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Taekwondo it again

After a few weeks of thinking about it, I finally started going to taekwondo classes again last week. I stopped going to taekwondo last year when I lost my job and moved in with Habiba. In the ten months or so that I’d attended up in Nowon I got up to blue belt. It was good exercise, but I never really felt that I was becoming proficient in self-defence (if I really wanted to do that I should have done hapkido instead).

Early last week, I promised to look round our area here in Sangwangshimni to look for a dojang, but it was Habiba’s friend Jade who found me a place to train – a choice of places to train, in fact. On Wednesday, I went along to Dongmyeong Cheyukgwan to sign up for classes. They run five days a week, but I’m only going to do three – from 9:30 to 10:30 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.

The Gwanjangnim – master – doesn’t speak any English (to speak of), but I talked to him in my limited, halting Korean and managed to tell him a bit about myself and my experience.

The following day, I packed my dobok – uniform – before I left for work. When I finished work, I went to a restaurant near EducaKorea for dinner, then to Starbucks to do some writing (I have a new short story I’m working on and I’m trying to put in a fair bit of work on it – with my taekwondo classes starting at 9:30, I have a good excuse to put in an hour or so at least three times a week), then headed towards home for taekwondo.

The first class went pretty well. We did some warming up first – not as much as I used to do in Nowon – then some more formal exercises where you kick, kick, kick your way across the training hall and then back, then more kicking practice – this time with the teacher – sabeomnim – holding these kind of tennis racquet-shaped pads for you to strike. One of the more interesting of these latter exercises was running at a padded section of wall, jumping on to it, kicking off with one foot and then kicking the pad held by the sabeomnim, who is standing to one side.

Towards the end of the class, I was given instruction in how to straighten my dobok. I didn’t really understand what was going on at first, but it was evidently just a bit of humour. First you pull up your collar, then tug the bottom of your dobok top in various ways; the procedure ends with pulling your belt tight.

The sabeomnim has a very deep, raspy voice; he sounds like he’s been up screaming all night. He doesn’t speak any English, either, but I have a translator – a young guy whose English name is Gabriel (pronounced with a short a sound). He speaks near-perfect English and told me that he’d studied golf in the Philippines for a year and was planning to study taekwondo at university in Australia. For the moment, he doesn’t do anything so he has lots of time to practise. The dojang isn’t nearly as big as the one in Nowon – probably less than half the size – so there are much fewer students – sixteen, tops.

The day after my first class, my hamstrings were very uncomfortable – I had a small stab of pain every step I took. In Friday’s class, we started off with some football as our warm-up exercise and later did quite a lot of sparring.

This was a bit intimidating – with one exception besides myself, all the other students are black belts, and I’m sure I’ve regressed a lot since attaining blue belt – but it was also not too difficult. The other students were a little bit scared by me, I think (they’re mostly children with only one or two others as old as Gabriel (18 or 20)) so they certainly weren’t laying into me or anything. We were wearing chest pads, so there was little risk of injury in that area.

However, the next day, I felt some fierce aftereffects. In addition to my stiff hamstrings, I now had some painful bruises on my shins. Walking was really quite difficult. It’s now Sunday and I’m still feeling creaky and uncomfortable. Hopefully, things will be a little better when I return on Tuesday. On the other hand, I seem to remember that my hamstrings hurt for a couple of weeks when I first started doing taekwondo.

I’m sure it’s all for the best.

Categories: Health & Exercise
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