I’ve done tae kwon do for 9 years now, and I love it. This is my club. I am pretty evangelical about it and try to get my friends to give it a go, usually with zero success. But my blog-challenge-buddy Jo agreed to come along in the spirit of trying something new in the new year. So I’ve asked her to write something about her first lesson. Over to Jo.
TKD: A beginner’s guide
Hello world. Here follows a brief account of my recent journey* of self-discovery and cultural enlightenment, seeking to explore my martial instincts and understand more fully the ways of the kicking and the punching. My friend Beetchawawa has led me to believe for some time now that she is a Taekwondo black belt. [I do try to work it into most conversations] Clearly I have never believed a word of it, for the simple reason that I have never seen it with my own eyes, so there seemed no better way to catch her out than to call her bluff and attend her class. My other aims in attending were to burn some calories, thus enabling me to eat more cakes, and generally just to try something new, part of my commitment to trying lots of new things in the hope that one day I will be a natural at something and find a whole new purpose in life. Oh, and the fact that a deal has been agreed whereby one attendance at TKD = one attendance at a line dancing class, important to formalise these things in writing. [What deal? I saidlino-dancing, you know - backspins on the kitchen floor ]
So, the scene set, one chilly Tuesday evening in the big smoke the time had come, and off I went to my first ever martial arts class at a slightly sinister looking leisure centre hall in Barbican. I don’t really know the difference between any martial arts, I’m of the Karate Kid generation so have always assumed they’re all pretty much the same as that, a bit of kicking, punching, white suits, respectful bowing, car washing, catching flies in chopsticks. Well, I wasn’t far off. As I hoped, everyone was incredibly welcoming. I always expected this of a martial arts environment, there’s something about the discipline of the whole thing that I think deters unruly and unfriendly types that would make a beginner feel uncomfortable. There were a few other beginners so I wasn’t on my own at the back of the hall (not hiding, that’s where I had to stand, behind or to the left of the people who know what they’re doing). The class started with a warm up which to me seemed rather strenuous, to all of the people with the pretty belts it seemed like a walk in the park. After some bowing and stretching there were some jogs up and down the hall, all in lines so I was only racing my fellow beginners not the super-fit people from the front. It was hard to hear what was going on across the full length of the hall, but as commands were in Korean anyway I don’t feel I was missing much! After everyone was warmed up, and I was about done in, the class was split between those with belts and those having a non-uniform day. We got to do some punching, kicking and learnt a little sequence too where you go round in a circle, punching and blocking.[ Little sequence? That's your first poomse (pattern) and it's called Saju Chirugi - it sounds much more impressive if you use the correct jargon] It was all broken down well so fairly easy to learn. I think all of the beginners felt pretty uncomfortable with the shouting when you punch or kick! I guess it starts to come naturally when there’s an opponent coming for you, but when it’s just you versus the air it’s hard to channel your ferocity so much. I think I did OK for a first timer, it is pretty bamboozling making your arms and legs work at the same time, although my lifetime of wowing people with my head-patting-stomach-rubbing party piece has honed my coordination skills a bit. I was a little disappointed that there were no spare sets of pads or body armour as I kind of wanted dressing up and drop kicking, but it was probably for the best, I do tend to bruise like a peach.
I have nothing but good things to say about the class, tuition and people. An excellent evening’s entertainment for five English pounds. I had read up on TKD beforehand and was a little nervous about not being able to behave in an inappropriate fashion in the class; there is a rule about not laughing excessively – things like this make me want to laugh excessively. I was also a little nervous about the whole bowing thing. I know people who go every week are used to it and don’t find it strange that you bow to a flag, and I was perfectly happy to bow at whoever or whatever required a bow to show my dedication to the cause; what I was nervous about was that my committed bowing may look like mockery! I didn’t detect anyone rolling their eyes at me, so I think I got away with it!
I was put on the spot afterwards for a rating out of 10 for TKD and I gave it a 6. I think this may sound low after I have sung its praises, but it is a good score in the grand scheme of scoring, reflecting that I would go back, but I’m not having withdrawal symptoms. I think my score was also slightly affected by the fact the whole thing made my feet hurt, I don’t tend to do much barefoot, so my soft and delicate soles took a bit of a pounding! Also, the 2 days later test – 2 days later my hip hurt, I think a result of producing such an incredibly powerful side kick that I almost kicked my own leg out of its socket. [ A moment which we captured on camera -
It is now 2 weeks later, and I'm feeling more inclined towards a 7 out of 10, so that shows my feet did skew the scoring! [There's a club just down the road from you if you ever want to go back - I know the instructor so mention my name and he'll look after you. Think of the cake you could eat!]
Anyway, I’m glad I went, and I can confirm the black belt thing is indeed true, either that or it was a Truman Show standard of cover up. I would like to express my gratitude for this honorary blog spot, and to all who made this possible, it’s a dream come true etc etc *bows* *laughs excessively*
* approximately a 400 mile round trip