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.

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