Continuing Taekwondo

One of the interesting things about taekwondo is watching people react to belt tests and rank.

I still haven’t figured out how we line up at my studio. I don’t know if the highest rank stands in the front right or front left. I do know that in the classes with really little kids, we stand by height, mostly, with no regard to rank. I’ve been told to test and I’ve skipped the testing because I don’t like the faux-in-between belts tests that my school has, nor the insane rates changed for them. I don’t need tape wrapped around my belt to tell me I’ve been studying. My belt still had only one stripe on it (showing first degree black) which confuses people when they realize I’m actually second. I’ve gotten to a point where I really don’t care what rank I am compared to anyone else in the class. I know I’ll get my sam dan (third degree black) eventually. I just don’t know or care about when.

I have noticed a few trends about belts, testing, and rank. It seems that kids are always more interested in rank than adults. The lower level belts (children and adults) usually care more about advancing. Then somewhere in the middle color belts it becomes more about showing up. If the taekwondoist makes it through the middle belt slump, there tends to be a point right before earning the black belt where the adults suddenly question themselves. Are they really ready to become a black belt?

And then, the biggest question. You’ve got the black belt. Do you continue or quit?


Last week some seventh grader was whining before class. “My dad always works! I should be a purple belt and I’m still green!” He complained that he couldn’t come to the studio alone (it’s a half-mile walk from his house) and he couldn’t get a ride from anyone else, and his father works too much.

I asked him what he’d do when he finally got purple. He said he’d keep working to get black. “And what will you do then?” I asked.

“I’ll quit and do soccer because I hate taekwondo.”

Even though he’s only thirteen (and thus…well, thirteen), I called him on it. “If you want to do soccer, quit now.”

“But I want a black belt!” he whined in that pre-pubescent boy voice.

“Hey,” I said in a stage whisper, “I’ll let you in on a secret. You can buy a black belt online for about $10.”

He stared at me and then screeched, “That’s not the same thing!”

I nodded, “But the black belt isn’t the end. It’s only the beginning.”

He looked at me like I was crazy. Of course he did. He’s thirteen.


Tonight after class an adult I enjoy training with said he was tired of taekwondo and testing. I looked at him. “I haven’t tested in more than two years. No problem with that.”

He nodded, “Yeah, I think I’m going to quit.”

“Quit testing or quit taekwondo? I mean, my taekwondo desire always ebbs and flows… Sometimes it’s just about showing up.”

He nodded. “Quit taekwondo. Think I’m going to try judo. Think I’m more built for it. Short, squat.”

I laughed. Fair enough.

But it got me thinking. Why do I still do taekwondo? When I started I had no belt goals. I’ve now gotten black. I don’t want to be a master. I don’t want my own school. I don’t think competing is a big deal (although I find it fun enough when I do it), so I’m not in it for that.

What is the motivation?

The thing is…even when I don’t particularly want to go to taekwondo, even when I’m just going through the motions by showing up, even when I’m in the ebb—I mostly enjoy it. It’s my thing.

And so I stick with it.

Sloppy Spring

Good Man has allergies and also seems to have a cold. The poor guy has been miserable for the last several days.

“When my nose is… sloppy?”

“Runny. A runny nose,” I said.

“No, I like ‘sloppy.’ When my nose is sloppy I say something that doesn’t mean nothing.”


Good Man nodded and sniffled, “Yeah, exactly.”

A few moments later he yelled, “Yaaaaa! I feel self-tortured ’cause my nose is drowning!”

I’m continuing to make progress on my Korean reading goal. I finished 이솝 이야기 on the way home from Minnesota. Reading the manwha (cartoon) version of 비밀 화원 was very easy.

1,500 Reasons

Last night I got to taekwondo class early and did 1,500 turns of the jump rope before class started. That got a sweat going, but class kept it up. The cowboy instructor I don’t like, who always says, “If you’re in a bar fight…” stopped me after class and said, “It must’ve been a decent workout today if you’re sweating.” (Side: Dude. Can you come up with some un-cowboy relevant example of why we should learn this technique?)

I attended the earlier “family” class at 7:00 or 7:15, which is full of mid-level color belts and kids with their parents. There are a few adults in the class, but I’m usually the highest belt.

The later (“advanced adult”) class members keep asking me why I’m coming to the earlier class. I’ve been using my schedule as an excuse.

This is part of the reason. It is spring, and thus the most stressful time to be a teacher, and if I wait until 8:00 pm, I talk myself out of going. I prefer to get home around 8 so I can eat dinner, shower, and relax before sleeping. Now that Good Man has his permit I’m back to picking him up from class two nights a week at 10 pm. I have to be at work early on Tuesdays for a standing meeting, so I really don’t like getting home Monday night. I can list a ton of scheduling reasons.

But that’s not all of it.

At the end of the beginner class we usually do a little meditation. We occassionally get a speech of some sort. I use that time to really focus on my breathing. I consider what is said and consider how it applies to me. We almost never do that in the advanced class. I know that I could meditate alone, read books with titles such as Meditations for People Who Do Martial Arts and Want to Practice Asian Mystique-ism. But I don’t.

In the advanced class we do all kinds of fancy, multi-step drills. I like the challenge of that, but a lot of the class is spent holding the target for a partner. Sometimes I barely break a sweat, even though I am working.

In the beginner class we spend a lot of time doing solo drills. I enjoy this time. I really work on perfecting my form, on making sure I land the kick and punch at the same moment. Doing a standing side kick perfectly is actually a lot harder than doing a stepping side kick because you have no momentum. I like the check—have I gotten sloppy? Am I turning my feet enough? Am I pulling back far enough?

One of the things I like about poomsae (forms) is perfecting them. Changing them slightly as my skill or style changes. I like the meditative aspect of doing something over and over and over. And I don’t get that in the advanced class, but I get it in the family class, doing drills.

I suppose the answer is to go to one family class and one advanced class a week. That way I get the challenges both classes have to offer.

German Paine

Amanda Teacher: So…how did you solve that problem?

Subatomic: I dunno. It was common sense.

AC/DC: I call Thomas Paine!

Good Man didn’t want to do laundry. I wanted to get it over with. “Yahhh,” I whined in Korean. 야~~~

Good Man muttered, “Ja, ja, why are you speaking German?”

He’s Alive

It seems that Good Man subsisted on peanut butter, bread, processed cheese, hot cocoa mix, and coffee while I was gone.

“Did you eat any veggies?”


“Veggies? Did you eat any vegetables?”


More silence.

Long silence.

“Well, if you count bananas as a vegetable, yes.”

The Funeral

The wake last night and funeral today were nice. I got to see family I hadn’t seen since 2002.


When I greeted my uncle I mentioned him comment on my blog and explained why Good Man couldn’t come. I used Good Man’s real name, of course.

“Is that his name?” he said, “I only know him as Good Man. I only know him in 2-D.”

That struck me. Sunday we went to Duluth to visit some more family (on Mom’s side) that I (also) hadn’t seen in years. Mom was surprised we weren’t more huggy or chatty or something. We all explained, independently, that Facebook and the internet keep us connected, so it doesn’t seem like it’s been years since we last saw each other.

I’m not Catholic but George’s family is. The wake and funeral were both Catholic, which was interesting. I was watching it all much like I watched Grandmother’s funeral in Korea, with a curious detachment. There were some things I saw (incense, bells) that made me think, ‘Hmm, they did something like this at the Buddhist funeral.’

(Side: At the funeral home I found a book called something like Funeral Customs Around the World, printed in 1960. Apparently the seven knots in the hemp cloth are due to seven stars in the constallation of the bear.)

My cousin and I were chosen to do readings. I was first up and it was right after we entered the church. I wanted to cry, but I thought, ‘Don’t look at Grandpa and put on your best teacher voice.’ I did. Then my cousin was up. She’s in law school and I can only assume she put on her lawyer voice because she did a great job.

After the funeral I got to partake in great Minnesota food. Three different Jell-O salads (!), a half dozen varieties of “bars,” and Tater Tot hot dish were some of the offerings. Oooh, it was like being back in high school.

I wish Good Man had been able to come. He would’ve met a ton of family at one time, experienced an American funeral, and eaten real Midwestern food. Still, although he couldn’t come, I’m glad I went.

What is George Doing?

Five Hours and Seventy Pages Later

Today’s travel sucked. AirTran turned my two hour layover into a seven hour layover and then blamed New York for it. However, I got a free one-way ticket to use (when I can afford to waste an extra day traveling, I suppose).

Even better, I managed to read seventy pages in my Aesop’s Fables book in Korean.

Yes, you read that right: I read seventy pages in Korean in a day. That’s more than 18,000 jaso.

That is so awesome, I deserve a trophy for it.