I know Rabbi Jacobs is a karate champion, Jonathan Maberry an 8th degree black belt in jujutsu, which I can only marvel at the discpline needed to achieve that. Me, after 6 years of study I'm going to be testing this October for my black belt in Kung Fu (Hungar southern style). Who else here's practicing martial arts?

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I studied Tae kwon do for fifteen years, including three years in Korea.
Karyn, I have nothing but respect and admiration for anyone who can stick with martial arts training as long as you did. My guess is after 15 years you got pretty deep into it. What was it like studying in Korea?

It was incredibly spiritual and mundane at the same time. The spiritual elements came from running the same paths that had been run up the hill sides for generations. The wars and Japanese ocupation forced many practicioners into secret, but they could train in small groups or keep the arts going within the family unit. What we see today is really very 20th century. Most of the current tae kwon do forms were standarized after the Korean war.
It was mundane because it is as common as little league baseball is here. Every town has schools, in Seoul every neighborhood, district, region etc. The kids pile into vans and compete every weekend. In the smaller villages, their summer camp means they sleep at the dojo and make all the meals for their instructor and each other. They take turns cleaning up and keeping the facility in order. There is little mystical effort associated with WTF schools in Korea. They do not test for tips, but test for complete belt colors. Nobody signs a contract guarenteeing a Black Belt. You move up when the instructor decides you are ready. There weren't any musical forms or any "create-your-own" form competitions.

Part of the time I trained at the recreation center on a US military infantry base. Part of the time, I trained in the village. On the base, our classes were made up of young men in their late teens and a few in their mid twenties. I was 8 to 10 years older then most of them and a civilian worker, not soldier. But if they cut me any slack when we sparred, I took full advantage of it. I had my nose broken by a pair of nunchucks on New Year's Eve Day. The instructor had two students hold my arms while he "reduced" the fracture. Luckily he did. I couldn't get to the 212 Evac Hospital in Seoul for another week because that was the time of all our big holiday programs and USO tours at the rec center. When I finally got it x-rayed, the doc said it was nice and straight. If by some miracle, I had not let the master fix it, the doc would have had to break it all over again to get it straight.

When I passed my first degree blackbelt at Ku ki Wan (see Pic I asked my husband to highlight me because the pic was so dark), the World Tae kwon Do headquarters in Seoul, my instructor promptly had the upper belts work me over one after the other, in an endless round of semi-contact sparring. After going at it for thirty minutes I was so humbled I took my belt off and gave it back to him. He gave it back to me, and told me now I was ready to start learning.

When I stated working at Yongson in Seoul, the class became pretty cosmopolitin. There were students from the embassies of many contries. Once we warmed up by doing jumping jacks. Boring old jumping jacks, but each of us had to take a turn counting up to 100 in our home country language. There were 12 people in class and the first 7 were not from the US. The next day I could hardly walk. I got to 2nd degree before I left Korea. then I practiced for another twelve years.
Wow, so cool! Good luck with your black belt!

I guess I'm not studying Taekwondo. I swear, it was the most fun I've ever had in my entire life, but I got injured. I'm starting to lose hope that I'll be able to go back, but who knows? I really hope so! I keep studying in spirit, LOL!
Aikido here, but like Joyce I've been away from it for several years.


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