• Updated : 2021.6.21 월 09:18
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The First Class: The Story of an International Student Learning Taekwondo외국인 유학생의 태권도 수업
von Bruun Maja Elisabeth 수습기자  |  m.vonbruun@gmail.com
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승인 2020.01.08  17:40:23
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▲ Top students demonstrating a series of kicks and blows in a taekwondo class at Chonnam National University Sports Center

    We have all seen it at one point or another. Martial arts. It appears in movies such as Kung Fu Panda, Karate Kid, or just about any series starring Jackie Chan. Martial arts are portrayed as something cool and awesome, a sport with which you can defeat bad guys and protect your friends and family. As a child, I loved these movies. I used to try and imitate the movies, pretending I was the hero while trying (and failing) to perform roundhouse kicks and blocks in my parents’ living room. I always wanted to take classes, but they were not very common in Finland at the time.
    That is why, as soon as I heard Chonnam National University was offering Taekwondo classes for international students, I signed up as fast as I could. I could not wait to start training to become like the heroes in the movies, to be able to kick butt and look cool while doing it!

Taekwondo 101: Basic Tenets
    Contrary to my expectations, the first thing my Taekwondo master, Lee Seo-jung, taught us was that Taekwondo is, in fact, not about kicking butt and looking cool while doing it. She told us it is about self-control and balance, and about defending oneself rather than beating up someone else. Thinking back on it now, it was not that strange to hear; several of the movies I had watched as a kid stressed the importance of “inner peace”. Still, I was eager to get started with the training I had dreamed about since my childhood, so I was not swayed in my excitement. As someone who had not exercised properly for about three years, I was not ready for the class to come. 

▲ International Students practicing a series of kicks and punches in a set order in a taekwondo class at Chonnam National University Sports Center

    The class was divided into three parts: stretching, practicing kicks and punches, and hard exercise. The first part was easy enough, since I have always been fairly flexible. After that came the part most students had been waiting eagerly for, namely the kicking and punching. Of course, since we were all beginners, the moves we learned were not very complex. We practiced simple front kicks and memorized the terms for all the different punches and blocks. It was really exciting, even though my punches packed about as much strength as a 10-year-old girl’s.
    Then came the last part, the hard exercise, and let me cut a long story short and say that after one hour of running, jumping, countless sit-ups and push-ups, I ended up in an ambulance, unable to stop throwing up from overexertion, with my Taekwondo master panicking in the seat next to my gurney. It was an absolute mess. All the way to the hospital, I kept apologizing for ruining her class while she apologized for pushing me too hard, while the paramedics tried their best to keep me calm.

Tales of a Taekwondo Master
    After we arrived at the hospital, I was told I would have to stay there with an IV drip in my arm for a couple of hours. My Taekwondo master offered to stay with me, so we had plenty of time to chat. She told me this was her first time teaching international students and that she had been incredibly nervous beforehand. “I worried about having to use English with students who do not know much about Taekwondo,” she told me. “There is so much more to explain than just how to kick or punch. There are rules and stories behind every movement, but I do not know how to talk about them properly.” She also expressed her concerns for teaching students from so many different countries. “Taekwondo is a very culturally important sport in Korea,” she said, “so I hope there will not be any cultural clashes between Taekwondo and any of the students.” In spite of her worries, however, she still seemed every bit as excited as the students were. “It is really interesting to get to meet people from all over the world. 

▲ Seo-jung Lee, Taekwondo Master, demonstrating a standard defensive stance

    In just my first class, I have had the chance to experience so many different cultures. I did not think I would get to have a talk with a person from Finland, even though I think it would have been better if this conversation did not happen in a hospital.” It was true; even though the first class ended with me in a hospital bed, I did enjoy it a lot! I would gladly go back there and learn more about Taekwondo.

[Taekwondo Student Interviews]
Q. Did you know anything about taekwondo before taking these classes?
Salokhidin Okilov: Yes, I used to do Taekwondo when I was at primary school in my home country. Taekwondo is pretty popular there as well. I trained for almost three years, but I stopped to spend more time on my studies.

Q. What made you interested in taking taekwondo classes?
Rana Aqeel: Taekwondo trains not only the body but also the mind by strengthening the character and learning the etiquette associated with it. It helps me to understand Korean culture and its spirit of tolerance and discipline.

Q. What has been the coolest/most interesting thing about these classes?
Iulia Gladkikh: I think the coolest thing about our Taekwondo classes is our master. I really enjoy her playful attitude, and the way she humorously encourages us to try harder in the classes. It has helped me challenge myself and step to the next level in a short time.

Q. This class attended a Taekwondo festival in Seoul. How was it? What was the most memorable experience of that event?
Emily Beier:
It was a really fun experience! Participating in the festival was exciting, and I enjoyed watching the different kinds of Taekwondo performances they had prepared. It was a bit tiring to travel all the way from Gwangju to Seoul, but it was totally worth it.

Salokhidin Okilov, Uzbekistan, Faculty of Economics
Rana Aqeel, Pakistan, Dept. of Medical Science
Iulia Gladkikh, Russia, Dept. of English Language and Literature
Emily Beier, Germany, Dept. of German Language and Literature

By Von Bruun Maja Elisabeth, Cub Reporter

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