On the way home this afternoon, I reminded Mum that she’d promised to investigate the plausibility of learning a martial arts. She assented, and after I’d cooled down a bit at home, off we went to get our watches repaired and simultaneously drop in to the local Taekwondo. My heart was racing as I watched two blackbelts (two dans) sparring, doing fancy kicks that I won’t bore you by describing. Beside them were green belts and red belts, not quite as impressively attempting the same. The woman behind the counter intimidated me- her eyes were yellowed and her voice was soft and mature. She smiled, always, and yet you could never disrespect her. I later found out she was second in charge, and therefore second most skilled in Oh Do Kwan
. She gave me a pamphlet, a booklet, and explained the special deal that was going on before the 1st of March. Basically I got a month of lessons, three times a week, and a uniform (gi?) for $30, as opposed to two weeks and the uniform costing an additional $35. I was overjoyed, and when she asked when I’d like to begin (before or after school), I said after. I figured I had a busy holidays- LPS, music lesson with Slawomirsky on Saturday (Mum told me about it a few hours ago- surprise John!), hopefully another games day. Books to read, work to do, the likes. Mum interjected, and for the first time in a long time, she was right about something. I signed up for the class, and would return in two hours time for my first lesson.
Arriving, I was anxious, but they were friendly. I was given a uniform (gi?) or two to try out, and the grandmaster himself tied my belt because I am an incompetent genin. Nevertheless, after undoing it and redoing it countless times, I learned how to tie it o-kay. Anyway, the class started soon after and I joined the back ranks. I noticed, somewhat painfully, that every other student in the dojo was a blackbelt, most of which had dans. There was one other beginner, looked about 13, named Osman who was beside me. Since it’s the school holidays, only the dedicated students, id est, the blackbelts, came to training. The warmup was, as usual, a few easy stretches, progressing to harder ones, for several minutes. Georgie, you think you’re flexible, well these people are insane. They sit on the floor, part their legs 180 degrees (I reckon I got about 110) and hug one of their knees. I felt pitiful, even though I’m the second most flexible person I know. In due time though, my flexibility will improve, and some day I shall bend like Rubberman! Anyway… When the class started, Osman and I were put at the back with an experienced student teaching us basic moves.
I was willing to learn everything from scratch- stances, blocks, kicks. I found that I didn’t have to. Six years ago, I quit Rhee Taekwondo. My mother mentioned this to my sensei (note: she’s not actual my sensei. I just like the term) as I registered, and she told me that because I had reached brown belt black stripe, that is to say, one grading off a black belt, I should be bumped up a bit. In other words, after a few lessons, they would rank me and give me an appropriate belt colour depending on how well trained I was, and I could continue learning from there. Keep in mind this was six years ago, and I learned for about three years from age 7-10. I remember not taking it entirely seriously, but working hard to keep my technique focused, even though I may have lacked a bit of power. I learned today that all those years of training were locked in my memory. As the Chunin demonstrated blocks, I found myself (if I may say so) gliding my foot instead of stepping. My stance, my form, was already set, unlike Osman who was basically standing up. A bit too low (I bent my knees too much), but that was a good thing, because in a fight that would come naturally, and maybe bouncing a little on the spot. However, for training, it wasn’t necessary.
The teachers of Oh Do Kwan had both tried out Rhee Taekwondo, until they learned it wasn’t internationally recognised. A lot of it’s the same, and I’m getting back into it well. I sort of have to undo a few kung fu movies I’ve seen, because when we did a bit of sparring (or for the beginners, alternating kicks and blocking), half of my blocks were catching his foot with both my hands. However, since I’m allowed to go three times a week, I’ll be back tomorrow, and hopefully on Saturday, after my piano lesson. It’s a little bit too dark outside to train right now, but tomorrow, believe it, I’ll be practicing.
I also had a reality check today. In my mind, I envisioned myself as the star pupil, training incredibly hard every day and mastering every move. I came to Taekwondo today, and all of the mature ones (that is to say, every black belt older than 15- there were a few youngens) were my vision. I will be humble- I cannot walk beside them yet, but I will learn, train and grow over the next few months. Years perhaps. Then, if I should get a blackbelt some day, I’ll take a look at ninjitsu, and the sky’s the limit!
Finally, I’m getting a move on with life.
PS: Website is http://www.taekwondoohdokwan.com.au
EDIT: Found them. My sensei is the famous Carmela Hartnett, and the man who did my belt is the even-more-famous Master Ross Hartnett. Check this out. http://www.taekwondoohdokwan.com.au/gpage.html
It’s really quite strange seeing these people in the flesh when they’re known around the globe for their prowess. And better still- they’re teaching it to me!