March 12, 2015
Taekwondo - Security in Structure
A couple weeks ago, on February 17, Emily and I walked tentatively into a classroom swarming with white uniforms. We had decided to join Taekwondo. I'm not sure what made me want to. Maybe it was just a weird hodgepodge of superhero movies, Asian cultures, self-defense, and wanting to be part of a team again. Whatever the reason, there we were. Timidly following the movements of people half our height and frantically trying to remember positions, numbers, and commands in Korean.
Think about this for a moment. With few exceptions, I'm the tallest and oldest person in the group, but I know less than Master Kim's three-year-old daughter. I stick out like a sore thumb and am constantly being shown up by 12 year-olds. I'm the only female adult. I'm an introvert. I don't ever yell -- not when I'm excited and certainly not when I'm angry. I tend to think of myself as rather feminine (I wouldn't go so far as to say docile though; stubbornness runs deep in our family. :). Why in the world am I starting Martial Arts? I should be the last person to volunteer for this, but here I am. And I love it.
Levels are very obvious in Taekwondo. Everyone wears a white dobok, but your belt color is your level. Newbies get white belts with their uniform. When you pass the first test you get a yellow belt, and then an orange belt all the way till you are a black belt of the 9th degree. Beginners also stand at the back. This is so they can observe and follow the high belts in front of them. I stand at the very back and I have a very white belt. ;) Instead of being embarrassed though, I am learning humility and I go to the 10 year-old green belt for help with my form and the 12 year-old orange belt for help with the korean words. I can learn something from everyone. Even the little three year-old to goofs off in class I learn about the rules from.
Maybe this is just me being sick of my own disrespectful culture, but I love following orders. I love that we have to say "sir." I love that we bow to our master, to each other, and every time we enter and leave our "dojang." I love learning the polite way to say hello and thank you in Korean.
We help each other and sometimes end up laughing because things are just so confusing. There are a couple older dad and grandpa black belts who always greet me by name and encourage me to keep coming. They help me with kicking technique. Even our Master is very friendly and always willing to help you do your best if you're willing to focus and learn. I have been pursuing my Bachelor's degree at home by myself for almost 2.5 years now. I have no face to face interaction with professors or classmates, and only two of my classes have involved recorded videos of any kind. Yes, I'm an introvert, but there is something about having peers and working together towards a goal that is inspiring and invigorating. I didn't know how much I needed this till my third week at Taekwondo. Emily and I had our uniforms. We got our names written on them (phonetically in Korean) so Master Kim knows our names. We were part of a group of 25 students all doing the exact same motions at the same time. That was way cool, guys.
At first you just go through the motions, but as you learn you build on your flexibility, speed and power and you sweat. Big time.
There's this thing called a kihap. Theoretically it is your energy, or inner power. Basically it is a unique exhale that connects your muscles so that you have stronger movements. In practice it is a yell. You must do it for every action. There is some fear involved because there is the chance that people might make fun of your sound or something. I don't make loud sounds or ever really let loose with my voice. I don't scream when I'm scared or angry. I never used to raise my voice at all. I had such trouble learning to project in speech, drama, and choir. So, now I have to find my kihap and use it in class. Master Kim can tell that I'm holding back and he pushed me to just let go. When I finally did I broke the board with my side-kick. So, yeah, there is something to it. :-) I'm slowly learning to let go. Thanks TKD.
-Splits by the end of the year
-green belt by the end of the year
-learn the Korean terms!