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TKD in ROK

Last week I finally went to the taekwondo dojang across the road from my building (its logo is a lion in the white taekwondo dobok) and enquired about starting classes. The only adult classes they had were at 9pm, which I knew conflicted to some degree with my work (I didn’t know what degree exactly – I don’t memorise things like that). After talking to the sabeomnim (master/teacher) – a round-faced woman of maybe 30 years who spoke some English – it seemed that they could arrange me a class at ten. So on the next class day – a Wednesday – I went along at about 9:45, to find that I was too late to start. When the sabeomnim had said starting at ten, she’d evidently meant ending at ten.

The following Friday was a national holiday and I went to Seoraksan National Park on the Sea of Japan coast with Botond – a story for another blog post.

That Thursday I’d asked one of the Korean teachers at work if I could swap classes so I could finish earlier on Mondays (in exchange for finishing later on Tuesdays – somewhat later than I do on Mondays, in fact). She agreed and said we should ask one of the ‘team leader’ teachers, who said we had to ask the head teacher … who said she had to ask the owner. The following Monday – yesterday – the head Korean teacher denied my request. I tried arguing my case for a few moments, but apparently it was unfair to the other teachers.

Anyway I went back to the dojang to try to explain the situation and they signed me up for three days a week as per their normal schedule, except for starting at 9:30 on Mondays. Their three-days-a-week course is ₩90,000; for another ‘manner’ (man won – ₩10,000) you can do five classes a week, but one of the other sabeomnim told me last that Tuesdays and Thursdays consisted of skipping.

So, after my last class I hurried back to the dojang and changed in to my new dobok – it was more plasticky than I’d been expecting. A third sabeomnim helped – well, no – tied my white belt for me. I forgot to put a hairband in my pocket, so I picked up one of the rubber bands from the belt to tie my hair back. And then I walked out into the main hall again.

Naturally, I felt rather silly in this strange oriental garb, but I guess I looked pretty good in the mirror – the same as everyone else, anyway. The female sabeomnim, Lee Un-ju (the ‘Lee’ of which is actually I (‘ee’), but for some bizarre reason it’s transliterated with an L at the beginning. ‘Un-ju’ might also be spelt ‘Oon-joo’ … or as two separate words…. Actually, it might be ‘Un-su’ – her handwriting isn’t totally clear. Anyway) Lee Un-ju Sabeomnim took me to one side to begin my training.

Which consisted of some exercises – running, jumping, star-jumps whilst moving sideways, this strange sideways jig for exercising the waist muscles – and learning the nomenclature. 소기 – sogi – (or it might be 서기 – seogi – the two vowels often seem interchangeable, like the southern and northern pronunciations of long O) means ‘stance’, of which there are various types.

After a while of me being hopeless at remembering things I was told a few seconds ago, I joined the main group for some stretches. I was partnered with the second sabeomnim; one stretch involved sitting with your legs straight and splayed – his legs were at angle of about 160°, while mine barely made 90°, and it was quite painful when he pulled me forward by the hands.

And, after some more bowing to the Korean flag and the masters, I was free to go. Despite the physical and emotional awkwardness of the class, I felt quite exhilarated as I left. It’s not often I embark on something so challenging and worthwhile. I just need to make sure I can remember the Korean terminology, and the movements, and the etiquette.

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Categories: Health & Exercise
  1. Tracy
    8 October 2008 at 9:14 pm

    Good for you Sean 🙂

  2. 10 October 2008 at 1:00 am

    That’s so cool; you’re braver than me. I tried to take taekwondo classes, but I cried all the time. I was scared to spar, and no one EVER taught me to tie my own knot. And that was in Canada. When I was 22 years old. I’m such a wimp.

  3. 12 October 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Thanks, ladies.

    Rachell, maybe you can try again and impress everyone with your knowledge of Korean language and culture.

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