Elwood 5566

My Dobok Arrives – Tuesday 7th November (Korean Accounts 2000-2001)

Posted in Korean Accounts Part 1, taekwondo by 노강호 on November 7, 2000

My taekwondo suit (dobok) arrived today. When I arrived at the dojang some excited boys were shouting, ‘dobok! dobok’ and holding their arms wide. Obviously the suit had been put on display for the amusement of the kids but I’m not bothered as I’ve become a little hardened to being the center of attention. Mr Bae let me change into it in his office but a huddle of boys stood watching me through the Perspex windows which looks onto the training hall. Politely, the boys held up their bags to stop any girls seeing me. The suit fitted fine and when I left the office half the school surrounded me to pull the material and help me put on the belt.

I actually hate the period just before I have to leave to go to the dojang as everything aches, my stomach, knees, thighs, even my buttocks. I’d much rather go home and relax but I have adopted this state of mind where I am resigned to accepting the pain of training. I totally commit myself to the will of the instructors. As there are no beginners’ classes and I am the only white belt, I ended up training with everyone else: Spinning kick, flying kick or jumping kicks, I attempted them all. We even had to do a running jumping kick during which we thrust out both legs parallel to the floor and touched our toes. I must have looked a sight as twenty odd stone doesn’t do such a technique with any finesse but as I said, I am beyond embarrassment.

Nana had a woman friend call around the house one evening. Her name is Po-yeoung and she is very nice company. She brought some dried squid with her which we toasted on the cooker, cut into strips and chewed with beer. It is rather like fishy jerky.

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©努江虎 – 노강호 2012  Creative Commons Licence.
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Bought a Piano – Monday November 6th, 2000 (Korean Accounts 2000-2001)

Posted in Korean Accounts Part 1 by 노강호 on November 6, 2000

I bought a piano yesterday. It is a second-hand one and only cost a couple of hundred pounds which in reflection is probably a bit excessive. I had to do the whole  deal in the little Korean I’ve learnt. I had to draw a map and the nearest landmark to my house that I know is MacDonald’s. The shop owner didn’t understand this until I’d written in Korean which quite pleased me.  Then I found a video rental shop (Video bang) where videos cost an amazing thirty pence a week. The video shops, which are prolific also sell Korean manga and heterosexual soft porn.

The piano was delivered this morning and though it is fairly well in tune some of the notes have a crap mechanism. Still, I only intend to play it in order to keep my fingers in trim rather than intending to advance my ability.

I’m still aching from training and am surprised I haven’t pulled a muscle. I’ve been waiting for one to rip for a few days now and this is likely to happen as I do something inane such as turning on a tap or writing a letter. I quite fancy a sauna to relax my aches. I’ve heard there are saunas or bathhouses (the first mention of them) in town but apparently they are dubious and I don’t want to get into any embarrassing situations. I settled for a hot shower at home but I miss a bath to relax in.

Initially I was a little reluctant to play the piano as Nana was  in his room and I’m shy. It was great playing again but my fingers are lazy and some of the notes are quite stiff and hard to sound. Of course, I should have played the instrument in the shop but instead just plonked out a few scales.

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©努江虎 – 노강호 2012  Creative Commons Licence.

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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©努江虎 – 노강호 2012  Creative Commons Licence.