New Studio, Two Classes Down

We finally have the internet. And boy, was that an experience (and a post for another time).

So I’ve gone to my new studio twice now. I was terrified nervous to go to the first class, but the classmate who seems to be at my level, a 32 year old woman, was awesome. She was really, really kind. (How nice to train with people my own age!) The instructors made me line up at the front of the class, next to her. I wanted to line up in the back since I’m new, but they wouldn’t let me. Fine.

After class, she and a few other students gave me the low down about the school. She said that it was a good school if you were doing taekwondo for exercise and fun (which I am), but not great if you were interested in competing (OK!).

I got a lot of questions about South Korea, of course. My studiomates were surprised when I talked about taekwondo in Korea, because at this studio, it seems, there is sort of that dumb Korean Taekwondo Turned American Marketing Mystique thing going on. This studio—like most other American studios I know of, unfortunately—is one of those places that charges ever increasing belt testing fees. And frankly, the belt testing fees are a bit crazy. They also “tip” between gups, bow at every opportunity, and so on. This man charges one fee for a studio black belt and another one for a Kukkiwon black belt. Ahh, taekwondo in America.

I should mention that he seems to use the Taekwondo Mystique Marketing thing not to promote everyone to black belt, but rather to promote the black belt to this mythical status thing. Not that it seems like most of them really buy it. But let’s face it, as you progress in the martial arts, refusing to test is a fairly abnormal thing to do. Testing is expected. In any case, I don’t really care.

The first class was fine, mostly taught by the instructor. Tonight’s class was taught entirely by “New” Master. At one point he had us doing some drills. I wasn’t doing too well, and it was obvious that he was sort of testing me. But I haven’t gone to taekwondo class since I was at Tongil, so I wasn’t letting it bother me.

At one point he yelled, “These are basic taekwondo moves!” I’m not sure if he was speaking to me or someone else, but I laughed on the inside. I have now had the pleasure opportunity of training under five different masters—one in Minnesota, one in Atlanta, two in South Korea, and him—and I am well aware that every studio has a different set of “basic” drills. These drills weren’t really technically too difficult, but they were combinations that I wasn’t used to. I didn’t let it bother me. After a few weeks, I’ll get it.

When we did Koryeo, I kiyapped an entire beat before anyone else. I know that is where we kiyapped in South Korea. I left it there, kiyapped just like I always do the second time through. When we did Geumgang, I made a few mistakes, but again, I didn’t let it bother me since I just learned it—since I am still learning it. My stances, blocks, positions are a bit different than everyone else. I know this. I expected this. I just don’t care. I’ll learn this new studio’s way later.

I fear this entry makes me sound like I don’t care about taekwondo anymore. It’s not that at all. It’s that today…

Today I just let things go.

No matter how this man wants to test his students, no matter if he wants to charge for two different levels of belts (what is that? Can anyone explain that reasoning to me?), no matter how the stances may be different than at my heart’s studio, no matter how much he says “I am your Kwanjangnim now“—

I (mostly) know what my skills are, I (mostly) know what my weaknesses are. I know why I do taekwondo. I earned my first and second degree (Kukkiwon!) black belts in front of Kukkiwon judges in South Korea under my Master’s tutelage. And nobody can take that dan card—and more importantly that experience—and most importantly my relationship with Master—away from me.

And so tonight, I let it all go.

And then I got home, and found that Master had written me a message on my Cyworld page. I bawled and wrote him back. Good Man helped me, so I could write.

…내 진정한 관장님은 남윤형 관장님이기 때문이에요.

…My true Master is you.

Eum, Yang

“Sometimes you are like the man and I am like the wife,” Good Man says with his typical nod. That gesture is so Good Man.

“Ha ha ha! Why do you say that?”

“Because it’s true. I am like a Korean wife and you are like a Western man.”

I grin and think, Except you can’t cook.