Thursday, December 19, 2013


Almost one month ago I started training in Hapkido again.

For those of you who don't know, I am a 4th degree black belt. 3rd degree can teach in a secondary studio (but still technically supervised by their own instructor). 4th degree can open their own studio, if they choose to, or remain affiliated with their parent studio. Hapkido is only one of the many martial arts I've studied to greater or lesser degrees, and the one I have focused on the most-- I began in 1996 and for several years I spent up to seven hours a day leading class and practicing.

None of that is to say that I am some bad ass "grandmaster." I'm good, but not incredible, and I have spent years without any practice of Hapkido (although during many of those years I was practicing other arts-- in 2003-4 I was in China and learned wushu there, in 2004-2006 I was in Seoul and only occasionally went to Daegu to my studio to do Hapkido, but I did taekkyon almost everyday (I'm not going to get into my taekkyon story, but suffice to say it's not a short and simple one). In 2006-07 I was walking to Lhasa and in transition, in 2007-2008 I was dancing a lot but not doing any martial arts, 2008-2010 I did taiji seriously at UCLA and became an assistant instructor, then 2010-2011 I was in Korea practicing multiple arts (not martial arts), but sometimes I went down to Daegu to practice Hapkido in my original studio (although it's moved about 5 times). I did my 4th degree test in early 2011. In 2011-2012 I was back in LA doing taiji, and I kept doing taiji back on Lopez in 2012-2013 (it's the only martial art I've ever been able to practice on my own on a regular basis). Of course now I'm back in Korea.

At first I thought I could take the bus to Seoul and do my normal classes (Bongsan Talchum mask dance drama, and sangmo ribbon hat dance, plus rehearsing with Songpa Sandae Noli mask dance drama) but every time I leave Mohyeon I lose four hours or more to transportation, and the buses are horribly uncomfortable (when returning you don't always get a seat until you're halfway home). So I decided to find a local place to exercise. I interviewed the two closest Hapkido studios and watched their teaching style, both were acceptable, but Yi Sangsu's teaching style seemed better for me (if his studio not quite as nice inside). That was in September, and I planned to start in October, but... Karjam came and I was so busy, then I had the conference, so I finally started almost one month ago and I've been loving it.

At my age, I'm proud that I can still do a flip this well. I actually can do a little better than this, but after a couple more months of practice, I might have to upload another video to show the improvement!

I've written many times before about choosing martial arts studios-- and if anyone wants my opinion about it, please leave a question in the comments-- but I won't be going into that today except to say this:

If you think you need a martial arts studio where they speak English or whatever your language is, you're wrong. Watch and imitate, watch and imitate. This is about your body, not your intellectual understanding. I understand how to do a high scissors kick, that doesn't mean I'm able to leap off the ground and do one! Furthermore the studio is great place to practice Korean. And if you live in Korea, learn Korean already. No matter how long or how short you plan to stay, start learning Korean. It will improve your life.


  1. Hey! I've been living in South Korea (Daegu) for about a year now and want to get into martial arts but I'm not sure about hapkido or Kuk Sool Won or where to go. Any ideas or suggestions??

  2. I am so sorry I didn't notice your comment for nearly two weeks! Yes, Daegu has an amazing Hapkido scene, since that's where Hapkido started in Korea. The good places are all 대한합기도/생활체육합기도 in Daegu. (The other associations exist there... but they aren't very populated). Where in Daegu (gu and dong) are you located? I may have some specific recommendations and even a phone number.