By Jenifer Tull-Gauger
Also called “Boot to the Head,” “Ti Kwan Leep” is a skit by the Canadian Comedy troupe, The Frantics, (1987). In it, an Eastern martial arts master starts class by explaining the basic philosophy of a fictional martial art called “Ti Kwan Leep.” An impatient new student, Ed Gruberman, continually interrupts the master, wanting to skip the talking and get down to business. I tell you this because I’m sharing my interview in which Ed Gruberman inquires about Karate, after his boot to the head and after observing a class at East Valley Martial Arts – Kenshin Kan.
Ed: What is Karate?
Shihan: These days, Karate is used to talk about many different martial arts, due to the word being broadly used and recognized. Traditional Karate is a character-building, life protection art from Okinawa. Literally, the words KARA TE, mean empty hand, and refer to a weapons-free martial art system which emphasizes an open mind.
Ed: Why waste class time warming up? I just want to boot some head.
Shihan: 1) Our traditional warm-up has been passed down to us. 2) It prevents injury by getting blood pumping and muscles and joints ready to move quickly. For safety, for anybody of any age, a 7-minute-minimum-warm-up is required before any physical exertion. 3) Our warm-ups contain some cardio and resistance training. For some, Karate is our main exercise. As a typical Westerner, you need all the exercise you can get. 4) Doing the same warm-up in each class creates a level of comfort and confidence for our young and new students. When we vary it, it is a special treat. 5) At the advanced levels you give back to the art by helping. When you lead the warm-up for the first time, you will be thankful that you have done it over 100 times. 6) If you go to boot someone’s head without warming up, you could land yourself in an MRI before your foot even gets close to their head.
Ed: But once you’re warmed up, why all those repetitive drills? Can’t you just give me a partner and have us go at it?
Shihan: The drills help build good habits, proper posture, stronger muscles, faster hand techniques, eye-hand and eye-foot coordination, agility, kinesiology, and muscle memory for defense. You may despise doing them, but when you are an adult black belt, you will be so glad to have the experience and the strong technique that can only be built by years of small forward steps. Don’t you want to look agile, strong and balanced when you go to boot someone in the head?
Ed: In some classes, you talk a lot, like that Ti Kwan Leep guy. Can’t you just skip that philosophy junk, and get to the head-bootin’?
Shihan: Our traditional art requires us to learn how toavoid booting people in the head. The philosophy is an essential part, which can be used every day, and will help you become a better person.
Ed: I just want to learn to boot someone in the head, can we get to that?
Shihan: If that’s all you want to learn, you could go fight on the street, for free (not counting your medical bills).
Ed: Could you boot me in the head like that Ti Kwan Leep teacher did?
Shihan: I could, but I won’t. (The knee’s quicker and more effective.)