Mikey: Month 1 and a Bit: Starting Tae Kwon Do
Ever since I was younger I’ve always been fascinated by action films especially ones with hand-to-hand combat i grew up on films like: karate Kid, Rush hour (any Jackie Chan film to be honest) and I’m currently watching Cobra Kai. I then moved on to Anime and fell in love with stories with a lot of action and well portrayed emotions, Anime like Tokyo Ghoul will remain favourites till the end. I had always been the person to help others i spent most my life chasing after other people (girls included), it wasn’t good and I found myself not wanting to get out of bed, not wanting to go to school i just wanted to stay in bed all day. So i decided that something needed to change as a wise man once said,
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” – Albert Einstein
I knew something needed to change i needed to get my life back to how it used to be, where everyday was one that i could look forward to. When I looked at what I have achieved throughout my life some where moments to be proud of but others where moments where i could of done so much more (my GCSEs are a prime example of this). So i came to the realisation that i had so much more potential and I realized just how much of it I have wasted. So one night i sat down on my bed, notepad and pen in hand, and i thought of who i wanted to be, what i wanted to be able to do, and what I could see myself like in 5 – 10 years.
To my surprise there where many things that I wanted to do with my life here’s some of them:
- Martial arts – This included: Tae Kwon Do, Iaido, Kenjutsu, Bojustu, and
- Find Myself
- Get in better shape
- Be able to support those around me
These are just a handful of what I wrote down that day but these are what i find most relevant to this blog series. This is how it all started i then asked my dad ( a previous 2nd Dan black belt in Tae Kwon Do) if he would be interested in starting again (you can catch his first entry here) and he said he would, so we set out to find out if we could fit it into our schedules. We stumbled upon a website called SDMA, we contacted them and we started going even my little sister (10 years of age) joined us on our journey.
Here is where I’ll keep a record of everything form the words i know to the kicks and what heights i can do them at, so lets get into the details.
So let’s give you a breakdown:
My first Lesson and we dove straight in once our teacher arrives we were taught the very basics: Joon-bee (The Ready Position), Kyung Nae (Bow), annun sogi (Sitting Stance), gunnun sogi (Walking Stance), and the basic punches and blocks.
This style of learning is great for me and our Sabom (teacher) Mr. Donohoo teaches us in a way that i find very beneficial as it’s how i have always learnt. He demonstrates and lets us figure it out by ourselves and if we still don’t understand he then helps you one-to-one, this style of teaching is exactly what I’m used to and I benefit from it.
Walking into our second lesson me, my dad and my sister start stretching (we get there a bit earlier then everyone) and practicing things that we learnt from the last lesson. Motivation high and I’m ready to learn what our sensei(Japanese word meaning Teacher) has to offer. In this lesson we learnt the first pattern we would need to know Chon-Ji (meaning – Heaven and Earth).
It wasn’t to bad once i understood what to do with my feet I was getting into a rhythm and was constantly going around doing it. A quote comes into my mind when I was learning this,
“Everything is simple when you understand the underlying logic” – Ayanokoji Kiyotaka
Once i understood everything one-by-one i quickly grasped the concept, my dad said
“You learn quickly”
Which i guess was true as after only 10 minutes of practising by myself i knew every part of it and can do it on command (if i remembered what the Korean for it was)
Week one flexibility check: my (Right) roundhouse kick could reach my upper shoulder while my left could barely hit there chest. If i try and touch my toes – legs straight of course – i could just reach below my knees.
This was the time my dad talked to us and we all agreed that this was for us and so we officially joined. This marked – for me at least – the start of a new journey.
Putting on the dobok (the name of our uniform) made me have high hopes for the future and really made me look at myself and ask the question of “am i doing all i can”
As i was starting to get into martial arts i had to cut my hair as it was getting in the way and really annoying me. Chris and I also started Kenjutsu & Bojutsu.
Lesson one of this week we worked through patterns, pad work, general theory, and shadow sparing, where we got to learn all sorts of different kicks you could do and how to block them.
Now this is the part were I almost got hit in the face but this wasn’t a bad thing i was focused to much on one of his actions rather then trying to predict what he was going to do next, at least i know this for next time.
In This lesson we spent most of the time on using pads and practising many different styles of kicks, these included: Roundhouse kicks, Front snap kicks, Side Kicks, Hook kicks, Front Kicks, Axe kicks and Reverse Turning Kicks.
Out of all of this there was one thing that stood out to me and that was the side kicks as when demonstrated we were told to kick with the blade of our foot and now from a science part of this i can see why this is useful but throughout my life i was told you hit with the heel, however during the board breaking that we did in this lesson i learnt that it looks nicer when doing forms and requires conditioning of the foot sword to be effective but i broke the boards with my heel and our sensei told me that my kick was good.
Flexibility Week two: In this week i didn’t notice much improvement it was basically all the same however i did discover that my right side of my body was way more coordinated them my left so that would need some attention.
This lesson was full of board breaking and learning what to do with our hands during sparing. During sparing I noticed that many people dropped there hands during attacks and some of the people were in a stance that opened up there stomach for an under guard attack (like a front kick). So our sensei told us were at least one hand should be at all times and that was up and ready to protect our face, the stance I take is more of a relaxed and defensive position. I have one hand over the shoulder that’s facing them and a hand done palm towards them almost like a snake. I have my palms out as that allows you to more freely control the direction of where their kicks or punches go, and it allows a more relaxed stance and allows for tensing upon impact.
During the board breaking we were instructed to use our hands rather then our feet and we were showed the correct technique and what part of our hand should make contact with the board. We had three boards out one was yellow (the easiest), orange (the middle difficulty) and greed ( The hardest out of all of them). I broke the yellow and the orange with ease using what i had picked up over the years, now the green one was a bit harder so i lined up breathed in a let it all our with one punch the board was hanging on by a thread, my first attempt and i almost got it. I noticed my problem so fixed it i was trying to hold back i was trying to hit it and not drive through it, i managed to break the board after i drove through. After this my dad and I noticed how the black belts where talking about how we punched differently to them and they were having a discussion about how we used the rotation from our hips and moved forward with the impact of the punch.
At the end of this lesson we were informed that one of the students there where leaving as they came from Australia and were training with us while they were traveling around the world, we were informed that she would be leading the next lesson, I was excited and ready to learn as i enjoyed seeing how different people and areas interrupt certain things.
This is the lesson that was run by the Australian as it was her last lesson with us (I believe she was 4th dan). Her lesson included: pad work, sparring, cardio, techniques, patterns. This was an hour packed session that i really enjoyed the only main difference that i could tell where from the names of some of the kicks but other then that I didn’t notice much. The patterns(also known as kata or forms) for me we’re the most interesting as i not only got to practice my forms but also other forms like one of the black belt forms which i felt was cool. I really enjoy kata as there the building blocks for the moves that you can do in sparing and they allow the user to understand basic power, stance and balance. For the pad work it was mainly her calling out the name of a kick and we would take it in turns with our partner to hit the pad. This is when i decided that from now on anytime we would do pad work i would insist on my partner to hold it in a way that made me kick with my left leg allowing me to improve the usage in my left leg.
Week Two flexibility: I noticed a great improvement in my flexibility i could reach my ankle instead of my shin and i can do a round kick to my head height with my right leg.
In this lesson we were informed that we have grading in November and a competition coming up if we wanted to attend (more on the competition later). Now that grading was approaching in the coming months our teacher (Mr Donohoo) wanted us to show him where we were. So he made up go off and practice our kata on our own while he pulled those out to demonstrate to him if we showed that we knew our kata and were confident he would give us a yellow tip on our belts (known as Ti in Korean), this is for his reference and your own, each colour signifies a different thing: yellow (patters/kata/forms), Blue(), Red() and Green().
In this lesson we also did board breaking again after the first time I knew that i could break the hardest board so i went straight for it, and learning from previous experience i smashed straight through it.
In this lesson we basically did the same, more patterns board breaking and more pad work focusing on technique rather then power. However, closer to the end we all lined up in grade order and we went through each pattern starting from the bottom and working our way up (if you didn’t know the next pattern you could sit down and examine what the others would do), at the end we got to see the black belts perform there favourite pattern, which for me personally was a great experience to see so many people perform something different and all at different abilities.
Week four flexibility: My flexibility hadn’t improved drastically from what i had last week but i did notice that my control of my kicks and punches were a lot better then two weeks ago.
In this lesson a new student joined and we got split into belt level groups so we were with the new kid. Me and my dad started to teach the new kid the first three kata that he will need to know in order to get his yellow stripe. After that session we started using the pads and practising our kicks this time it was also testing the amount of kicks we know and our reaction time as the person holding the pad could hold it as high as they wanted and in any way. I personally love this as it allows for you to practice quick thinking and the different ways you can use a kick.
In this lesson we practiced our patterns and did a mock judging, as our competition is in two days so we had to practice in order to “kick the competition” (if you don’t get this it’s a Cobra Kai reference). We also are preparing for our grading so that we can be ready for what the atmosphere would be like on the day. This lesson was fun and at the end we got to see the black belts perform their patters and i enjoyed that as i got to see what i could potentially be like in 10 years or so.
This week got me in the mood and the “zone” and i wanted to excel be great so this was the day i decided i would practice like no one else.
Flexibility after this week has improved slightly with more movement in my hips and my balance has improved.
The End of Week Five:
On Sunday there was a Tae Kwon Do competition and me and my dad attended and took part in a competition, it was different from most as there where kickboxing students there as well. The event was run by Integrity Martial arts and included: an power event, an high kick, patterns, and sparing. I took part in power, high kick, and patterns I could of done sparing but it was my first month at Tae Kwon Do so i didn’t have any sparing gear.
We where split into groups of Adults, Seniors, and Teenagers (the Children’s events where earlier on in the day). I was the only white belt there all the other Tae Kwon Do students (3 others excluding my dad) where all black belts 1st Dan an up.
High Kick Event:
In the high kick event they hand a tennis ball from a rope and you each get once chance to hit it and one foot has to stay on the floor, as I was a white belt and all the kickboxers where red and higher they all had way better flexibility (especially the two girls). In the end i didn’t win any medals from this event as i went out in the third round beating only one of the kickboxers.
In this event two men had to put big pads on and get punched and kick by all of us, due to the fact that the kickboxers where all higher belts then me i didn’t expect to be able to win anything. In this event you could use any kick or punch you wanted (just without jumping). I really enjoyed this event and ended up getting 3rd place.
This event was a bit different to what i was expecting as there was kickboxers there as well I was curious as to how they where going to do it. The kickboxer’s would do there favourite combo 5 times while demonstrating power and as we were going against them we also didn’t have to worry about showing skill all we had to focus on was power as well (or so i was told after I did the event) as it was my first one i wanted the judge (a 7th Dan ITF master) to correct my stances if i did anything wrong so my aim was to get criticism not win. I finished 2nd in the whole event and got some advice from the master.
So despite this being my first ever competition as well as my first month of Tae Kwon Do i had returned with two medals a bronze and a silver.
Thank you for reading and remember,
“Skill is equal to the amount of time you put in, for no one is born with pure skill”