12/05/2006

The final countdown: HKD



I just went to the photo store to collect the CD-Rom which should have all the pix of all the Taekwondo events since the summer on it, but...they tell me there's a 'hitch' with processing it. My heart skipped a few beats, as there is no way I can go back in time to re-capture the images I had. Anyway, I've been told to come back tomorrow, so pray be, all images will survive the 'hitch'.

In the meantime, I will write up what happened at the end of the Hapkido series. As you may know if you've read all the previous posts, I 'automagically' received my black belt as early as September - even earlier than I had ever thought myself, after I looked at the date on my Dan card (ABOVE). (The nationality on the card originally had 'Korean' on it, but got wiped over, and replaced with 'British'. Just like being mistaken for a man at the Kukkiwon test, it seems that despite the blue eyes on my photo, I was also momentarily mistaken for a Korean!). Then, I was set to take the moms and pops demonstration test on November 26th, so that I could be presented with my certificates and prizes, (I also got an extra prize because I had filled up the blanks on my 'Chin Chan Sticker' wall chart, where stickers are awarded for attendance to class.)
What happened was that the entire month of November classes were taken up with preparing the students for this moms and pops bonanza. We hadn't done such preparation for a similar event back in the summer time. It was as if we were preparing for the Kim Jong Il mass games. The pomp and circumstance was truly ridiculous. I sat through classes which involved an entire week of being able to stand up and say 'My name is...'. Funny thing is, I was never asked to stand up and say what my name was. Each time we finished, the kids would shout out, 'But 'Jyo-Ee' hasn't been called yet!' Finally, the instructor explained that he wouldn't ask me to speak in Korean in front of the parents 'because I was a foreigner, and it was unnatural to expect a foreigner to speak Korean.' It sounded a bit bizarre to me. Anyhow, nevermind because I was just waiting for the moment when we would start doing exercises again. But that moment never came. For one entire month... We didn't do anything except drilling standing up, lining up, bowing and nodding and saying something like 'yes sir, no sir, three bags full, sir.' For me it was really a waste of money and time, since I was due to be taking the Taekwondo 2nd Dan test a short while after, and was keen to get as much training fitted in.
Another thing I didn't like about the HKD class was that in the last few months of my stay there, the instructor regularly changed. The Kwang Jang boss was still there, but he did little hands on stuff in the gym. I guess he was too busy planning the schedule for this moms and pops thing. Instead, he had senior students instructing. We saw 3 or 4 of them. Although these new instructors seemed to be pretty competent at Hapkido, the problem was that they all seemed to be from different gyms, so their techniques were all somewhat different to each other. While one instructor taught us one move, another would insist that it was done a completely different way. When there are so many disciplines in the art of Hapkido, it is difficult to spend much time focusing on just one area. As a result, it was often the case that we would see a particular self-defence move shown to us just once, and then were suddenly called upon to duplicate it in a test, having so little practice in it. When instructors are all teaching different techniques, the chances to become well-versed in any particular move diminishes even more. Moreover, the test judge would call out 'incorrect' when we do the move that has been 'taught' by a different instructor. Basically, I came away with only a vague notion of the some 50 self defence moves that were shown to me in the time at the gym. However, even the Kwang Jang himself changed all his own moves while I was at the 6 month point. He added all these frilly spin finishes to many moves, which have no function in the self-defence purpose of a move. Everytime a test came, it was like a whole new ball game, with all the moves and test requirements constantly changing. Very few students ended up with any real ability. I saw a 3rd Dan black belt there who couldn't even do a forward roll.
This is also the class which has simply been so bad in terms of discipline and instruction, that I can count 3 or 4 times when I left the class early in nothing but disgust. That gives you some measure of how bad some of the classes were. I really can't recommend this gym to anyone who wants to do serious HKD training in Korea. (Hence, I only awarded this gym 2 stars on the Tagzania map). The only good thing about the gym is the decent size of floor space, and equipment such as a hanging bag and heavy mats. You also had to pay extra for all the individual tests - an absolute McDojo. In many ways, these negative points have made it easier for me to walk away from that particular gym. There was absolutely no way I could develop myself further at that gym.
When I was told I was going to do a 'sword demonstration' at this moms and pops event, intuitively I wondered whether I was actually going to be called upon to really do a sword demo, or whether I was going to be called upon out of the blue to do something as 'obscene' as a skipping rope demo, (I absolutely HATE the jump rope!) It really wouldn't have surprised me. I went prepared for anything, although really I was only just going to attend the event in the first place just so that I could do the polite thing of receiving my Dan certificate.
For all the preparation, turnout was pretty thin. It was quite different to the 'success' story of the moms and pops demo of the summer. In true Korean style, many moms and pops turned up ridiculously late. The scheduling was also very awkward and adhoc. Kids who were absent were called out to do things. Nobody knew their lines, let alone their moves.
One odd demonstration was the Karaoke demonstration. One little boy, quite bravely, volunteered to sing a song in front of everybody in the room. He was given a cellphone which was playing a downloaded tune, and stood pretty silently in the middle of the room for about 5 minutes, holding this cellphone to his ear. I didn't realize at first that he was supposed to be giving a singing demo. At first, I thought this was going to be some self-defence demo, whereby another student was going to pretend to steal the cellphone from the little boy!
When my turn came, I had to do some falls, and then alas, the move which I have the most difficulty with: jumping/flying over someone standing at head height. I had only ever succeeded on doing this move on 2 occasions, both being only on the Friday prior to this demonstration! Part of the reason for my inability to do this jump, is that I am not very good at taking off on two feet. Secondly, I am shortsighted and don't wear my glasses when doing such moves. It's really hard to guage the height and distance at any point before the move. In this particular move, it's really critical to have the perfect height and distance when you decide to jump. Some poor kid was standing on the runway - with his parents watching, and I knew when I got halfway down that I was going to make a mess of it. But, I had too much momentum to stop, so I rather heavy-handedly pushed him aside while I kind of semi-jumped over. Really bad. What could have been worse though, was that there was a big window which I pushed the kid into. It could have broken, or if the window had been open, the kid would have gone flying out of the 5th floor. I already heard this cry of horror coming from his parents in the audience. They didn't sound too pleased with me. Fortunately, the kid was already quite grown up and strong enough not to get upset with me pushing him into the window. So, I just put the error aside.
Finally, the event concluded by having what must have been the lamest student I ever saw at that gym doing about 10 minutes of board breaking. I felt a bit disappointed inside because the particular student - a middle school girl - had never shown any effort in class and had a really low ability. She really labored through the breaking with one failed break after another, wearing one shoe to cushion the impact, while I watched and wished that I could also do such a demonstration to redeem myself after the failed jump. I don't have the most strength, but I can move faster than most of the students I've trained with, so it would have been nice to end on such a high note to demonstrate my kicking in such an event.
Photos were taken and will be uploaded...if I can actually get them back from the photo shop!! An anxious 24 hours awaits...

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