View Full Version : Ho Sin Sool Dojang in Etowah, NC

1/03/2015 5:19pm,
Some expansion on why I rated the way I did:

We do continuous sparring with no limits on targeting, no gear, and some light contact allowed. Level of contact varies based off of the situation and the combatants, i.e. white belts don't make contact or are contacted unless they've trained substantially in other styles and are prepared for it, while red and black belts and stronger orange and green belts can expect to get hit occasionally.

We've got a good supply of equipment, though very little of it is shiny and new. We have a couple of heavy bags, a speed bag (though our frame unfortunately just broke; sad times cuz I love speed bag training,) tons of hand mitts of various kinds, a couple big new kick shields (and an old beat up one,) jump rope, Iron Gym, stretching machine, lots of weapons including spares and fake knives and pistols.

Gym Size:
We're in a reasonably small space, maybe 250-300 sq ft? I'm not great with square footage, but that seems right given a quick Google search. We have a small lobby/office area upfront that might be 75 square feet, but is a good space for viewing and a few visitors. In back there is one half bathroom, equipment room, men and women's dressing rooms, and a storage closet. Once a month we have a cross training class with our sister school, an Aikido/Hapkido school who operate on the other half of the facility (so the same area on the other side of a partition of plywood doors.) At this time and if we stay after they leave (which we pretty much always do,) we open up the doors and train on both sides of the center, effectively doubling our space. Our floor is covered with the basic puzzle mat over cement floor, while their side has big blue foam mats which are nice and cushy for falls.

Instructor/Student Ratio (There was no box for this, but I'd say an 8 or 9):
Our class size is small, and virtually every class is taught by Master Travis Ginn, who has over 30 years in various arts, much of that Tang Soo Do of course, but also Aikido, Shuan Fa Kempo, Hun Ga, White Crane Tai Chi, and others.) Sah bohm makes sure we're getting it on each class, going by and supervising and providing additional instruction for all students.

There's definitely a friendly, positive atmosphere prevailing in the school, with families and friends often joining and working out together, and we often hang out outside of class for holidays or during/after seminars. The only reason I wouldn't rate us a 10 here is that I've seen other schools, including at least one in our area, that really ramp this up, spending a lot of time on the social aspect of training. Perhaps we would have more of this if we were bigger.

We work on striking a lot, at various ranges, though being a Korean school, we do work on kicks quite a bit. We have several required kicks and upper body attacks per belt level, and we often drill the kicks. That being said, we do upper body attack drills and bagwork frequently, including some boxing and kickboxing drills with mitts and/or shields. We like elbows and hard shin kicks as much as some of the crazier strikes like eye gouges and jump spinning crescent kicks. Anything goes, though we try to stress that you don't throw crazy stuff out in the street.

We rarely grapple, though it is a requirement for red and black belts. When we do, we start from randori position and allow all holds and chokes/strangles, though hair pulling, pinching, fish hooks, etc. are disallowed. We also practice throws and takedowns of various kinds, similarly to how we treat sparring. That is, if we know you can take it, you might get a big throw or takedown applied to you, but we try to be safe at the same time.

Weapons Instruction:
This one was somewhat tricky, because we have elements of lots of different levels of weapons training incorporated. We do mostly forms with ancient weapons, but we also do a fair bit of compliant partner drills with modern weapons, as well as occasional escrima work, various kinds of weapon sparring with no gear and contact as described in the sparring section above (though natch we take it a little easier with big sticks,) and at times we'll ramp up the resistance in partner drills.

This is my school that I've been training at for a decade now. We're a good school for the price and the area that we're in, with our focus pretty much split between traditional Tang Soo Do and whatever goes self defense training. We practice a lot of traditional style drills and forms, but also spend quite a bit of time working on self-defense oriented drills, though these are often compliant partner drills. We could certainly stand to move towards more aliveness, though we are perhaps shifting that way with our self-defense work.

Our biggest strength is that we do so much. Our biggest weakness is that we do so much. With such a wide body of techniques that we practice, instruction is somewhat haphazard, and unfortunately often tilts towards techniques required for belt testing. We have a LOT of requirements for testing, so that still covers a lot of stuff, but that tends to be mostly traditional training, since that is easier to standardize and grade. We have self-defense requirements that are pretty exhaustive, but they are somewhat messily organized. This is in the midst of being revised now and hopefully will become more systematic. Still, we can go weeks or months without spending time on one area of our training. This can be great if you love what we're doing, but obviously, everything isn't for everyone, so I imagine it is less desirable than a little of everything all of the time.

That being said, we do old school training pretty well and if that's what you're looking for with an added emphasis on self defense, we're a good choice.

P.S. I humbly suggest that you revise the in-brief ratings guide that pops up when you start a new thread in this sub-forum so that is more in line with what was detailed in the (pretty terrific) sticky thread from GoldenJonas on how to rate a school.

Chili Pepper
1/03/2015 8:46pm,
Odd to see a TKD school review where the weapons is rated higher than the striking.

1/03/2015 10:33pm,
Odd to see a TKD school review where the weapons is rated higher than the striking.

Ha, I bet. I almost went with a 6 in striking because we do a lot of striking drills and at all ranges, but GoldenJonas' guide described 6-7 as proven in competition or practical application like military or law enforcement. We are a non-competitive school and while we often have visits from masters who are cops, it didn't seem quite right.

Likewise, for a 5 in weapons, the guide described sparring with negligible pain/risk as 4-5 and a wide variety of realistic weaponry as 6-7. If I could do 5.5, that might be more accurate.

Chili Pepper
1/04/2015 10:29am,
You should be commended for your attention to the guidelines.

1/04/2015 12:11pm,
Good review! From this I feel like I'd know exactly what to expect walking into this gym.

1/04/2015 3:08pm,
Glad to see a Ho Sin Sool member on these forums. You should check out the posts on Hackworth if you are still affiliated with him.

1/04/2015 11:54pm,
Hey, thanks everyone. I'll admit I was somewhat intimidated at first to write this review, but the guidelines really did make it fairly simple.
@anatta: Thanks. I wonder if we've met before? As for Hackworth, thanks for the head's up. I had heard the name but I didn't really know anything more. I looked up those posts as you recommended and as usual with martial arts frauds, just about got sick with anger.

Thankfully, I called up Master Ginn and got the story. Apparently Hackworth gave Master Ginn a lifetime membership in the Korean Martial Arts Instructors Association the same time that he did for Master Norris, the master of our sister school, Aikido Hapkido of Etowah. Apparently he also offered at that time for Master Ginn to join up with the Tang Soo Do association Hackworth and his crew endorse, the World MooDukKwan Society, at which point Sah bohm would be awarded his 5th dan. Hackworth also claimed that in the event of a homeland security lockdown, the government would only allow certain martial arts schools to remain open, and that this MooDukKwan Society was the only Tang Soo Do association that was registered with them. Master Ginn naturally was incredulous, to say the least, and declined the offer.

Unfortunately, it looks like Master Norris is still associated with this joker. It's making me sad. It's like I just found out I've got a distant relation who is a serial killer. What perhaps sucks the most is that Master Norris is a really nice guy, and I like his teaching quite a bit.

Also, I'm sure this observation has long since been made, but does anybody else think it's pretty funny that a martial arts fraud's name would be Hackworth? It's like Bernie Madoff. Ridiculous.

1/15/2015 8:51pm,
Thanks for looking into that and sharing what you found. I don't think we've met.

1/29/2015 9:57am,
You're welcome, anatta.

Also, as I said, I'm bad at square footage estimates. Evidently, 300 square feet is like a living room. The total facility size is 3000 square feet, so our practice space is quite a bit bigger than 300. I would revise my guess to about 1000-1200 square feet for one side of the matted area (again, doubling when we open the doors in the middle,) with the remainder of that 3000 for the front lobby and back area. I'm super curious now, actually, so I may even measure it out, lol. Sorry for the mistake, guys.