Saturday, October 15, 2005

Class Report

Meeting Roan

Today I'm meeting Roan at All-belts. He's the 11 year old son of my friend Katharine, who takes ballet with me. Roan has taken TKD before, but wasn't happy with his school and dropped out. He wants to start again and his mom suggested he try our dojang.

I arrive just as the children's class is ending. Roan and Katharine arrive soon after, and I take him around to meet some people. The young people, Alyssa and Stephanie, Paul and Chelsea are there, and I make introductions. This school is a nice place for tweens and teens. They can work together, boys and girls in a challenging yet collaborative way.

Ms. Pryor is leading the class today. We begin with the usual stuff, then she calls out "everyone line up over here."

We all know what that means when Ms. Pryor is teaching. We're going to go back and forth across the dojang floor, kicking, jumping, hopping, until we're completely exhausted.

That's just what we do. Side kicks across the floor, jump roundhouses, grapevine, all sorts of exhausting moves.

I wonder about Roan. He's at the other end of the room. Katharine had told me he wanted a school where he gets a good workout. I suppose this counts.

After that, we do some sparring exercises, and I pair up with Roan. He's about my size. He seems to enjoy the exercises--quick feints and dodges. He's smiling, and seems to like it when he tags me.

Forms and Energy

Then we work on our forms. Aimee hasn't yet learned Yul-Gok, so we go through the movements slowly. Mr. Schmidt comes over to help us out. "I'm never going to get this one!" she says after some of the tougher new moves. Sounds like me! What seems hardest to both of us: an elbow strike after a side kick and those scraping blocks (the last entry has a photo of Ms. Pryor showing me and Brian the scraping blocks. I guess I should learn their real name . . . .)

At the end of class, we line up to go through all our forms, from Chon-ji up and Palgwe forms. This is new school policy--that we all need to be working on ALL our forms, not just when we test for black belt.

I'm able to go through the forms, but I notice something. After the familiar Chon-ji, which I could probably do in my sleep (though NOT with my eyes closed, if that makes any sense!), I feel my energy output decreasing. It's not that I'm not doing the forms energetically--I am. But I'm off on one side of the dojang without anyone near me, doing the forms alone (some people have left from my row).

It's not so much that I need someone near me to watch--except for Yul-Gok, I know the forms pretty well. It's just that doing forms WITH someone creates a kind of shared energy that you can't get alone.

Everntually, I skitter over to be closer to Brian and Aimee. It's amazing how that affects the way I feel doing the forms, especially being alongside Brian. You'd think that it would be Aimee I'd work best with as she's about my size. But Brian and I practice so much together that we're used to each other. Despite our differing sizes, our pacing is about the same--our kicks are even similar heights. Plus, he's amazingly attuned. Even when he's facing away from me, I notice that he slows down when I get behind. I guess no surprise there. He is the one who pointed out I wasn't breathing during sparring!

At the end of class, I stay to ask some of the black belts for help with the new form.

"It's going to take me weeks to get that side-kick, elbow strike thing," I mutter. I try it, and get the elbow strike wrong: wrong elbow, wrong direction."

"Just think of what you'd do in a fight," says Justin. "You're kicking this way . . ." he demonstrates, ". . . and you slam them in the face."

Brian had given me this advice, and I'm afraid I just looked at him blankly. Didn't help at all. I think men forget that most women don't have much fighting practice.

"Oh yeah, that's really helpful," I joke to Justin. "Like I know how to fight someone."

"You have to be aware of where your legs and feet are," says Mr. Schmidt. "As your leg comes around into a front stance, your hip will rotate and bring that arm around." OK. That makes a bit of sense.

"You have to reach for that action-reaction," says Ms. Pryor. She does the move, reaching way out with the arm opposite from the striking arm.

I try a couple of times, and get some encouragement. Luckily I've got time to learn this one!

I'm hot and sweaty and tired as I leave. I'll be on a plane and in airports all afternoon--it'll be good to be ready to sit down.

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