A bit belatedly, here are the pix from last year's Hanmadang event in Seoul. There were not many foreign participants, and the majority of the event was concerned with demonstration style competition. It was okay to watch but nothing spectacular. It was also pretty cramped in the small Kukkiwon venue for the huge number of participants.


Hapkido testing June 2006

Today, I got my first award in Hapkido!!! Actually, I don't know what the award was for. It may well have been a regular certificate to confirm belt promotion which they commonly handout here, but as only a few of us got given the certificate today, I would like to hope it is some type of award! I would like to believe that I did some outstanding remarkable feat. But, I don't think so. One year on, and my test consisted of 2 forward rolls, 2 falls, 2 self-defence moves and a bow (as in bow-wow). Not overly demanding.

I awarded myself a psychological prize in that I didn't get nervous during the test. That was despite having some 200 family members of all the students sitting in the room, and myself, entering to gasps of 'foreigner! foreigner!' Although, the calls were not nearly as extreme as down in Daegu City. In Daegu, foreigners are treated like aliens. I hope I can feel so calm when the day of my black belt test comes. And, if that test should be as simple as today's, then I can be confident of passing all the gradings. I know I can already do all the moves of all the existing black belts except for a back flip and jumping over someone standing at head height. I have 12 months to work on those missing skills. But, really, why I felt so confident on this occasion is surely to do with the past few weeks of training at the Taekwondo class. The training there has been SO HARD, but I've handled it. Consequently, I knew that in this Hapkido test, whatever they threw at me, it wasn't going to be even 10% as difficult as what I've been doing in Taekwondo class.

There were lots of amusing but tragic moments for me, as I got parents telling their kids to approach me and practice their English. One little boy came up to me and shouted 'You're a bloody foreigner!' to which I pretended 'No, I'm Korean!' He shouts 'You can't fool me! You have white skin!'. I reply, 'Really, I'm Korean.' Other kids catch on to this 'game' and say to the boy 'Yeah, she's really Korean.' The little boy then flips out, beside himself in uncontrolled rage, screaming 'Am I stupid?!! Do you all think I'm stupid!!!' He then tries to pinch my skin, yelling 'This is real foreigner skin; look, it's not makeup!!' Oh no...

There was also a demonstration stunt team consisting of some guys who the Hapkido instructor had called in from some place outside. This went horribly wrong. They were supposed to do a fight sequence with some flashy kicks and falls. At the end, the five guys were all supposed to feign lying on the floor in agony. Anyway, one of the guys doesn't actually get to his feet when it's all over. Everyone starts laughing, thinking he's making a joke out of the scene. Then, his team mates decide to pull him up. He's barely conscious, and his leg is just hanging awkwardly lame at an odd angle... Shivers... I looked at the reaction of all the onlookers. The kids were all quite passe about it, and the family members didn't seem too bothered. The lame guy was carried off into the office and an ambulance was called. I think it went wrong when one of the team was supposed to hit the guy in the shin with a bamboo sword which is used for gumdo practice. I think he hit a bit too hard...

Nearly as shocking was the next round of action - the parent's breaking test... I have never seen parents partake in class before, but here they were, suddenly called upon to break pine boards. Non of the parents looked in very good form. Non of them were under 40 years old. But, they came out, guns blazing, to save their kids self-esteem and smashed their way through the blocks. It was about the most convincing breaking I have ever seen the whole time I've been in Korea. Kudos to them! But, I was disappointed that they only called on the fathers and not the mothers. Then, they awarded the parents with customary gifts, and even though I'm not a parent and did no breaking, I for some reason got called up again, and was presented this time with a book voucher - to the value of about 2 pound 50.


Lotus Lantern Festival 2006

Not quite martial arts, but just got hold of my pics from Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival, May 2006. Here are dancers representing 'Nepalese Buddhism.'


Last year, I discovered a guy through Karateforums.com who came from the States to train full time in a Taekwondo/martial arts program at a college in Daegu City, Korea. It sounds like he's been living on the edge of various Korean wheeling and dealing to get through the course, but his experience also sounds very interesting. I've sometimes toyed with the idea of going to train full time at a sports college here, but having seen a typical training routine at Yong-In University one season, I'm sure I couldn't keep up with the pace. I also don't think there would be any long term purpose for me to train full time. I don't have ambitions to be a Taekwondo instructor because I've realised it's harder than being a Taekwondo student! You should also only aim to be an instructor when you know that you can always demonstrate superior ability and more stamina than your students. I have too many weak points and my age is going against me. I'm now quite satisfied to just train in my spare time and build up my skills gradually.

Anyway, back to this 'guy' - he has a webpage accounting his progress HERE.

He also has some YouTube videos of his 2nd Dan testing in Korea under American testing requirements linked to on his site. The self defense video shows moves typical of what I do in Hapkido class. But, unfortunately for me, the partners I execute the moves on show no resistance and just collapse on the floor even before I've begun the move. Consequently, I often have to resort to just practicing the moves in thin air, imagining my opponent's body in front of me - gives an unsatisfactory result of slow speed and lack of power. Alas.



Summer vacation is going TOO fast. It's nearly 3/4 over! My first 2 weeks were squandered with a delay in getting a new work visa. Frustrating, but predictable. The 4th will be taken up with tedious, never-ending lesson planning for the next term's mammoth writing class marathon session (at least I have an excuse to be boring in class with my schedule). Week 3 has focused on Taekwondo training everyday. I tried to work through Poomsae and self defense all day, but with not enough space or any practice partner, I don't think it's really getting better. I'm also suffering lethargy from all the late night following of the World Cup - damn time difference! England's performance has been poor. They are just riding on luck of getting easy opponents. Anyway, it means that I get up at about two in the afternoon, by which time, the day is nearly over already. I'm trying to resign myself from World Cup fever in fear of developing some medical condition related to it.

So, evenings, I attend Elite Hwarang class aka the Olympic training routine class. The Sabumnim still isn't speaking to me since the demonstration fiasco (actually, I don't know what was 'fiasco' about it) at my workplace in February. Since I last attended their class, a new Canadian guy has started training there - the first time I have ever trained alongside a Westerner in Taekwondo!! Well, the Sabumnim loves this guy so much that he gives the guy sole attention in the class and consequently ignores all the other students including myself and two other new white belts who clearly need lots of guidance. (One of these white belts is a 33 year old guy - something really unique in Korea.) For any onlooker, it looks really bizarre. Anyway, the students don't seem to think any less of me since the 'fiasco', so I just concentrate on training with them, and jeez, it's sooo HARD. Sometimes I think I cannot go on. Sometimes I feel stressed at just knowing the class is coming up each evening. It's really THAT hard. I think some of them have in mind that they are preparing for the Olympics the way they set about training. They will do a 1 hour run in their sweat suits before class, then a 1 hour gruelling workout in the cramped gym wearing 3 layers of clothing and with all the windows closed. Sweat is flying everywhere; there are pools of water on the floor. It takes me about 4 or 5 hours to cool down to a regular body temperature and rehydrate properly after class.

All this training seems to pay off for the male students in the class who are the best students I've ever seen in a regular Korean Taekwondo gym, and there is one young boy who can't be older than 13 years old, who seems to have incredible ability at sparring. I wonder if his talent is really recognised and will be chanelled in the right way.

So, a typical week's training in regular class hours:
Mon - Sprinting up and down the gym like a lunatic and doing leg muscle burning exercises such as 100 squats and stomach crushing 200 sit ups.
Tue - Running/hopping up and down the stairs for 1 hour followed by 100 sit ups.
Wed - Non-stop target kicking practice with a 100 sit up aftermath.
Thur - Simplified sparring practice nonstop for 1 hour with no resting allowed.
Fri - Various exercises all designed to send people into a coma.

At end of each session, Sabumnim tells the class that nobody is any good except his dear comrade, the Canadian, who should be a model example to everybody, blah blah...vomit. It's a wonder with such a lack of praise of accomplishment with all the student's incredible displays of stamina that they have continued to study at the gym for so long.

Nearly all students are 4th Poom or 4th Dan, so they generally don't give attention to the basics - shame for the white belts. I also don't get any Poomsae training or help with working on basic techniques as a result. I've completely lost my technique for reverse kick. Verdict: I think my Taekwondo skills are not improving because this class is fitness oriented; however, for the first time in my life, I have developed a 6-pack stomach...As soon as this month is over, it'll give, I'm sure! Ironically, I'm looking forward to returning to Hapkido - I'm now grateful it has a wider variety of skill areas in which I can see a progress curve. Taekwondo just seems more of the same for as long as I attend these Korean dojangs.



On the Kukkiwon website, I noticed an event scheduled at the Kukkiwon entitled the 'Mission Cup'. Sounding interesting, I decided to go along and have a look. Actually, this turned out to be the 'Missionary Cup' in which Korean Taekwondo schools with Christian affiliations took part. (Christianity has a HUGE following here.) It was a fairly small-scale event, but the size suited the capacity of the Kukkiwon. Amongst the participants were some groups who I quite simply think shouldn't have been there. They were terrible. On the other hand, there were some genuinely very talented participants who put on a good display. Most of the competition consisted of the now all too ubiquitous 'Taekwon-dance' hip-wiggling stuff. On the verge of the eve of the World Cup, there were many World-Cup theme tunes. Only one group really stood out for originality in my opinion: they used some tango ballroom music and performed a ballroom routine incorporating Taekwondo kicks and a few self-defence moves. That worked really well.

Here are a few pix from the event - sorry quality perhaps owes to me having purchased an expired roll of film. These days it's sometimes hard to buy old fashioned film. One day, I'll go digital... You can enlarge any of the images by clicking on them.

(For some reason, formatting has also disappeared on this blogger site...where is it???)



ANT is 1 year old!

'Ant' (her full name is impossible to spell!) from Bulgaria has now reached 1 year(s?) old! Congratulations!!! As you can see, she is taking a break from the heavy goings on at her party...

Yee Mei hits Beijing!

Former co-worker Yee-Mei sent me pictures from her spring vacation in Beijing. Here, she demonstrates the Great Wall stance, preparing to battle with those fierce stone warriors...

New Look Site

You may wonder about the change of color, the change of appearance, and the change of just about everything on this site...
I decided to re-vamp the site and axe the pink look. Instead, I've tidied up the site and have reverted to what I had intended this site to be - a shrine for Taekwondo.
I shall be spending at least another year in Korea - visa pending - and have plenty more plans on the Taekwondo and Hapkido front. Keep watching.
Rahul from India has also informed me that he has made a new Taekwondo website. Here it is:

Master Lugo, New York

A comment from Master Lugo of New York:

I enjoyed reading your book, in fact enjoyed it so much that I ordered a fewcopies for my students. I recommend your book for beginners to advance students,its a must read!
Regards, Master Lugo/4th Dan Kukkiwon/2nd Dan Hapkido