Elwood 5566

First Step – Yet Again

Posted in General, Martial Arts by 노강호 on April 8, 2012

I took my first lesson in the Oh Do Kwan style of taekwon-do on Thursday March 3rd, 1977. I was twenty-one, a soldier in the British Army, stationed in Osnabrück, West Germany. The school was the Song-Do-Kwan and my instructor, Georg Soupidis, then a 3rd degree black belt.

I took my 1st dan exactly 5 years and one month later, on Saturday 3rd of April, 1982. I remained in Osnabrück where I ran my own club in a neighbouring barracks and then, from 1985, became ronin, wandering from club to club never able to settle down because of a spat of short postings, followed by university, teacher training and employment in various schools and towns.

Training for my dan grade with Frank Zippel, left (1981, Osnabrück)

My taekwon-do lineage is close to the roots. Georg Soupidis studied under Rhee Hi-ka in the 1960’s while Rhee Ki-ha was introduced to taekwon-do, by one of, if not the founding father, Choi Hong-hi. Indeed, around 1973, Choi stayed in Georg’s house in Osnabrück.

Georg Soupidis and I in 1982

I actually started martial arts in 1973, in Münster, West Germany, from Peter Dominic’s, ‘Teach Yourself Karate.’

Song Do Kwan, Osnabrück, 1977-85 (1st dan). I trained here under, Georg Soupidies, then a 3rd, and later 4th Dan (now 6th Dan).

ITF taekwondo in London (1980). Under Richard Koo, 2nd Dan.

Wing Chun Kung Fu under Master Simon Lau – London (1980)

Close to a years one to one training with Wai Po Tang – when he was 15 and before his travels to China and Thailand. At the time he’d only just taken up Wing Chun. (1980)

Oh Do Kwan taekwon-do Paderborn, Germany 1986. Under Master Song?

ITF taekwon-do, Aylesbury, Bucks. 1988. (green belt). Under Leroy Soutar, 2nd Dan

Traditional shotokan karate (TASK), Aylesbury, Bucks. 1988 (green belt). Under Master John van Weenen.

Self defence instructor Essex University 1988-1992.

Yoseikan Karate (Essex University) 1988-1992. Under Master Mark Bishop, 4th Dan.

Shotokan Karate (Goldsmiths College, London) 1993-1995. Under Gabriel ? 2nd Dan.

Daegu, Korea, WTF taekwondo, 2000-2001 (purple belt). Under Master Bae 7th Dan.

Daegu, Korea 2011, Oh Do Kwan, taekwon-do, (no school)

Daegu, Korea, Monday, April 16th,  2012, Haidong Gumdo. (white belt), Under Master Kwon Yong-guk, 5th Dan (Haedong Gumdo), 6th Dan (Korean Traditional Weapons), 4th Dan (WTF Taekwondo).

In 2001 I had to stop training because I developed an umbilical hernia and had to travel back to the UK for surgery.

In, 2003, I was back training in Daegu, in the school I trained in in 2000-2001. Once again, right before taking my red belt I did a high axe kick and re-birthed a para-umbilical hernia. I later discovered it was part of the first hernia. Once again I had to go back to the UK for surgery under the same surgeon who again managed to bodge a second operation. The operation failed to close the tear in my abdominal muscle and over the next few years a substantial lump grew on my stomach that I named ‘Billy.’

I now considered my training in martial arts over. Indeed, that’s what I wrote in my diary after leaving the consultant’s surgery. In 2008, the hernia was successfully repaired and I returned to Korea. I had put on a lot of weight and considered myself highly unfit but after three years regular gym workouts, which initially began extremely lightly, I eased myself back into martial arts training and eventually took up haidong gumdo.

My Current Instructor – Danny – 권용국

My heart has always been with Oh Do Kwan style and despite having practiced other styles and compelled to take a break between hernia operations or when I ‘was lost,’ I have always practiced my patterns. Gumdo was a way back into full TKD training but I have quickly grown to like the style and unlike TKD, I’m not competing with past expectations. For now, Haedong Gumdo is my focus.

It’s now my goal to take my first dan in gumdo. TKD is too stressful on the knees at my age and the gumdo ideology much better at adapting to suit your own development.  And in a comforting way, practicing gumdo provides a continuity so that I do not feel I have abandoned my style and all it meant to me.

This blog chronicles my journey.

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©Facing A Single Opponent –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.



Ch’eonan.September 2007. (Korean Accounts 2)

Posted in Diary notes, General, High school life, Korean Accounts 2 by 노강호 on September 15, 2007

I arrived at Inch‘on airport, Seoul on Sunday 15th of September. I was supposed to be being met by one of the teachers from the school but this plan was abandoned a few days before I departed and they asked me if I could travel to Ch’ǒnan (天安市). The journey from London to Seoul was tiring and in total lasted about 32 hours. I spent 3 hours waiting at Dubai airport. I arrived in Seoul feeling very tired and after a little hassle managed to find a bus that travelled to Ch’ǒnan. The duration of this journey was about one hour fifteen and for most of the journey, which began as dusk was falling, it rained heavily. I had hoped that Ch’ǒnan might be a little less westernized than was Daegu because in the short walk from my apartment there to my old school I passed Baskin Robbins, MacDonalds and KFC. Well, my bus left the highway at the edge of the city and within a minute we were passing through the centre of the town where I know the bus terminal was located and as we approached it we passed The Outback Steakhouse, Baskin Robins, Dunkin Donuts, Macdonalds, KFC and as we turned into the terminal, I could see a Burger King a little way off in the distance.

It was raining heavily as I wearily lugged my bags off the bus and headed for the nearby shopping mall where I left my bag with an attendant and went to find a phone booth. By the time I returned Ted, the guy with whom I’d had most of my communication regards the school, was just entering the mall followed, moments later, by Mr Chǒng. From here I had to drag my bag through the rain to a suitable spot where Mr Chǒng could meet us with his car. Once he arrived we drove up to the school which didn’t seem too far away but I couldn’t really see much as everything was in darkness however, I could tell it was at the top of a hill. Turning the car around, we drove back down the hill and crossed the main road onto a rough track of a road on which stood a dog soup restaurant. It seemed only a minute or two from here to where my apartment is.

It was somewhat depressing arriving at my accommodation in darkness, tired, and in the middle of a storm that I later discovered was the edge of a typhoon. Though I now like my room, at first viewing it appeared dingy and uninviting. A large double bed stood in one corner and at the feet of this was a large number of boxes. Ted announced to me that the boxes would be picked up in a day or two but I’m not stupid, this is Korea and unless Ted is here himself to move them, they will be here for weeks on end. I wasn’t really pleased with how Ted announced this as a statement of fact rather than a request. Mr Chǒng and Ted stood looking around the room, praising it and were especially pleased with the double bed, which I must add, having since slept in it, is very comfortable, however, what captivated my attention the most wasn’t the lovely bed, but the grungy grey pillow and duvet that lay in  a  pile on the bed. The pillow was particularly disgusting as it had slobber marks all over it. I immediately knew that I wouldn’t be sleeping in Ted’s dirty laundry this evening. When they left I investigated the room further and though it was clean, I was quite amazed that neither Ted nor Mr Chǒng had seen fit to put any water in the fridge, leave me a little milk or wash my bedding. Ted had even beamed with a touch or pride when I opened the refrigerator door and saw a lonely, atrophied potato and onion.  A soon as they left I walked down the road and discovered a small shop where I bought some noodles, milk and shampoo and as soon as I returned home and had unpacked, I put the dirty bedding  in the washing machine. I eventually washed the bedding twice and they have since been transformed from a colour I thought was grey to pure white.

©Amongst Other Things – 努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
Written September 2007
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