‘The way of the hand and the foot’

21 Feb

When in Korea do as the Koreans do. And by that I mean nearly everyone and their granny does Taekwondo here! So a few months ago I was invited by the then supply teacher at my school, Jay, to try out Taekwondo.

Some background on the sport:
Taekwondo (태권도) is the national sport of South Korea. In Korean, tae means ‘to strike or break with foot’, kwon(권) means ‘to strike or break with fist’ and do (도) means ‘way’, or ‘method’, so the literal translation is ‘the way of the hand and the foot’.

These little mites have it nailed:


Jay is a black belt himself and had just started as an instructor at a nearby Taekwondo gym. He spoke to the ‘Master’ (the owner/ head taekwondo instructor at the gym) and he kindly offered myself and the other English teacher at my school, Rob, to try it out free for a month.

We thought the first night would simply be a look around the gym, but after an awkward interview with ‘the Master’, and a fitting for the white suits, we were straight into our first drill, which was met by stares and giggles and questions from the kids in the same class. Having only briefly toyed with Karate at the age of 8, it’s safe to say that martial arts doesn’t  come naturally to me. Nevertheless, the Master complemented me on my flexibility and said that I could be a black belt in 6 months! Pffffffft – I’ll crack the jokes Mr Taekwondo Master! After that, he then took, myself, Rob, Jay and his wife and another instructor all out for dinner and drinks! If only every Taekwondo class followed this pattern…

Not put off, we went along to our second class a few days later, and as fun as it was, there wasn’t so much emphasis put on skill and technique, but rather some painful stretches followed by games to entertain the kids. To be fair, it was a kids taekwondo class. The only adult classes are in the mornings, which I couldn’t make because of school. So rather than waste my money running around playing dodge ball for 100,000 won a month (around £60) I decided to jack it in and file it under ‘one for the grand kids’.

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4 Responses to “‘The way of the hand and the foot’”

  1. 努江虎-노강호 April 17, 2012 at 10:40 PM #

    I wish you well in your endeavors, but how I hate sport taekwondo as practiced by the WTF. In my training in traditional TKD, which predates WTF sport taekwondo by about 15 years, a black belt took 4-5 years of study. I actually earned mine 5 years to the day, of taking my first lesson and I was in the British army and trained 3 nights a week for several hours a night. And I’ve yet to meet a Korean adult who does anything but teach WTF taekwondo. Kids do it, and some students but classes are mostly filled with little kids. The adults a generally ‘did it’ as kids.

    There is takwondo and taekwon-do (namely WTF and ITF) but I’ve yet to meet a Korean who knows anything about the history of their sport (WTF – ie, Olympic TKD) and how it descended from an earlier form of TKD as practiced by Choi and the Oh Do Kwan.

    Yes, WTF has wonderful practitioners and many strong points but I am very irritated that such a wonderfully patriotic style of TKD, the precursor to sport taekwondo, has been marginalized and written off. I cannot find an ITF school anywhere in Daegu though I believe one exists in Seoul. But in Europe and the USA, ITF taekwondo is very strong. In the late 50’s and 60’s Oh Do Kwan TKD was not just taught in schools, but was mandatory in the Korean army. Choi’s Manual of TKD was the first book published in English on taekwon-do – before the ITF was formed.

    And yes, with the WTF, you can be a grandmaster in a couple of years. Half my students are Sabum-nim, with 3rd and fourth dan black belts after only three years training. Go for it! You can go back home after a few years and call yourself a ‘Master.’

    I’ve studied WTF and intend taking a dan grade. So I’m not totally writing it off, but compared to ITF, I find it second best and a commercial and sport orientated practice.

    I’m started Haedong Gumdoi a week ago, after years of trying to find a decent TKD school here. That too seems to get many negative comments from other sword art practitioners. Despite my negative comments, I wish you the best…

    Respectfully

    • LiveLauren April 17, 2012 at 10:55 PM #

      Hi! Thanks for your very informative comment. I didn’t know there were two different kinds of Taekwondo – you learn something new everyday! I myself, was skeptical when the grand master told me I could be a black belt in 6 months – surely it would take years to practice and perfect your skills? Hence why I only lasted two classes…

      If you’re having trouble finding an ITF school in Daegu you should open your own! I’m sure it would be very popular!

      Best,

      Lauren 🙂

      • 努江虎-노강호 April 18, 2012 at 9:04 AM #

        Lauren, thanks for your response. As sport TKD was introduced into the Seoul Olympics, most of Korea started practicing WTF style. The North however, stuck with ITF though I’ve no idea how it arrived there. The HQ for the ITF is now in North Korea. But outside Korea, traditional TKD flourishes. As for my own school, I taught in both Germany and the UK but as a lowly 1st dan.

      • LiveLauren April 18, 2012 at 10:07 PM #

        That’s a shame that ITF isn’t as popular in South Korea nowadays – hopefully people will realise this and rectify it before it dies out completely!

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