Using Up My Words, US from an Alien View, Taekwondo

Using Up My Words

“Hey Good Man, I heard some statistic at my workshop today. Guess how many words women use in an average day.” Of course, this statistic, like any statistic I’ve ever heard at a teaching workshop didn’t have a reference. I don’t bother telling him that though. (As a side note, for once—just once—I’d like to go to a workshop where they don’t include a catalog of junk as part of my “work packet.”)

“I dunno.”

“Ten thousand. Guess how many men use?”


Fifty thousand?” I am incredulous. “Women use ten thousand. Man. You think men use o man?”

Good Man grins. “Fifty.”

I laugh, “Is that why you only nod when I ask you a question?” He nods. I laugh, “I need to use up my words for the day! Talk to me, Good Man!”

“You have five words left today,” he smiles.

US from an Alien View

So Good Man is trying to open a bank account. Except he’s having problems because he doesn’t have a SSN or taxpayer’s ID number. Why? Because he’s not a citizen and he doesn’t have a job. And apparently, this measure—requiring an SSN—prevents terrorism.

I’m pretty sure McVeigh and Manson and Kaczynski had SSNs. That didn’t stop them.

Stupid. Really stupid. He has a valid visa. He obviously will need money. He’s not eligible to earn money outside of school (nor is he required to do work-study). School has not started. How is he supposed to get money? Ridiculous.


I was going to write about tonight’s class and my attitude, but I’m not really sure what to write about. We had another instructor tonight, this strangely macho acting dude whose Korean counting sounded incredibly funny, as if he were counting and passing gas at the same time. I kept staring at him, wondering what in the world he was doing. His Korean counting was so terrible that it took me several moments to realize that when he bark-muttered “swee fee” he was really saying “switch feet.” I was wracking my brain, trying to figure out what “쉬 피” was.

He also had us bow and say kamsahamnida every thirty seconds. We bowed at him. At each other. At the other instructor. At the Korean flag. At the American flag. At our partners. In fact, i’m pretty sure we bowed to our feet. (I’m having issues getting back into the faux formality of American studios.)

We did a lot of punching drills and then ended up doing forms with the other instructor. We did two forms I’ve never seen before and a weapons form I’ve never done before. Other Instructor had me learn all of them by just doing them. No real explanation. No details. No “let’s learn the first five steps well before moving on.”

These forms are fine, but I don’t know them, and past experience has shown that learning them here won’t necessarily mean I ever need them again at another studio. In fact, since they aren’t WTF forms, it’s very likely I won’t see these forms in another studio. So I sort of view the forms with a weird, detached amusement. I’ll learn them, but I’m not at all concerned that I don’t know them today.

I did my best, and I think Master would’ve been proud of me, but my attitude about taekwondo has shifted, or changed, a bit. I respect these instructors to a degree because they are my instructors. But I don’t know them. I don’t know their character or their history. My classmates are nice, but I don’t know them either.

Since I am in a country where I speak the language, and know the culture, and understand (mostly) why I’m being asked to do what I’m being asked to do at work…since I’m in a country with family and friends and I can drive and I know the laws and I know where to get what I need… Taekwondo is different here. It was a lifeline, an anchor, my family in South Korea. Here…not so much.

Now, I was reading people’s comments over the past few weeks. Because of the internet situation, I couldn’t adequately respond. In short, I do thank everyone for their comments. I’m going to respond generally in this post.

I have to remind myself that I am going through reverse culture shock (the especially “fun” part of repatriating that tends to be ignored). At the same time, Good Man is going through culture shock (though he doesn’t want to admit it). It is stressful on both of us, and I think I need to be a bit easier on myself. And him, for that matter.

I do respect Master and the belt he gave me, but I respect it by Korean standards. I know that American standards can be different. Now that I’ve seen a few classes, I feel much better. Furthermore, I just don’t care. I earned my belts, and I don’t really care what this school does, especially since I found out about their three million “tip tests.” (I swear, the Grand Secret is that the “tip” part idea came from a tip jar, not the tip of the belt…)

Because I do have Kukkiwon approved belts, any WTF school is supposed to accept me at my Kukkiwon certified level. And this studio has. If, however, they expect me to pay more money for “studio belts,” I simply won’t pay. I have no interest in paying inflated prices for a “house” belt. I know when I’m eligible to test for third dan, and frankly, I don’t have to test by then. If I really want, I can wait until I return to Korea (which I will do some day) to test.

The ways many studios price is indeed a scheme, as Charlie pointed out. Unfortunately, that’s how the taekwondo studios around here seem to do it. And I’m not interested in finding another martial art at this point. Despite its problems, my heart is in taekwondo. Plus, I promised Master I wouldn’t quit in America. A promise, is a promise.

Especially to him.