Tuesday, March 6, 2007

confessions of a taekwondo addict

yesterday at practice the taekwondo club gave me this black instructor's uniform. you know, kinda like the more traditional instructors wear, that people like me have grown up thinking is silly and outdated. well, i have to admit that after a while it grew on me. it's never going to be a competition uniform, obviously, and people who wear red and blue uniforms with stripes on the shoulders and down the legs are idiots. but having gone to a saturday practice where the instructor was this older korean guy in a black dobok calling out good drills has given the "black instructor uniform" a bit more street cred in my eyes.

but i still have problems with it, such as it's not as comfortable as my nike competition uni. or most of my other unis. it's definitely for some old master who stands around and teaches rather than participates. and i don't really like how it makes me stand out. maybe in a more traditional taekwondo setting where students expect the head instructor to look and act differently it'll be better, but i like to blend in, and kick with the crew. besides, i couldn't wear my warmup with it, so i basically felt like i got no workout.

but that brings me to another topic - what makes a taekwondo club a good club, from both the perspective of a competition oriented person (like me) as well as the perspective of the general public? eugene and i had a long conversation about this last night after tapex. the problem is that a taekwondo club has to have a lot of the expectations of the general public as a traditional martial arts club, in order to attract a large loyal audience. and from that group you can build a competition team - the "real" taekwondo club in my eyes. and i've realized this from maybe last month, that pure competition driven classes will simply make most of your members disinterested, because not everyone can be hardcore about competition.

not to be a martial arts hata but there is a certain unavoidable elitism that you get ingrained with when you train in olympic style taekwondo and start doing a lot of competition. because you can tell who the real athletes and martial artists are, and which clubs are building real taekwondoists and which clubs are just american adoptions of asian curiosities. ahem. but still, props to those clubs because somehow, there's membership loyalty and a sense of structure that's keeping students, and the general public, interested, and unfortunately if that's what it takes to keep a club going, that's what has to be part of the compromise.

alas, i hate to have to follow the traditional martial arts club models - where you have an old venerable master who is the political head, and everyone wears ratty fold-over giis. but structure is important and currently we (UCSD) are still lacking in structure. so my hope is that we can get some sort of general taekwondo curriculum and demo team going soon. because the more a club can appeal to the public's perception of "martial arts clubs" the more you can retain interest, and add a glamorous (and competitionwise useless) demo team to it and you're bound to attract all kinds of flashy martial arts enthusiasts. and despite the potential influx of ego which i look foward to quashing, it's from this that you have to get your actual competition team. and having that source is better than nothing, right?

so come on ucsd, give us our recognition so we can reserve better rooms, better timeslots, and advertise. and come on people, skipping practice isn't the answer to getting better grades. eating too much isn't an excuse to leave practice early. and not going to a tournament because you haven't been to practice will only lead to not going to practice because you don't have a tournament to train for, so come to practice.

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