Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What is taekgyeon, exactly?

Taekgyeon Day 1: Drills, drills, and more drills. I have no idea what I'm doing at all. I leave impressed.

Taekgyeon Day 2: Weight training and stretching. My muscles feel like they are going to fall off, and I regret being a twig with toothpicks for arms. On the plus side, when we do jumping drills, I manage to impress everyone else in the dojang. I tell them I used to play volleyball. I leave tired.

Taekgyeon Day 3: A crash course in traditional wrestling and more general confusion. This time, plus lots of sweat. I leave sore.

Taekgyeon Day 4: Indoor soccer with some of the thirteen-year-old boys who are in the class before mine but stayed behind just to chill. And play soccer. I leave a bit confused.

Taekgyeon Day 5: Kick practice, plus archery. I leave really confused.

So, uh... what is taekgyeon, exactly? By the end of my first week, I think I could've been forgiven for not having the slightest idea as to what kind of martial art I was learning. It seemed like a random amalgamation of sports, like I was starting a new class every day. Archery? Wrestling? Soccer? What next, gymnastics?

Well, as it turns out, taekgyeon is comprised of at least nine different disciplines, and I've been learning bits and pieces of each every day on a steady rotation. So on Day 6 (this past Monday), I went back to wrestling, and on Day 7 (yesterday) reviewed basic footwork and kicks.

Today would have been a weight training day, but two members of the dojang received their black belts today, and we went out to celebrate with drinks instead. I enjoy the company of the dojang director and master, since they're much more cheerful and amicable than they seemed at first. The humorless sixth-degree black belt is, as it turns out, a new dad who likes to show off photos of his son and is also really into Enneagrams. I'd never have guessed. Anyway, I enjoyed this evening of 정-building, even though I could understand less than 50% of what everyone was saying. I caught bits and pieces of conversation about Hangul, the history of taekgyeon, the dangers of traveling alone in rural India (?), and foreign languages.

Another surprise for this class came in the form of the teenagers who sometimes stick around after their class to drill with us adults. The first one I met calls himself Sam. He's short and round, on the chubby side. He doesn't speak much English, but what he knows he uses loudly and enthusiastically. I had to wrestle him on the first day I learned how to wrestle, and he was sweating profusely; it was difficult to get a hold on him, let alone trip him in any way. He seemed not to mind getting tossed into the ground again and again, as long as he could do the same to me. The dojang director told us both to take off our glasses to protect them. So Sam took his glasses off, then walked right up to my face, peered into it, and declared, "Handsome." Hee.

Two of the other two kids who sit in on the class sometimes, with whom I played soccer last week, turned out to be friends of my host brother. Apparently, they told him at school that a foreigner had begun attending their taekgyeon class, and when my host brother asked them for that foreigner's name... haha, well, he got a kick out of that.


  1. Hi Andrew,
    I'll be travelling to Seoul soon and I've been reading a lot about the increasing tension between the North and South. I would like to seek your honest opinion. Do you think it's gonna be safe?

    1. Hi there,
      I think that you have nothing to worry about. North Korea has been quite belligerent and foolish in the past few months, but I do not believe that are actually willing to run the risk of war (because they would surely lose). I do not think they will attack South Korea, so you should be fine. Enjoy your travels!

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