Visiting NYC 07/09/08

The following is a brief summary of my visit to SJ Kim’s Taekwon-do school. Please pardon the cliche introduction.

Train fare from Trenton to NYC: $102
Parking in Trenton: $10
Gas from Mt.Laurel to Trenton: $12
Protein shake for dinner in Penn Station: $4.50
Total Trip time: 7 hours
Time in Do-Jang: 2 hours
Class at SJ Kim’s Taekwon-do: Priceless

If I wait for it to be convenient, it will never happen.

These words echoed in my head the past few weeks. I had many excuses – mostly related to a lack of cash. Finally, I realized that I will never have enough money, never have enough time, and it will never be “convenient” to go to NYC and practice. I checked the train schedule, got in my car, bought tickets and went.

I was greeted with smiles and bows the moment I stepped foot into the school as faces familiar and not-so familiar took a moment to say hello. I changed in the locker room and introduced myself to a man in his early thirties attending his 2nd class. He said sheepishly, “A few more classes and I can progress from very embarrassing to just embarassing.” To which I replied: “It takes tremendous courage just to put the uniform on the first time. Congratulations, I hope you have fun.”

Grandmaster Kim launched immediately into a commentary on gas prices, China, Iran and speculators. He loves following football coaches and international events. I’m sure his keen understanding of leadership is reinforced by this passion. All I can think of are Taekwon-do questions I wish I could ask but patience and listening are important for training. His comments are insightful and brilliant as always. Whatever things I need to know about Taekwon-do, I know he will tell me at the right time.

Third Dan Silvio lead the warmup and I relished in the ability to focus on my stretching rather than the needs of the class. Grandmaster Kim stepped onto the mat to take over class and said: “Joon Bee. Close your eyes.” Ah, like coming home for Thanksgiving, sitting at the table and being presented with a feast of delicious food. All I could do was close my eyes and be grateful for the opportunity to once again be in the presence of my Grandmaster and fellow blackbelts, about to feast on the spirit and knowledge surrounding me.

Leg raises and front kicks, front turning kicks. The master says “more hips”. Double turning kicks, triples, then combinations: punch-turning kick-back kick, skipping front turning kick low and high, reverse hook kick, skipping hook kick-back kick. My legs were filled with lead. Why can I maintain balance on a left back kick, but not on the right?
Punches, 3 punches – oops, forgot that we do them too quickly upstate. The master moves my arm higher.
We bow and I am invited to kick the bag. A 2nd Dan holds the focus pads and instructs me to do “reverse turning kick, switch feet, another reverse turning kick”. This is a hamstring-stretcher!

Black belts observe and help color belts on Won-Hyo, Yul-Gok, and Choong-moo.

My breath is finally calming down from the basics when I am invited to demonstrate patterns for a 3rd Dan who offers a couple of improvement suggestions for Choong-Jang and Ko-Dang. Grandmaster Kim seems pleased that I demonstrate the correct “high cross-cut” rather than a simple knife-hand strike at the end of Ko-Dang.

The master instructs me to face Mr. Borelli and practice one-step sparring. Again, more slow and controlled than we practice in Oneonta. Mr. Borelli performs more along the lines of the videos of the North Korean demonstration team. (Scan exactly 1:30 into this video for an example).
Free fighting. “Gently now fellas” warns the Grandmaster. Mr. Borelli and I move like dance partners. My first move is met with two punches to my ribs which land effortlessly and I can’t imagine how it could have possibly happened. I fake and throw a kick or two and he pulls his side kick just before it meets my stomach. “Patience….Free fighting is all about patience….” says the Grandmaster.

We finish with sitting stance punches and bow out. Mr. Borelli helps me with the most difficult pattern I know, Eui-Am

Finally, I listen to many stories of eye-witness accounts of Grandmaster Kim’s recent free fighting with senior black belts and the bruises that ensued. Of course, Grandmaster Kim at age 55+ still walks away unscathed. Amidst the discussion, we touch on the quality of students versus the quantity. “Some students come here, and they get the spirit and they stay. Others, they talk and don’t have the right attitude and they don’t last.” Nicely said, Mr. Borelli.

All students are encouraged to visit NYC several times per year if possible.

1 response to Visiting NYC 07/09/08

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your story and admire your dedication.

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