Saturday, January 20, 2007

Haidong Gumdo

Due to peer pressure to write about it right away (thanks SM!), I have been asked to tell about my introduction to Haidong Gumdo that I had today. But before I do that (I can hear you now, SM, "Nuts!"), a quick overview of regular TKD classes over the last two days.

Drew is continuing to be difficult, which is no surprise. Mr. A has now adopted, with my permission, a zero-tolerance for any misbehavior or meltdown of his, especially if it's not justified. It just takes away from the rest of the class. Granted, he's one of the youngest in the class, but still he shouldn't ACT like a baby if he doesn't get his way. Call it tough love, and he isn't doing anything that I wouldn't do. I've been backing Mr. A up, and he knows it. Drew started okay yesterday, but once he had a small meltdown over something small, he sat out of class. The paper star he earned for good behavior was actually taken back. I didn't like that, but I understood why. He was told he could have it back when he could participate actively in class and not whine and misbehave. Drew scooted to the mats over by where the parents were sitting, and I merely whispered and reminded him in his ear that if he didn't go along with practicing his forms, he wouldn't graduate and he'd be stuck in this beginner class forever! Well, he didn't like the idea of that, so he half-heartedly got back into the swing of things. Then Mr. Lee took over class with the one-steps, and he started to do much better. Mr. A is a good teacher, but there is something about Mr. Lee that he knows how to get the adrenaline going in a good way with the kids and has a huge presence, and Drew does respond to it. Drew will say he doesn't like Mr. A or Mr. Lee, but I know he really does, and it's just that they make him actually WORK. (Heaven forbid, right?) He says it's hard, but even when Mr. A said to the whole class that Drew can do it if he puts his mind to it, another couple of kids piped in that they agreed. Mr. Lee knows how to really pump Drew up. I know that once we can get through the next 3 1/2 weeks of class, he's finally test out of the yellow belt and be a camo recommended (half-camo, half-yellow), and he and I can finally take classes together for a while, which will help, I think.

Today, I took him only for sparring. He still acted up, as he gets a little too rough sometimes and still has to learn control a bit, but his meltdown was at the end of class, so he only missed about 2 or 3 minutes' worth. Then again, the last kid he was sparring was a black belt twice his age who is known to be immature, and should have set an example but didn't. Oh well, what are you doing to do? My forms class went fine, considering my back was killing me all day. (Even sitting with a support pillow behind my back at the moment.) I think with the knee brace, the knee could hold up a bit today, but forget it with the back. One knee bend too deep and I'd be a goner. But I could hold my own, and there are no jumps in the form, and granted, I wasn't working on the techniques as much today as I was reinforcing the form a little more in my head. There was one little boy who's about Drew's age-- perhaps a pinch younger-- named Antonio. He's a very small little boy, generally quiet, but oh, he's a camo belt, and he just has so much discipline for such a little guy. I could only wish that Drew had half this other child's control and discipline. When I'd work with him and another little girl (who's about 8 or 9) in the back of the room, I got him to loosen up, because I could tell that he was a little intimidated being in the class with a lot of big kids. I actually saw the kid smile for the first time! So in that sense, forms class was good. We didn't stick around for Drew's regular class as I didn't want to tempt fate with another meltdown problem day. for the "Sword Seminar" that I took, which was an introduction to Haidong Gumdo. You can study a little more about it starting with this link: Haidong Gumdo What I can tell you, if you don't go to the link right away, is that it's a Korean Sword style that's taught, and sometime integrated a little bit with Songahm Taekwondo. Some of the sword forms that are done when you are a black belt actually come from Gumdo. Ben's dad, whom I've mentioned before as someone whom I've sparred with and can easily kick my butt, is a first degree in Gumdo, and teaches classes. He had a classmate with him to assist in the class, and Mr. A went between taking the class and assisting, as he's a purple belt in Gumdo. Dean and Emily were the only other ones that were older than 10 years old there (Dean is about 16, and Em is in her early 20s), so essentially I was the only newbie adult in the class. (Not the first time, not the last, I'm sure.)

Well, having the back not cooperating did NOT help, I can tell you that. I can also tell you that if you are prone to carpal tunnel syndrome, this is not the sport for you! We did a lot of warmups that were to, understandably, get your upper body and especially your arms stronger, and my hands and wrists especially were giving out that I'd have to stop and shake them out a lot. And there were a few things I couldn't do simply because the back was not cooperating, but I did my best.

My review: It's not too bad, in general. We learned some basic strikes, and how to sheath and unsheath our swords properly. In most cases, you have your right hand on top, and your left hand on the bottom near the end of the handle, spaced apart, so they aren't together like when you hold a baseball bat. And unlike most weapons, we were told that we weren't supposed to strike with force, but rather more lightly for better control. My wrists preferred that! The first strikes we learned was bringing your blade directly behind you so that you are reaching back to touch your back, and then just swoop straight down to belt level, or slightly to the left or right. We then learned how to do the horizontal cuts. We also learned some basic blocks, and then we learned the part about taking your sword out and putting it away. We then proceeded to do some combinations that were the equivalent of our one-steps. Once I got the hang of them, they weren't too bad. In some cases, if I wasn't careful (and considering that these were plastic swords that had no real edge to hurt anyone-- at least not cut anyone), I would have lopped off the head of some of the kids, and we were trying to be spaced apart so we wouldn't hit each other! It was a little hard to follow sometimes because of that spacing issue, and due to the fact that I couldn't move the way I wanted to, AND being in the back of the room so the kids could see made it hard to always see what was going on. Overall, it came fairly easily to me (I'm sure they kept it simple purposely) with some exceptions, but I liked it. After class, we got a demonstration from our instructors and Dean and Em (who are Gumdo students on hiatus until the program comes back)and it was cool to watch, as the main instructors used real swords and the swooshing sound was so awesome and their movements were so fluid. It was cool. When the demonstration was done, I was pretty much the only person from the seminar left watching, as the children has all left for the most part. I asked Mr. A and Mr. P if they'd help me put something together for my XMA routine, and they said yes, they'd be glad to. I don't think I need to do anything too complicated. Most of what I saw, as well as what I learned, could be something that I could put a routine together, I think. Even if I just put together the two one-steps that we learned today, along with the sheathing and unsheathing, and a few extra moves, I could have something. Then it's be a matter of coordinating music to the routine! If they do bring back Gumdo to the school, and if my health would just give me a break in being actually healthy for a while, then I might consider taking the class. I could use the work on my upper body stuff, and I tend to like weapons stuff.

When I was packing up, there was an older gentleman from the Aikido class that uses the back half of our gym on Saturdays. I've chatted with him before during the nights that I used to take classes on Thursdays, and he'd be taking his classes as well. I've gotten the impression that he's fairly high ranked within his Aikido group, and helps Numata Sensei and Mockers-Numata Sensei teach. (Yes, I was reading their website and getting an understanding of what they do over there, since their stuff is all over the back of our school.) Anyhow, I hadn't seen him for a while, and he was telling me that he thought I was doing pretty well during the Gumdo class. I thanked him for the compliment, and explained that it was done under some physical diress from the back and knee problems, especially the back today. He proceeded to tell me that he could see that I have been working hard and he can see the improvements in how I do things, and encouraged me to keep it up with my martial arts studies. I explained that I have been getting more involved, especially with the fact that I'm competiting these days, so I am more concerned about doing things well. (Which, by the way, I did mention to Mr. A and Mr. P about learning a form. I didn't necessarily want to do something fast, but rather, I wanted to do something that yes, looked cool, but something that I could execute with precision more than anything and just look sharp. No pun intended on that last sentence!) He said it showed, and was just very kind and complimentary on how I was doing, and said to not let injuries get in the way if I could. I agreed that I'd like to continue to pursue things, so I don't think that's a problem.

When you are a color belt, your declaration when bowing in and before starting to perform your forms, etc., you say, "My goal is black belt, Ma'am/Sir!". Being that I am getting very close to that black belt now, it is still my goal, but I'm actually thinking ahead. I originally said that if I were to quit, I would at least get my 1st degree belt first. Well, I have no plans on quitting anytime soon. I want to get my 2nd degree belt at least, and certify to teach Level 1, if possible. I think that the Cubs experience and working with some of the younger kids has proven that I think I have the ability to teach kids and have them respond well to me. However, the question is whether my brain can actually expand enough to remember all the forms and one steps to teach color belts, and pass the certification test to do so. Same with the weapons and other chevron certifications. It's overwhelming and dauting and intimidating. But, I've taken steps in the right direction, so I'm sure that, in time, I can do it. Heck, I've taken a Sword fighting/Haidong Gumdo class. That's gotta be a step in the right direction.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting quickly for me, Windsornot! I appreciate it. It sounds cool. I would like to see your sword next time I see you, because I'm having a hard time picturing it. I'll probably come to a Wednesday class soon... By the way at our school we are discouraged from saying "my goal is black belt" and we say the name of the form we will be doing instead. Just one of those things Mr. B does differently than SW. He yelled at two black belts a couple months ago because they said "my goal is black belt" and they already ARE black belts. Now I think there he has a point! LOL Anyway congrats on the seminar and your sword prowess. I'm looking forward to seeing you do it.

Windsornot said...

Yeah, you are right about the "..goal is..." when they are already black belts! SW has yelled about that too. Although one time due to testing nerves, since I was one of the last to go after a ton of black belts, I said, "Black Belt Excellence, Ma'am!", followed by "oops!". She didn't mind that for a color belt, because that is what I should be achieving anyway, right? That's what the black belts say. Oddly enough, and maybe you remember as well, but during tournaments, I've never heard anyone announce their form, but the "my goal..." bit. Interesting.

Miss Chris said...

I was never a fan of the sword. I think mine was too heavy. Lots of pain in the wrists (and this was before I broke my wrist). Not too many fond memories of that weapon.

Windsornot said...

Well, what's interesting about this sword is that it's actually not that heavy, due to the fact it's 100% plastic. It has some weight to it, but not much. I think it's that I'm not used to having something with any weight in my hands or arms or have to swing and control it like that for long periods of time. My arms got tired pretty quickly! I've never had any upper body strength whatsoever! :-S