Posted by: bodking | July 12, 2010

Haedong Kumdo

I’m a huge fan of samurai movies – especially Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo and Sanjuro.   The classic samurai movies are really perfect; well written, well filmed and with awesome sword fighting action.  Yojimbo and Sanjuro especially throw a person with a well defined code of being in the midst of a changing world – there’s tension, there’s moral ambiguity and there’s sword fighting.   What’s not to like?



So anyway, when I came to Korea I thought it’d be cool to take a sword fighting class.  A coworker was game and together we signed up for a Haedong Kumdo class.  Kumdo means “the way of the sword”, haedong means Korea in Chinese (I think).  Another motivation was to end my laziness in the mornings.  It’s a shame to have so much free time in the mornings but doing nothing with it.  So this seemed to be the perfect thing.
One month in, it’s hard for me to assess how much I like the class and how much I still just like the IDEA of it.  The teacher tries very hard, but there’s a huge language gap.  There’s also a huge gap in physical ability – he’s often shocked that I can’t do splits and these lunges where everything is held up impossibly above the ground (I often just keel over and he either laughs or gets REALLY angry).  Sometimes I copy what he’s doing when he’s trying to show me what NOT to do.  Sometimes he’s facing the other direction and I’m doing terribly and he doesn’t notice and I’m a little relieved.   I don’t know if I’m really advancing that much – I still can’t do some of the moves we’ve been training for a while.
BUT on the other hand, it’s a pretty awesome thing to be picking up.  If I do successfully master some of these things, I’ll definitely learn to have more poise and balance.  It’s definitely something very Korean and very Asian (Haedong Kumdo is Korean but it also isn’t VERY different from Chinese style or Japanese style).  There’s the breathing, the strength and the technique.
I’m probably going to stick with it for a few months.  See how I feel about it then and maybe take squash lessons or something.  We’ll see – the world’s my oyster and Korea’s all about the classes.

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