Elwood 5566

Every Boy a Black Belt

Posted in Martial Arts, taekwon-do, taekwondo by 노강호 on April 3, 2012

one master to another

Anyone who has lived in Korea will have noticed just how many kids, mostly boys, have black belts in one martial art or another, usually taekwondo, hapkido or komdo. Seeing kids in martial-art uniforms on the street is a daily experience and indeed many of my students come to school in a uniform, because they are either going onto, or coming from a martial-arts lesson, in much the same way as Western kids might wear a track suit. In South Korea, almost every boy and a good many girls are black belts and many are senior dan grades the equivalent of ‘grand master’ (usually 4th and above).

There is a lot of criticism in the west to the promotion of children to dan grades (ie. black belt grades) and it is a topic that, for as long as I can remember, has divided the martial arts community.  The school in which I trained in West Germany, over thirty years ago, and which still teaches today, didn’t promote children to dan grades and there was a strong ethos among the senior grades and instructors that earning a black-belt required both physical and mental maturity.

There is a world of difference between the experience of learning martial-arts in the West and  in Korea. Though there is always variation between schools in any country, I’ve generally found schools in the West to be far stricter in both terms of training and etiquette. Further, general attitudes towards the  ‘black belt’ differs significantly. It is these differences, as well as those concerning the nature of a style or art that shape attitudes towards junior or even infant dan grades.

I’m told by Koreans, that training and etiquette in Korea were much stricter before martial-arts schools became big business and before the development of sport taekwondo as practiced by the dominating style of taekwond0 on the peninsula, namely WTF (World Taekwondo Federation). Indeed, the different ‘spellings’ of taekwondo, namely ‘taekwondo’ and ‘taekwon-do, reflect the division of this art into two factions represented by the WTF and ITF (International Taekwon-do Federation). Currently, most schools in Korea are sport taekwondo schools under the umbrella of the WTF. I’ve yet to meet a Korean martial artist, or instructor, with any knowledge of the historical development of their art and the relationship between traditional taekwon-do (ITF) and sport taekwondo (WTF). And of course, there are other Korean kicking styles including Tangdoo-do and Mooduk-kwan – all closely related to taekwondo historically and aesthetically.

everyone a dan grade

It is difficult to ascertain the extent of change that may have occurred in Korean attitudes and approaches to training partly as we are either dependent on translated articles or first hand-accounts by the few westerners who may have trained here between the 50’s-80’s and who may have glamourised or romanticised their experiences. Discipline and etiquette in the Korean classroom has changed over the last ten years and without doubt changes are mirrored in the taekwondo dojang (training hall). When I trained in a WTF school in Daegu, in 2000-2001, and again in 2003, I remember writing about students being hit on the legs with sticks, and a boy who misbehaved and was put in a headlock until he passed out. However, these were isolated incidents and in general the school was far friendlier and etiquette and training much less regimented than in the  ITF schools back in the UK.

Martial-art schools, and especially WTF taekwondo dojangs, are one of the most common Korean establishments and their presence in terms of buildings, colourful mini-buses which ferry students to their schools and the logos, badges and stripes which personalise WTF uniforms, dominant the landscape. Competition for students is fierce and taekwondo schools are as subject to economic pressures as any other business and like many other businesses, they come and go on a regular basis. My old taekwondo school in Song-so, Daegu, despite being the most popular in the area, closed in 2005. A competitor with a better cartoon character on their fleet of mini-buses, or an additional touch of ‘bling-bling’ by way of a gold embossed lettering on a suit, is enough to cause students to migrate. With the pressures of competition, Korean taekwond0 schools have to be ‘child-friendly.’ ‘Adult friendly’ is rarely a consideration as I’ve never seen Korean adults training or doing anything other than instructing. I know adult classes exist but the predominant market caters for children. Hence, schools personalise the standard WTF dobok (uniform) with an array of piping, badges and designs in a way that is interesting, amusing but at the same time tacky, camp and ‘ballroom’ to the extent that only the sequins are missing. And in cold weather, students often wear long quilted coats, sort of anoraks which carry the schools logo and perhaps a few badges and which are worn not  just to and from the dojang but sometimes worn over the dobok  during training. There is also a custom, not as prevalent today as ten years ago, of wearing a white polar-neck ‘shirt’ under a dobok. Likewise, dojangs are often camped-up with bright colours, manga cartoon characters, stunning logos all of which result in designs more acquainted with kindergartens than gyms.

2nd dan

Like the private academies (hakgwons), taekwondo schools are judged by their results often to the expense of standards. As with English schools, where the ability to pass a test is more important than actually speaking English, the belt is of more importance than the art. Not only must the training be fun and pleasurable, but belts must be passed both with ease and speed. Training in Korea is the quickest way to gain a dan grade and it is easily within the realm of possibility to be wearing a black belt within ten months of putting on a dobok – I’m tempted to say ‘within ten months of first learning how to tie one’s belt’ except that a great number of students, even dan grades, don’t seem to have learnt the correct method. In Germany, where I gained my dan grade in the Chang-hon style of taekwon-do, the journey from white to black took in the region of 4-5 years and above blue belt each belt had to be remained at for 6 months while from red-black to black, the wait was a year.

My school, Song-do Kwan, had originally been owned by a Korean but in the early 1970’s many German dan grades began to break their affiliation with Korean instructors because they were concerned about both the commercialization of the art and the manner in which techniques were often withheld from students in order to maximise potential profits. My school was a two  floor gym, rented by the instructor, Georg Soupidis, and training for five nights a week (and I often trained in two or three sessions an evening),  cost a couple of pounds. It was the cheapest school I ever trained in and as the school had no affiliation and was independent of the ITF, there were neither club nor membership fees. Unlike Korea, most students were adults.

Training for kids in Korea is great with plenty of tumbling, running and jumping and there is no doubt it is energetic and aerobic but from both my training, and classes I’ve observed, there is little explanation of or focus on the intricacies of technique and a total lack of focus on power. And often, towards the end of a class, kids allowed to play ball or tag games.

In most Korean dojangs the instructors aren’t just senior dan grades, they are grand masters, and often senior ones. In my first Korean school, the chief instructor was a seventh dan and his assistants both fifth dans. In the UK, in all but wing-chun kung fu, I’ve only ever trained under 1st-4th dans and most have been 1st or 2nd dans. As a student in a Korean school, and certainly as a foreigner, you can expect your grand-master to give you some personal training. Generally, the relationship between instructors and students is less formal than in the UK and the respect afforded a senior grand-master is really  no different to that afforded a teacher, professor or even an adult in general. This contrasts starkly to my experience of ITF in the UK where senior dan grades, even junior ones, were treated like royalty.

3rd dan

I don’t want to generalise about UK training, because variation always exists but the ITF were particularly strict. Western oriental etiquette seems to over do the significance of bowing to the dojang, instructors and other practitioners maybe because it is not part of our culture and from my experience and observation, you are likely to both bow more reverently and more often in a British taekwondo school than in a Korean one.  The Western dojang seems to be more hallowed a space than it is in Korea perhaps because of the fact it is often a manky church or school hall. The increased deference to the area is meant to elevate its status to the point you forget that the bit of carrot stuck to your trouser leg is a remnant of the pensioners’ lunch meeting held earlier that day. Likewise, the status of ‘black-belt’ is of more significance though I think this has declined since the 1970’s and 80’s. Certainly, in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, dan grades were revered and while you might not have humbled yourself before them, you treated them with respect. As for grand-masters, when I was at grading sessions in the presence of Master Rhee Ki Ha (9th dan), head of the  UKTA, you were not allowed to speak to him or approach him.

(1965)the first TKD book to be published in the English, before the ITF, WTF or black piping

The UKTA tightly controlled the design of uniforms and regimented to the centimeter the location of the obligatory badges. ITF taekwon-do, certainly in the UK, has been both thoroughly commercialised and, like many other styles, turned into a sort of medieval guild which at one and the same time protects its own brand, claims superiority over all others, and promotes the importance of its higher ranks. These developments at times conflict from Choi’s original vision which appeared in the first book to be published on taekewon-do, in English, in 1965. Taekwon-do: The Art of Self-Defence,  not only included the  Chang-hon style patterns which form the backbone of the school, but the five Japanese Heian kata (Pinan-平安). Choi suggested that the skills required for yellow belt could be transmitted by a yellow belt to a white belt and there is the general assumption that once equipped with a black belt, one is able to teach.  As both a business and martial-arts organisation, the ITF has been highly successful but the training and membership have never been cheap.

I trained with three ITF schools in the UK and never really felt comfortable in any of them. One had a training regime that was horribly brutal and the 2nd dan instructor would regularly order an assistant-instructor, who happened to be a member of the British ITF team, to kick students from other styles out the gym’s double doors. The preamble to a training session included 200 front leg rising kicks. The school had 8 students, all male, all under 30. Meanwhile, in the same town I was training in a Shotokan school that had 60 members, the eldest of whom was a woman of 67. In another school in London, under a Korean 2nd dan, students were only taught techniques required for belts with all other techniques being ‘banned.’

a 4th dan

When it comes to junior dan grades, your opinion on their credibility is probably going to be based on the values you associate with your particular style. WTF taekwondo is a sport and though it produces some fantastic martial artists, the day-to-day nuts and bolts of a Korean WTF class is churning out a flurry of successive spinning kicks. In the competition arena power and technique are sacrificed to speed. Apart from in the practice of patterns, I don’t think my classes in WTF ever included hand techniques and indeed the WTF fighting rules have turned the hands and arms into vestigial organs which hang limply at the sides. Even styles which are not renowned for kicking ban head kicks because of their potential danger but the WTF allows head kicks, even the largely uncontrollable spinning and axe kicks, while banning hand to head techniques. For an art where the feet should be superior to the hands, this isn’t a very good advertisement for kicking potential. Further, as it is good strategy to ‘box’ a kicker and kick a ‘boxer,’ the WTF style fails to fully develop or raise awareness of both the importance of a good guard (against hand to head attacks) and effective offensive handwork strategy. Every style has limitations but I feel that if ITF taekwon-do were to die out and WTF dominant, much of the essence of taekwon-do would be lost. Naturally, a style is only as good as the person practising it, and there are excellent martial artists in all styles, but I cannot avoid concluding that the emphasis on sport severely weakens taekwondo as a martial art.

fantastic stretch and technique - 4th dan

With the objects of tournament competition as the orgainising features of WTF taekwondo, there is nothing wrong with junior dan grades. The lithe-light, supple bodies of children are able to unleash a blur of fascinating footwork which is equal to, if not better than that of many adults. Some of the grand masters I teach in school, and I teach several a day, are able to kick with as much stretch and beauty as the likes of Bill Wallace but in terms of power, they are totally lacking.

the famous 'Superfoot' Bill Wallace, an incredibly powerful technician. Dan grade? No idea...

And what age is too young to have a black belt or to be a grand master? The youngest 4th dan I’ve met so far has been 7! Does a child or infant grand master deserve the same respect and admiration as an adult senior grade? Does mental maturity have anything to do with black-belt qualities?

If the values of your art or style believe power to be an important facet, then junior dan grades are as incapacitated in this field, by virtue of their physical and mental development, as are prepubescent ballet dancers in the performance of adult ballet. This is no slur on their ability, it is simply that they do not yet have at their disposal, the tools to be powerful.

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©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2011 Creative Commons Licence.

Doboks Galore – Photo Diary

Posted in Martial Arts, Photo diary, video clips by 노강호 on March 4, 2012

I feel quite at home among taekwondo and martial arts clothing. With twenty years experience of taekwon-do, I got to the stage I could go shopping in a supermarket in the UK or Germany, in a ‘dobok’ and not feel out-of-place. I find something quite ‘homely’ about the various uniforms you see on Korea streets and in schools and again this is probably because I was also fifteen years in the British army. Wherever you go in Korea, uniforms are part of the scenery and one of the most popular is the taekwondo ‘dobok.’

2001: Boys in summer komdo (kendo) uniforms with the baggy pants, playing an arcade game

2001: Two komdo boys in summer dress. One carries a bamboo 'shinai' (don't know the Korean term for this)

2001. Hapkido boys in summer uniform. This school is still training ten years later.

flying side kick

A couple of taekwondo boys resting. WTF 'dobok' are always blinged to the max!

one of my younger students demonstrates his front kick

Jay is a third degree black-belt (WTF). This is a fantastic side kick!

Some older taekwondo boys on a wet morning in the monsoon season

Jay performing a side kick

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©努江虎 – 노강호 2012  Creative Commons Licence.

‘Be strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful’ – Keiko Fukuda

Posted in Martial Arts, taekwon-do by 노강호 on February 13, 2012

Keiko Fukuda

”This was my life…I chose to live judo over marriage.’ Says the aged Keiko Fukuda as tears begin to fall down her face. This clip of a documentary in the making is incredibly intense and moving. Born in 1913, Fukuda, the highest ranking woman judo-ka, is also the last surviving student of Kano Jigoro, founder of judo. Fukuda’s personal motto is ‘be strong, be gentle, be beautiful,’ and there is no doubt she epitomizes such virtues.

In today’s world, where everyone on the internet is a master of something and so many individuals derive pleasure from condemning the efforts of others, Fukuda’s gentleness, her humility are a reminder, perhaps a relic of a reminder, that there is more to martial arts than simply defeating an opponent. Perhaps my assumptions are an idealization,  a fabrication derived from a fascination with the oriental that anyone training in the 1970’s will recall, but when I began taekwon-do, in 1977, there was a real sense among many practitioners and teachers, that qualities such as perseverance, determination, courage, humility and respect were equally, if not of greater importance than simply bashing an opponent.

I remember an excellent book on Karate by C.W Nichols, (Moving Zen) which recounted a westerner’s experience learning Karate in Japan in the late 60’s or early 70’s. In his school,  a student had just been promoted to first degree black belt and shortly after was made to fight one black belt after another until he fell to the ground from exhaustion. When the instructor was asked why the new black belt was being treated in this manner, he replied that, when a nail sticks out from the wood, you bang it back into place. Yes, it’s harsh, but in life sometimes there is more to learn from defeat than there is from victory.  There are bad people in every walk of life but in my first martial arts school, all the dan grades were role models, they were all gentle, all strong and in their own way, all were beautiful.

A book that teaches you the stuff omitted in many martial arts school and styles

While the movie clip of Keiko Fukuda is inspirational to genuine martial artists, regardless of their rank or ability, the comments that followed the Youtube clip demonstrated how either many people don’t understand the breadth and complexity of martial arts, or simply inhabit a completely different mindset. Kata, for example can never be mastered because perfection is beyond grasping. The goal of kata is to better your spirit in the pursuit of a perfection that cannot be acquired. And they miss the myriad of skills which pursuing martial arts encompass, precision of technique, the art of teaching, power, character, timing, rhythm, strategy, focus, beauty, the moving Zen!  When it comes to learning a martial art, a good teacher is of far greater value than a competition champion who can’t teach.

I would have thought that any expert in their field who  had dedicated their life to some pursuit, in this case over 70 years, who had risen to the top of their field before many of us were even born, would be an ideal candidate to hold in unreserved reverence but no, the internet provides the perfect anonymity for every armchair expert to promote their own ignorance. Sadly, instead of a celebration of effort and achievement,  much of the response to the Fukuda clip was a litany of criticism. Yes, Fukuda is old, and of course she cannot defeat a younger, less experienced even untrained assailant and there are probably thousands of kiddies who could push her in the gutter!  Of course you could easily mug her or knock her over and of course she is frail! She’s 90 years of age! But let’s not be too serious, how can anyone who lashes out at the abilities, mental or physical, of a little 90-year-old woman be taken seriously. Perhaps the proliferation of martial arts as sport, as solely competition and sometimes savagery have led us in the wrong direction and if so it is the likes of frail Fukuda who remind that we’re missing part of the picture.

Suddenly I am reminded of that cringy scene in the opening of Way of the Dragon, where Bruce Lee, a Shaolin monk, scolds a  young student for kicking without ’emotional content.’ ‘It’s like pointing a finger at the moon,’ he tells the boy. ‘Don’t focus on the finger or you’ll fail to see all the heavenly glory.’  Suddenly, the scene is a lot less cringy!

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©努江虎 – 노강호 2012  Creative Commons Licence.

Penis Paradise. Palgongsan National Park

Posted in bathhouse Ballads, Comparative, Daegu, Entertainment by 노강호 on May 19, 2010

Highly recommended

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about life in Korea, it’s that cocks can turn up in the oddest places and at the most unexpected times. Of course, if you’re a westerner you might be surprised as we so often perceive Korea as conservative in its values. Well of course it’s freaking conservative! If you’ve been socialised and educated in one of those degenerate moral and ethical cesspits, such as the UK or USA, you cannot fail to perceive Korea as naive and  innocent. Most westerners, myself included, are so used to cesspit values we hardly notice the toilet paper and bits of turd clinging to our bodies as we travel the globe. Being British and from the land where teenage pregnancy and STI’s are at ‘epidemic proportions,’ in Korea, with one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the world, 2.1 per thousand, it is quite natural to perceive the country as conservative and even innocent. Ironically, despite Korea’s low rate of  STI’s and teenage pregnancy, the existing figures are a current social and political concern! I am neither religious nor particularly moralistic but, I prefer my students, especially ones under 14, to be innocent as opposed promiscuous,  predatory, precocious, tarty and cheap.

純 순수한 - 'Innocent '

In Autumn last year,  I visited Palgongsan National Park, on the edge of Daegu. After a very delicious smoked duck barbecue, I took a little troll around the restaurant grounds only to discover 42 penises, (yes, I actually counted them!), all poking skywards and congregated in an area about the size of a large living room. This little patch of cock I endearingly referred to as Penis Paradise. On my initial trip, I’d forgotten to take my camera and all year I’d been planning to go back and capture, albeit it on a digital, the only cocks I am probably likely to get close  enough to touch between now and the grave. You can imagine how gutted I was when I enthusiastically arrived at my  little paradise, tucked away in some obscure corner of the mountains, only to discover all but one cock remained. The adjoining restaurant had made some alterations but even after trolling around the building and snooping in tucked away corners, it became apparent I’d missed my one and only  opportunity.

Where a patch of proud penises had majestically stood there remained one solitary cock which poked up pathetically from a surrounding pile of junk robbing it of any remaining grandeur. Up closer it retained an air of pride despite  probably  being the poorest specimen with a shaft looking hacked, holed and even split as if old or simply unfinished. The other ones had been smooth, perfected and each imbued with particular qualities suggested by both the  nature of their wood as well as their individual design; qualities that only someone who likes natural wood and  cock could appreciate.

Surrounded by junk - Sacrilege!

A badly hacked shaft in need of some oil!

Penis Paradise had originally stood outside a carpenter’s workshop/gallery and inside I found another penis. It was a big fat number, somewhat interesting but with a face carved on one side which I didn’t particularly like but it had the bonus of and added appendage ….yet another cock.

Two for the price of one

The epitomisation of Korea

Knotted and gnarled were the qualities that had enamored me when I first encountered that patch of penises. Korean wood is invested with a strange quality probably induced by struggling into life in quite difficult surroundings. Back in England, near where I live, are some examples of the most enormous oak trees and in a five-minute cycle I can be stood under trees that Constable himself painted.  Korean mountain forests exude a sense of gargantuan Bonsai and walking in one, especially when daylight is ebbing, is like wandering through a Mahler symphony, most especially, his fourth.  It’s a dark, warped, and knotted world, with craggy imposing crops of rock, mossy and lichened,  the perfect background for goblins, ghosts and  other imaginary forest creatures.   There are no immense oaks on those rugged rocky slopes where every tree has had to fight its way into existence with roots seeking out and voraciously burrowing into nutritious gaps and fissures in that dense, granite-like base. Tress are wind swept, stunted, knotted, gnarled and twisted in manners which betray both pain and tenacity.

In my last  high school, the top class of first, second and third year students, were called, ‘so-namu’ (소나무),  ‘pine tree, classes,’ and the boys affectionately called, ‘so-namu.’ ‘He’s ‘so-namu’ would be used to describe and explain  a boy’s exam success or identify the fact he was  in the top class.  That pained-tenacious existence, evident in Korean forests where life has been fought for, exists on other plains: you see it in the bodies of old men and women, bodies muscled and knotted, damaged and strengthened by an arduous life, yet supple enough to sit cross-legged, all  a rarity in the west. I have seen  old grannies who cannot stand up straight and are forced to walk with a right  angle between their spine and legs,  bodies damaged by a lifetime of carrying children or heavy loads on their backs, sit into a cross-legged position, and rise, without using their hands or moving their feet.  Even at forty, I had to get on all fours to escape this position. Sometimes you see it in the bodies of younger children, but this is without doubt rapidly disappearing. I have several nine-year olds, usually ones whose hobbies are taekwondo, hapkido, or komdo, with six packs and thighs looking like they regularly squat.  You see it in the faces of students as they trudge, bleary eyed from school to haggwon and on to another haggwon and then to the reading room, life a constant round of tests and assignments. Pain and tenacity are features of Korea which are engraved into the education system, their martial arts, encapsulated by the popular phrase ‘fighting!’ and also a reflection of their history. Penis Paradise was intriguing because wrought in the bodies of each penis, in both  the nature of the wood and  their design, was a sense of that  pain-and tenacity – the struggle for life and triumph at its persistence.

'Tenacity' is often a key concept in Taekwondo, Hapkido and Komdo tenets

A reflection of Korea on many levels

Only one cock stood, an epitaph to its vanished members. Where had they gone? In fact, they’d been sold for  exhibition at the Haeshindang Folk Village, Samcheok,  also known as Penis Park.

Family Fun at Penis Park

Penis Park, Samcheok, A Collection of colossal Cocks

With only one cock standing, the juicy aroma of barbecued smoked duck, attracted my attention. Putting my camera away, I went and enjoyed a wholesome meal. It’s no substitute for the real thing, but here is the menu:

Smoked barbecued duck a specialty


Taekwondo School – November 4th 2000 (Korean Accounts 2000-2001)

Posted in Korean Accounts Part 1, South Korea, taekwondo, Teaching by 노강호 on November 4, 2000

I’m aching this morning as I have joined a Taekwondo school run by a 7th dan, Master Bae. The school is affiliated to the American Martial Arts Association and it is exactly 190 paces from my school. The school, along with most other Korean enterprises seems to be permanently open but my classes run specifically from 8-9pm. The school is large and there are two halls, an office, mats on the floor and various other luxuries not found in Britain. When I began filling out the forms the office was full of grinning Korean boys (and  few girls) who found my height and my size 15 trainers amusing. It seems that only youngsters do martial arts here and I am told that adults prefer bowling or golf. I think I am getting private lessons from the instructors. I was measured up for a suit and it should arrive on the 7th. From my extensive training in martial arts in the west, one is taught to constantly bow to instructors and to the training hall but this seems quite the opposite here in Korea. No one bows on entering or leaving the dojang and during the training there is a lot of chit-chat and laughing between the instructor and students and even the ‘Captain,’ as they refer to Mr Bae, gets little deferential treatment. When I took taekwon-do gradings in the UK, under Master Rhee, who was an 8th dan, he was treated like a god and no student was allowed to approach him uninvited. It is a surprise here, to see lazy students who stop exercising if they get tired or can’t keep up but I have since been told that this lax approach is necessary to keep youngsters in the class as martial arts schools are on every street corner. However, even in my school, Hae-song school, I have witnessed some almost brutal discipline. In one session a boy who was messing around was put in a headlock until he passed out. He was just left on the side of the mat to recuperate. One of the instructors often walks around the class with a small sort of hammer which he bashes on the soles of the feet of the youngsters to encourage them to stretch properly.  Despite my criticisms most of the children with belts above green seem proficient. Martial arts are very popular here and it is quite common to see youngsters, usually boys, practicing techniques in the street. Yesterday I saw several boys walking through the town in kumdo (the Korean equivalent of Kendo) uniforms. Both carried wooden bamboo swords at their sides. Even the owner of a local restaurant I have been going to has a second degree black-belt. At the end of my last training session, we were all given a letter which I have since had translated; it referred to the equality of women in the training hall.

2001: Two kumdo boys in summer dress. One carries a bamboo ‘shinai’ (don’t know the Korean term for this)

My flat is only a five-minute walk from the Shane School of English where I am teaching and Nana, my flatmate is very friendly. The flat is well equipped, spacious enough and clean. During the week I moved my bed out of the room and bought Korean bedding as I intend to have a total Korean experience. Nana and I went out for a meal last week. It consisted of barbecued sliced pork which is eaten with a variety of leaves and condiments. Some of the food is quite strange and has textures and tastes which I haven’t experienced before. We got slightly drink on a drink known as soju (소주). After eating we wandered around the town for an hour or so.

The teaching is okay but some of the kids are unruly. Most of the ones I teach are aged 6-13 and one luxury is that you can hit them and physically manhandle them. I have one particularly horrid class, Kindy B and one boy, Peter, was messing around a lot. He did the same last week and when I tried to keep him behind he ran away. Because I can’t speak Korean they take advantage. He did the same this week and when I went to get him he ran around the classroom laughing. Anyway, I pushed all the desks out of the way that were between us and grabbed him by the neck. Then I frog marched him to my desk and kept him stood there until he had stopped crying. Some of the Korean teachers make the boys stand and do ‘pokey drill’  (a British army term for punishment or training where you hold you weapon in painful positions until your arms ache), when they are naughty.

I’ve stopped cooking at home as it is doesn’t cost much more to eat out. On working days I have a big rush to get from my last lesson, which finished as 6.40 and then get home, grab a quick bite to eat and go to the TKD school for eight. I trained every evening this week and yesterday had my first full session in the class. I’ve had individual lessons from both the master and one of the other instructors who can speak some English.

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