attitude—which is 100% effort, perseverance and fighting spirit, personal responsibility, constant growth, the power of practice and the importance of preparation, the ability to self-critique, appreciation of culture, loyalty to country, honor, fitness, self-discipline, the importance of role models, aspects of leadership, confidence that comes from truly earning something. These are all areas in which the martial arts first influenced me, and now I try to pass on at GMA—through quotes of the week and mat chats, to action principles, to the intrinsic nature of the arts themselves.

I think you will agree that a lot of these lessons are not getting taught fully in today's school system, and sadly, sometimes are lacking in homes as well. Clearly, there are lots of people in today's society that need a lesson or two in some of the areas I mentioned. And as the quote mentioned, if you think classes are expensive, think about what the ignorance costs people who never learn those lessons. How much will a person pay in health care costs for not valuing fitness? One study says obese people make 3.00 less per hour than fit counterparts, and pay as much as an additional 500 annually in insurance alone. That's 500 a month over their entire working careers versus 70.00 a month now. There's a lot of other examples that are perhaps less easily quantifiable but are no less important. How much will it cost the person who gets a criminal record, addicted to drugs, or expelled from school because he doesn't have the fighting spirit to say no to peer pressure? How much will be the opportunity and happiness costs for the good kid who never develops quite enough confidence to open his own business? How many times will the kid who never completely learns the value of respect be passed up for promotions? For the person who never develops the martial arts attitude of personal responsibility and black belt effort, how long will he wallow in life circumstances?

Our black belt Mr. Caleb Shotts needed a bigger job to pay for college. Caleb shows up to his interview at Wal-Mart in business casual dress. The other guy shows up in a hoodie over a white undershirt with stains on it and basketball shorts. Caleb was the second of the two, but he had the job before he sat down in the chair. Some people get it and some people don't. Fumio Demura is one of the pioneer karate instructors in the west. He also doubled as Mr. Miyagi in the fight scenes for the Karate kid. Only a couple of brief classes with him has influenced some of the things we do at GMA. He puts it this way in a recent interview: Most young people, if you ask them to fetch you a cup of coffee will immediately ask for money. When they get back from the restaurant, you will realize that they have forgotten then milk. Send them back again and they will return without a spoon or sugar. When they finally manage to get everything you need, you will have to ask them for your change. On the other hand, if I ask one of my students to get me coffee they go once, come back with everything I need, and I have to ask them how much it cost! This is my karate, this is what I teach everyday….Even if the economy is bad, companies are still looking for employees with the right attitude and drive.

GMA tries to teach those life skills that help our students be more. Industry consultants tell us we should never refer to cost (an outgoing expense), but always refer to the price of our tuition as an investment (something that returns the value). I believe that is more than a cheap psychological trick. But what about those who say they simply don't have anything to invest? I don't mean to make light of some people's genuinely tough situation—I wish we had more scholarship money available than we do for those situations. But we have plenty of other cases where it is more about priority than ability. We will get sob stories about how tuition is hard to come by, yet they can afford 100.00 concert tickets. With Christmas coming up, things are tighter. Why not use martial arts as part of their present? Pulling a kid out of an activity that teaches positive values so you can afford a videogame that will encourage the exact opposite attributes doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me. Use the holidays as a chance to buy him/her the stuff they really need— like gear or a new uniform. The gifts they receive from the martial arts will continue to pay dividends long after any toy would be used up and forgotten.

The cynic might say this article is a ploy to keep business. Truth is, if I didn't believe what I just wrote, we wouldn't have ever gotten into the business. I continue to believe this to be the case: over 20% of the income I make from GMA goes back into my annual training budget, because I am willing to continue to invest in my growth and development. Some of the people who in my estimation need the benefits of martial arts training the most, perhaps not surprisingly, value those benefits the least. They tell me they can't afford to pay for the lessons. Sometimes, I just shake my head and ask to myself, how can they afford not to? —BLS

A Place for a Martial Arts Education (Feb 2012)*

Recently, one of our students who walks to GMA after school had to carry her dobok and belt with her to East Middle. Walking in the door, she was stopped by a teacher who chastised her for bringing it to school with her. According to this teacher, the martial arts uniform teaches and promotes violence and had no business in a school. Now, I know one of our students also at East can carry her replica rifle for color guard, and that is ok, but apparently this piece of clothing is too offensive. Obviously, I am of a different opinion. Not that I typically need much motivation, but the incident has gotten me to take an inventory of just what people who wear our uniform have learned recently, and I thought I would highlight a few.

This year our students have raised money for a drinking well in Africa, where we introduced our students to other teenagers who are leading the charge in this campaign, with the message that you are never too young to change the world. Our black belts of all ages walked barefoot during the fall foliage parade in order to be more sympathetic for those without shoes, raise awareness among the spectators, and help with the shoe drive for Samaritans feet. All of our students were involved in our annual Random Acts of Kindness campaign to commemorate 9-11. And recently, our leadership team practiced budgeting down to the last penny the amount of gifts they could buy for those we assisted during the Christmas season. Overall, I would stack up our citizenship efforts against anything going on at East. That is why we call our students Heroes in Training. That is not to mention the quotes of the week and other mat chats. This month our students have been doing our yearly exercise in goal setting, trying to get them in the habit of planning a life rather than living out an existence.

Our students have to write reports on obedience to parents, loyalty and patriotism to the king, honor to parents, never retreating in battle, and the appropriate level of response. When I was in fourth/fifth grade, I was really into the Young Authors program. Having worked with Haley on her papers, and reading the papers of many of the others, I can tell you that writing composition in general is certainly

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