Wednesday, April 11, 2007

karate kid

This semester, I finally joined James' taekwondo class (I wanted to start taking it when I first got to Gongju, but its being all the way across the city, my coteacher's resistance to the idea, and the fact that taekwondo uniforms are supposed to get washed every day--quite the task to thrust upon my host mom, who still won't let me do my own laundry--kept me at home in the evenings). I've been doing it for almost a month and a half, and in that time I've discovered that I am a terrible martial artist...possibly the worst 백마태권도 (White Horse Taekwondo--our gym) has ever seen. Part of my problem is that I've simply been thrown into a class with James (who's had 8 months of classes already) and a bunch of black belts and, without explanation or introduction of any kind, expected to somehow understand and keep up with everything that's going on. The master will say something, and everyone will get down on the floor in the push-up position (on their fists...a practice that makes me want to cry and/or cheat and leaves my knuckles constantly feeling sore) , or spin around and do a leaping kick, or clap 3 times, pivot, and shout "taekwon!" while I'm left standing in the middle, looking puzzled and stupid. A much bigger part of my problem, though, is that I just seem to be bad at everything. Often we'll be stretching, or kicking, or doing something acrobatic, and the master will give me a long look, tilt his head, sigh, and urge, "Cara, try!"

Overall, class is an exercise in complete humiliation much more than it is actual physical exercise...I spend so much time messing up, being confused, and having to sit out (when I'm especially incompetant they have me sit on the sidelines and watch those more capable flip and spin around) that aerobically, I don't get very much exercise at all (anaerobically, it's a totally different story...I'm using parts of my body that have never had to do anything before, and I can feel myself getting much stronger and more flexible). Luckily, for the most part, it's way funnier than it is mortifying. If there's one thing I've learned in Korea, it's definitely how to be comfortable in extremely embarrassing situations.

I end up getting a really good aerobic workout too, since the only affordable way for me to take a taekwondo class across town is to run the (about) 3 miles there and back every day. Since tkd is from 8-9, this is done in the dark, with my really annoying backpack of tkd clothes bouncing around on my back. It's a tad on the dangerous side, but it feels great to be getting lots of exercise again.

*Update: tonight during class, the master told me that my "power good" and gave me a vigorous thumbs up, so maybe there's hope for my career as a crimefighter and/or action-adventure star yet!

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