February 23rd and 24th, 2011
I woke up late, but still made it to the bus station and to my Hapkido Studio (한양대 신라 합기도 체육관) by just after 4pm. This is a bit off-topic from my research but I am in 대구 Daegu again practicing Hapkido for a myriad of reasons great and small including
1) It is very hard to find really good instruction in martial arts. Since I've had some of the best instruction ever, I find going other places to be quite unsatisfying. And yes, I've gone plenty of other places. The only other truly good instructor I've found is Jason Tsou (UCLA, Taiji)
2) My Hapkido instructor and I have been working together on my Hapkido skills (except for a couple of years when I tried to find some place more convenient) since 1996, that's a lot of history. To say that he is one of the people I trust most completely in the world is an understatement. He's someone I would and have trusted to speak for me.
Taken on my 관장님's iPhone:
For my Hapkido test, of course, I need a partner. Being a partner for someone who is testing for a high level is not fun. We practice moves again and again, but since 4th Dan takes years to attain, it's not like 1st Dan where you partner someone and they partner you. I throw my partner around but he doesn't throw me around. My partner is 박형건 Bak Hyeong-geon. Hyeong-geon has known me his –entire- life. He started Hapkido when he was 5. That's 5 in Korean age, so really it means 4. From when he was 5 to when he was 10, I was one of his primary instructors. Now he's a full grown high school senior who is 5 centimeters taller than me. Pretty wild to think about that, for both of us. On Wednesday we were joking around and we told one of the classes we were teaching that we were brother and sister and one of the students actually told us that we resembled each other. Koreans say you resemble someone when you spend so much time with someone that you sort of act alike and speak alike and have similar mannerisms.
Photo taken by the instructor on his DSLR:
Teaching with Hyeong-geon (which we did all day on both Wednesday and Thursday, practicing our own stuff between classes and when we could assign an activity and keep an eye on the students while we were practicing) is amazing. We teach in perfect sync, just tagging each other back and forth without even once misunderstanding, it's sort of mind-blowing. It's actually a little like having two bodies and one brain. In terms of Hapkido, I think it's true. Hyeong-geon has been shouldering a lot of teaching duties (with the 관장님 instructor teaching the most advanced moves and designing the lessons for the day) and his skills are fabulous, he's 3rd dan, now (which is unusually high for his age, but like I said, he started when he was 5). There are 50 minute classes from 4:30, 5:30, 6:30, 7:30, 8:30 (not a Hapkido class) and 10:00.
On the actual test I will primarily be working with weapons: cane, belt and staff, although I also have to do a series of moves which are how to counter when someone tries to put you in a lock/hold. I don't like working with any of these weapons (I mostly trained on a different weapon), but I particularly dislike working with the belt. It's not fun for me or Hyeong-geon because almost all belt moves end up with me choking him with the belt. Seriously, I was trying hard to make it look like I was choking him more than I actually was, but still imagine someone practicing four moves that include choking you with a cloth belt (you know, like the belts we wear in martial arts) several hundred times over two days. Not fun for the chokee. I will be executing five belt moves. One is a non-choke move. I will also have to demonstrate all basic kicks and they must be perfect (the idea for the 4th Dan is that you have to be able to teach the basics perfectly, not that you're able to do all the flashy moves). The most advanced sequence I will be required to do is 3 consecutive spinning kicks (done as three spins in one continuous motion) at head height, waist height and knee height. I will have to demonstrate all basic falls, again, perfectly. This includes being able take a running and diving roll over 8 people crouched side to side and being able to do a diving roll over something that is at least the height of my chest. Those aren't the tough falls for me although they are supposed to be the hardest, an easier fall really hurt so much on Wednesday I only practiced it twice. And I will be required, more than likely, to spar. We haven't talked about that yet. I am not as fast as I once was, and haven't sparred seriously in years.
Wednesday we worked from 4 to 11 without a break and I forgot that I had only had some sun chips on the bus for lunch and no dinner at all. Afterwards my instructor, 김유림 Kim Yurim and I went out for 막걸리 makgeolli, and I had to take a taxi back to Georgy and Jinhong's house on the far end of Daegu. 25,000! Thursday I had lunch with long time friend 문정호 Mun Jeongho who quit smoking! I picked up my new glasses (chosen and paid for in December as a present from Karjam) and got to the studio by 4 again. During the 6:30 class when our instructor was leading the students Hyeong-geon and I ran out to the nearest restaurant and had a super fast dinner. We were gone 15 minutes. Otherwise I practiced the whole time until 10, when I left and took the subway back to Georgy and Jinhong's with the former.