Monday, March 18, 2013

택견 - Taekgyeon

In other news, I went to a taekgyeon* class this evening and made a fool of myself for an hour.

(No, not Taecyeon (택연), but taekgyeon (택견/태껸). The other Taecyeon is a K-pop star and one of the good-looking, bad-acting stars of Dream High.)

You see, this semester I was determined to pick up some kind of martial art. I needed a way to stay fit that was more interesting than running on a treadmill, and I also thought it would be logical to take advantage of living in Korea to learn a bit of Korean culture; I mean, everyone knows about taekwondo (태권도) and hapkido (합기도), right? If I'm going to live here for a year, I should pick up something new (besides the language), right?

I asked on the expat Facebook group if anyone knew of any 도장 (dojang/martial arts gyms) in my neighborhood, and someone gave me directions to a hapkido gym. I went to check it out last Saturday, but it was closed. I also wandered around my neighborhood to look for taekwondo gyms, but the three I found were either closed or only offered classes for children. The last place I tried was a taekkyeon gym, and while I had no idea what taekgyeon was, the gym's sign had an anime-style drawing of a guy doing a crazy high kick, so I thought that whatever this was might suffice.

So, I went into the gym, awkwardly asked the first person I saw (who turned out to be the gym director/관장/gwanjang) if there were adult classes offered here, and he responded in the affirmative and gave me his card. I then awkwardly left. When I got home, my host mother called the gym and asked for some more information, like class times, fees, and whether or not a foreigner who can barely understand Korean and has done next to no martial arts previously (하나도 해본 적이 없다) would gain anything from the class. All stuff I could have/should have asked myself, but I am awkward and have no confidence so there.

Tonight, then, was the first class that I attended, and I purposely went in without any idea of what taekgyeon looks like. I mean, I saw a thirty-second video that looked like intense kick boxing, but that's it. And when I told my friends and fellow teachers at school that I was going to take up this martial art, they all said, "Oh, taekgyeon is like dancing." From that, I gathered that it was probably a Korean capoeira.

It's actually not...

Well, I can't make any grand conclusions after one hour of practice, but it was one hour of drills very similar to the taekwondo class I took during Orientation last July. Lots of kicking, punching, stretching, and push-ups. Lots of push-ups. I was just expected to dive right into all the apchagi and whatever else vaguely reminiscent of what I'd learned several months ago but never mastered, so "rusty" does not even begin to describe my weak kicks and overall lack of coordination. Also, wrestling is incorporated into taekgyeon, so for a hilarious five minutes the kind but intense sabom (사범/instructor) told me to try to take him down and I just stood there like, "What are you talking about, I have no idea how to do this, I am utterly helpless here?!" until he took me down. There didn't seem to be much dancing, but only time will tell, I suppose.

I'm the only foreigner in a class with three adults total, one of whom has been learning for a year and the other for many, many years, it seems. So I'm a total noob, but I still enjoyed the workout, and I think I'll continue to go and see if I can actually glean something from this experience. Who knows, I might become a badass yet. Check up on me in July?

*Wikipedia's transliteration is taekkyeon, but at my gym, they use taekgyeon, so I'll stick with that variant of the spelling.

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