Our Approach to Karate

Sabonim Stuart Cohen

Most people live their lives peacefully and hate confrontation. For that reason, the study of Tang Soo Do, which has violent confrontation as its center, is more paradoxical than running, skiing or any of the other physical activities we enjoy. Here are some reasons why training in karate is one of the most worthwhile things you can do. Even the most ardent pacifist can get years of enjoyment from karate.

Building Physical Capability

The chance of having a violent encounter as an adult is miniscule: about .4%. That being the case, the most important change that karate brings is increased strength, flexibility, reaction speed and balance. If you can do karate well, you can do any other activity well; karate will make you a better snowboarder, tennis player or anything else. Karate increases your knowledge of how your body works, and helps protect you from injury. It increases your level of health and energy. I tell my older students that if they go out on an icy day, slip on a frozen puddle, and manage to recover their balance due to their karate training, they’ve already defeated the most dangerous adversary they’re likely to encounter.

Self Defense

We teach our students street awareness and other conflict-avoidance tools to lower their chances of a violent confrontation. However, if unwanted violence comes, we train our students to prevail. We teach them to inflict enough surprise, pain or disablement on their attackers to escape from the situation. This may involve a single shout, or it may involve far more drastic measures.

Attacks vary greatly between men and women. Men are usually attacked in public by strangers using punches and kicks, often around alcohol. Women are usually attacked in private, by acquaintances, and are grabbed and strangled. As such, we teach a variety of techniques that enable students to deal with either kind of attack. Additionally, we realize that a 12 year old child will not outfight a 165-pound man, and we emphasize techniques and behavior that can give a child a chance to escape.

Classical Martial Arts vs Boxing and MMA

There are a lot of great martial arts out there, including boxing and MMA. If your goal is to learn to win a fistfight, boxing and MMA are both better choices than Tang Soo Do. They produce very formidable fighters in a relatively short time and we encourage you to explore them.

We do stand behind the self-defense skills we teach, but we have differing goals. Many of the strikes we teach would be illegal in a boxing match or MMA contest. Some other differences are that we train to defend against knife and club attacks, train to fight multiple opponents simultaneously and practice with classical martial arts weapons like the staff. I estimate that it takes a Tang Soo Do student 2-3 years to become a competent fighter, though I have had a student fight off an attacker after one self-defense class.

The basis of our practice are the hyung, (kata in Japanese) which are preset sequences of motions that incorporate strikes, kicks and throws. We also practice repetitive lines of basic motions, performing techniques hundreds of times in a class to build muscle memory. We then take them out of the form and drill them repeatedly with a partner, sometimes in stylized ways, and sometimes in chaotic nose-to-nose sparring sessions. In the end, our goal is to incorporate these highly effective “classical” strikes in a fast, effective free-flowing way.

Our Goals for our Students

Advanced students are expected to be able to defend themselves at any range, using forearms, elbows, knees, head-butts, kicks, open-hand strikes and punches. They should be able to employ basic joint locks, throws and sweeps and be able to take a blow to the body or head without their defense crumbling. They are expected to stay in-balance and to be able to hit hard and accurately. They are also expected to be proficient in the performing the hyung relevant to their rank and to be able to mount an effective defense against a weapon. Advanced students are also expected to be modest, judicious, and courageous when necessary.

It takes approximately 6 years of steady training in our club to reach first Dan level (black belt)

Tang Soo do Trains the Mind

Despite its speed and adversarial nature, Tang Soo Do is a surprisingly cerebral art. Techniques are at first complicated, but later, simple. Strategy and tactics in fighting are areas of constant exploration and development. A good karate student is part warrior, part athlete, part scholar.

Last but not least, karate is fun, a place where people from diverse backgrounds come together and forge lasting relationships.

Learn more from the student guide.


Fridays, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Sundays, 4 to 6 p.m.
Tuesday and Thursdays, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.



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