Elwood 5566

Senior Green Belt Grading – March 10th, 2001 (Korean Accounts 2000-2001)

Posted in customs, taekwondo by 노강호 on March 10, 2001

In Di Dim Dol last week I passed one of Young-seop’s (영섭) classes. The door was open and he was stood out in the corridor. Inside, the entire class of fifteen year olds were sat meditating. Young-seop told me that by seven in the evening many of his students were exhausted and meditating cleared their minds and prepared them to focus on the lesson. When the older students come into the school there are teenagers in every classroom, very often they sit with their heads on the desk taking a short sleep before their lessons begin. They have quite a funny way of doing this probably as the result of years of practice. They usually sit with their arms hanging loosely at their sides and their head on the table.

'filial piety' - an important Confucian value

The spring holiday has just finished and Ji-won tells me that for the next two years he will be in school from 7am until 9pm and I have noticed that there are now taekwon do classes for high school students who have to adopt these hours. While Korean kids seem brighter than their English counterparts, I don’t think they are proportionally better and I am critical of the Korean education system which put youngsters under so much pressure. Most Koreans lack creativity and their education seems to consist of a lot of rote learning. It seems that social control in Korea is exerted through education and employment. A lot of effort in the west is put into moaning about children who do sweat shop labour or are poorly paid  in third world countries and yet  Korean teenagers find themselves imprisoned in their schools.

During the spring vacation,  many boys are visible hobbling on the streets after being circumcised (포경 수술) . You see them hobbling along as if they have just spent several days in the saddle of a horse. I noticed one boy in KFC who was obviously  in a lot of discomfort and who kept having to stand up to adjust his underwear.

I bumped into Ji-won last week, he was walking down the road, arm in arm with his mum, Sun-hee. There seems to be much less evidence of a generation gap between teenagers and their parents than is apparent in the west. Several times he has told me he wants to do something his father has recommend, and the reason he gives for this is that his ‘father knows best.’ When it was raining last week, the seventh shower in almost 5 months, a boy accompanied me home under the protection of his umbrella. He had seen me go into a shop without a brolly and waited for me to reappear. He then walked me under his umbrella which as in the opposite direction to his apartment – how nice!

I had a sore shoulder last week and visited a Korean osteopath. They treated my shoulder with some form of electric shock treatment. I wasn’t very impressed but I was given the most amazing head massage. It was so relaxing and weird as it didn’t feel like I had hands on my head at all. It was quite indescribable and I think I will have to go back for another one.

I had my taekwon do grading this week and managed to jump several belts so I now have my senior green belt which is dark green. I was the first person to be called up as I was still the class junior. I had been told I was to perform the patterns, Taegeuk Il Jang (태극 一 장) and Taegeuk I Jang (태극 二 장) and so I had stopped practising the third pattern, Taegeuk Sam Jang (태극 三 장). Anyway, the moment I was on the mat, with thirty or so Korean students sat behind me, Mr Bae asked me to perform my two patterns and then asked if I could perform the third, Taegeuk Sam Jang (태극 三  장). Confused, and not understanding him, I said I couldn’t and so sat back down. I later discovered I’d been given my first green belt. The grading continued with the black belts, which is a large number of the class, going through patterns or performing with sticks or nunchaku. The following day I had someone write a letter for me explaining that I could perform Taegeuk Sam Jang (태극 三 장) and so that afternoon he asked me to perform it and immediately gave me my senior green belt.

I usually go to the taekwon do school early so I can warm-up and do some bag work. I have discovered there is a class where boys aged between 11 and 14 do dance routines to Korean pop music – affectionately known as k-pop. It is really amazing to watch as it is all choreographed and well rehearsed. I had a job telling my instructors that in the west such a class, despite the fact most of the boys were red or black belts would be seen as effeminate and ‘gay.’

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©Bathhouse Ballads –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.

Letterland Fiasco – 14th of December, 2000 (Korean Accounts 2000-2001)

Posted in esl, Korean Accounts Part 1, taekwondo by 노강호 on December 14, 2000

On Monday morning I had to cancel my lesson with Dong-soo. It didn’t please me as I had cancelled several engagements this weekend and I would not have minded so much if Jo either mentioned money or asked or begged a little instead of simply presuming I am at his service. Jo always gets someone else to do the begging for him.

Nana and I arrived at the Yon San Dong School by luck as we weren’t sure exactly where it was and our taxi driver hadn’t heard of the school as it was new. We had to pay the taxi fare. I had made some lessons plans over the weekend and was feeling a little more positive about the whole affair. At Letterland we entered another meeting with Young-seop only this time there were no Korean-English teachers present. Young-seop then tells us we will only be required to be ‘on hand’ in three different classes, a class each, and to entertain kids as they arrive and answer any questions the parents have. So much for the work I had done over the weekend. It is clear there is a lack of organisation, planning and communication but I had read the Korean system can sometimes be like this. We each sorted out a teaching room and then took the taxi back to Song-So for the afternoon teaching schedule. Just as we were leaving Young-seop told us that we were to do two sets of presentations tomorrow: one at 11 am and the other at 2 pm.

In the evening I went to taekwondo but took the kicking really easy due to my pulled right hamstring. I felt very conspicuous kicking low and with no power and I can’t effectively explain to anyone why I am doing this though I think Mr Lee and Bae understood my hand communications which I regularly give them. I’ve become an expert at charades. When I got home I discovered Jo has left a message for us that we are to be at school for 9 am. Nana, Pauline and I had planned to gout out for an evening meal so that real scuppered any plans for a lie in the morning.

In the morning Nana and I once again had to pay a taxi to Yon San Dong. When we arrived we discovered a team of Letterland teachers, including Catherine and Christine, whom I had met when I arrived in Korea, were in the school. Christine, otherwise known as Miss Lam, looked bloody awful like maybe she was  on heroin. Her hair was shit and she looked very tired and to make matters worse she had a hideous purple eye shadow troweled around her eyes. However, they had brought a whole stack of books, videos and tapes for us to use. Jo must have known this was going to materialise but hadn’t thought to tell us. Jo wasn’t in the school and Miss Lam took control of events by having us all sit and watch a Letterland video. This was obviously our Letterland induction, one and a half hours before our first potential customers arrived. The video was incredibly boring and a real homemade job. I took the piss and said that if you watch it once you’re qualified to teach pupils and if you watch it twice you are promoted to a senior teacher. Miss Lam then passed us Letterland name tags which we all had to wear.

Apparently, Jo is charging parents 430.000W a month for lessons – that is over two hundred pounds. What a rip off! Pauline and I have been inventing our own Letterland characters such as Bouncy Balls, Clicking Clit, and Hairy Hole. Even Nana used the word ‘fuck’ several times today and I have never heard him swear. When parents began arriving Young-seop ordered us to ‘go and teach!

‘Teach what?’ I asked. ‘We only know a few characters.’ Anyway, I sat with a few very small children, made them say some words and then colour in some pictures.

At lunchtime all the staff, including lots of teachers from Di Dim Dol in Song-So, went for bibimbap at a local restaurant, all paid for by Jo. U-chun, a female teacher I had made friends with was there with her daughter, Ga-in whom she wants me to teach English. I really like U-chun and we are meeting for lunch on Wednesday. Back at Letterland more parents arrived after which we we took a taxi back to Song-So for the afternoon schedule.

In the evening, I went to taekwon do but when I got back home I discovered Jo had been on the phone again – pissed. He had apologised for not paying us as today was pay day. He then asked us to be ready for 9 am as he is going to send someone around to collect us and take us to another Letterland school on the other side of town, a school owned by a friend. Nana relayed all this to me because I didn’t want to talk to Jo. I told Nana I was going to the doctor in the morning to get some gout pills.

In the morning Mr Song arrived. Jo had telephoned him at midnight to ‘order’ him to pick us up. He was quite upset as it was his free time and of course there will be no extra money for his time or petrol. There is little he can do except obey him and this sort of attitude towards employees seems quite common in Korea (what I now call the ‘rice cooker syndrome). I went to the doctors instead and got my supply of pills.

My leg is getting better and I am starting to enjoy the training. Master Bae gave me a yellow belt to wear and towards the end of the training session I was asked if I wanted to spar. I should really have refused and rested my leg but I really wanted to. I was matched with their best student black-belt, a lad of about 20 who is very well built for a Korean and a powerful technician. With my leg still strained, and not wanting to put too much stress on it, the techniques at my disposal were few. He rushed in on me and one of my kicks caught him in the balls, which was embarrassing. He was playing with me but wary of the fact I had a good defence. I caught him in the stomach with a front kick which despite his body shield knocked the wind out of him. The problem is my brain knows exactly what to do but my body is not yet ready or able to do what the brain commands and with everyone watching and being under pressure, one goes into auto-pilot. My last kick, a turning kick, caught him on the chest and at that moment my supporting leg, the bad one, suddenly gave way. I don’t think I’ve torn the muscle but I certainly jarred it. I so wish it would bloody heal!

 

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