Thursday, April 23, 2015

Taekgyeon, and an exciting announcement!

My friend and fellow blogger Eleanor writes books, and as such she also reads plenty of them. The other day, she sent me a link to a blog post about a YA series called Prophecy in which the Korean martial art taekgyeon (택견*) is featured. Here's the blog post; it's a great primer on this unique and relatively unknown sport!

My taekgyeon black belt!
For about a year and a half, I studied taekgyeon in Changwon. I went to the dojang (gym) almost every weeknight and learned about roundhouse kicks and trips, poomsae, and a smattering of hapkido skills. I became very close with my gwanjangnim (master), and I think I made him proud when I achieved my first-degree black belt before I left Korea.

(Gwanjangnim mailed it overseas to me, and I received it a few months ago. That, along with my former students' Christmas cards last winter, are among the best packages I have ever received. A photo of the black belt, certificate, and special dobok (uniform) are on the left.)

About a week ago, gwanjangnim emailed me to ask if I could help him translate a few articles he needed to present on for a class. He's working on a PhD, too, in exercise psychology. As bizarre as it may sound, a lot of the instruction in Korean graduate schools is done in English, and many programs expect a certain level of fluency in English from their students, whether or not English factors at all into their future careers. Anyway, I did this favor for gwanjangnim, and then I broke the news that I'm about to tell all of you dear readers:

I received a scholarship that will allow me to spend this summer in Korea. I'm going back!

The scholarship is from Berkeley, and the funding will allow me to participate in a language program of my choice. Of course, my choice is the Language Education Institute at Seoul National University, so that's where I'll be for the duration of June and July. While I'm there, I hope to connect with some linguists at that university and conduct some of my own research on the Korean language.

Also while I'm there, I will make frequent trips to Insadong, Seoul's famous "traditional" neighborhood, where weekly taekgyeon performances and demonstrations are held. I hope to be able to find a good dojang in Seoul and show gwanjangnim what I've learned when I visit Changwon. Obviously, I've lost a lot of my skill in the nine months since I returned to the United States.

But anyway, this is good news! I will of course revive this blog to update everyone on what I'm up to in Seoul this summer. Thanks for reading; you will hear back from me again soon! (In the meantime, you can check out my grad school blog here.)

*Because of differences in romanization styles, 택견 can be written as taekkyon, taekkyeon, taekgyeon, or even t'aekkyŏn. I write it the way I do because that's how it's spelled on my uniform.

P.S. Happy Earth Day! 지구의 날 축하해!


  1. Congratulations Andrew ! Can't wait reading about your new adventures in Korea !


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