It has officially been 2 years since my sister and I flew to Korea for the first and only (so far!) time. It doesn’t at all feel like two years have passed and to be honest, I was sure that I would have returned to Korea by now. And while I, of course, have my moments of a sudden need to go back asap, I haven’t really thought much about making actual plans of returning. However, now that Facebook is showing me all the pictures and posts from 2 years ago, I feel an intense need to go back. I want to see my friends. I want to walk through all the small alleyways in Hyehwa and enjoy the smell of food that is to find everywhere.
I know I won’t be able to go back this year. There’s simply too much for me to do here and I am already all over the place as it is. I have to prioritize and that’s okay. But I think it’s time for me to actually start making plans about a well-deserved trip to the place that was my home for 3 amazing weeks. Perhaps in the spring?
There are so many things that I want to do in Korea but most of all, I just really want to see all the people that I haven’t seen for so long. Simple things like sitting outside the CU with a cold drink and an ice cream while chit chatting about whatever. I also have a list of things that I never got around to doing or seeing last time, so I definitely want to do them this time!
Two weeks ago I went on a little adventure that turned out to be quite the rollercoaster. On Thursday I drove to my sister’s house in the evening and then we took the train together the next morning, headed to køge for the annual taekwondo summer camp. I was feeling really nervous and anxious which isn’t at all unusual for me however this time it was a bit worse as we were only 3 people – including me – from my club who had joined the camp this year and the 2 others were both there as instructors for the black belt team and the children’s team, which then leaves me ‘alone’ in my team. In fact, we saw each other so little that they were both surprised when they saw me at dinner on Saturday night and asked when I had arrived since they hadn’t seen me around.. Well.. I had been there since Friday morning, several hours before they themselves had arrived haha!
I had so much fun last year though, so I was determined to go this year as well even though I knew I would be on my own during all the lessons, as my sister doesn’t do taekwondo and was only there as a guest. Also, while taekwondo has triggered my anxiety many times before I know it’s only there before we actually start. The second we start lining up and gets ready to greet the giant 태극기 hanging on the wall and the 사범님 in charge, it completely vanishes in an instant.
And that was indeed what happened on Friday when we had our opening ceremony and our first lesson as one giant team. I had so much fun until the very last 10 minutes where we had to partner up, have a 10 second long(short?) fight and then the person to the left had to jump ahead to the next row and start over until we had had a fight with people from all belt colors and degrees. I was the person on the left which meant that I was the person to travel through the rows and it was fun and interesting until I got to the very last row. Everybody had been kind and smiling up until then and took it a bit more easy if they were fighting people from lower ranks. But the at the last row I was teamed up with a guy who is basically the 대사범님’s right hand. I don’t like him. And I say that coming from a personal point of view and not a professional. He is super talented and has been doing taekwondo for ages, but I don’t like him as a person – but I believe that’s a story for another day!
I generally don’t let my personal feelings and opinions take over so I greeted him with a big smile and in return, he looked at me like I was a piece of sh*t that he couldn’t even be bothered to deal with. The 10 second fight starts and I do my best even though I’m tired from already having done it around 15 times and he then dramatically rolls his eyes at me and starts yelling in my face “MORE MORE MORE” even though the 10 seconds is up and I have run down to the very back and start over with the white belts. He forced me into an uncomfortable situation where I had to either ignore him or ignore the 사범님 in charge who at the same time was yelling at me that the time had already ended.
That night I went to bed feeling really sad. I felt like I should have stayed home as I obviously wasn’t good enough. I didn’t deserve to be there. I tried reminding myself that it was totally okay to feel intimidated by him. He’s older than me, taller than me, broader than me and he has been doing taekwondo for more than 40 years compared to my 2 years. I tried so hard to stay optimistic but for some reason, that tiny little part of the lesson had erased all the joy I had felt about being there, even though the first 50 minutes of the lesson had been absolutely great.
Saturday morning I got up early with my sister, had breakfast and got ready for my first lesson of the day. The first lesson was about – you guessed it! Fighting! – and after the Friday lesson, I was dreading the entire thing even though this specific lesson was the one that I had been looking forward to the most. The lesson was being taught by Nuno Damaso who is insanely talented and really good at teaching as well. Our team was from white to blue belts which meant that I, as a blue belt, were the second highest graded person on the team and therefore had to stand on the very first row, and I felt like such a fraud. I felt so strongly that I didn’t deserve standing all the way up there..
During this lesson we had a few uhm.. mishaps I guess. We were only wearing chest guards during his lesson because that was the main area we would be focusing on and he said we should be able to take a bit pain from blocking with our arms and legs (Head was off limits so headgear wasn’t relevant either) and we were all pretty much fine with it. However my partner had a few issues with his aim as he started to get tired and as a result, I was left with some pretty bad bruises everywhere and especially on both of my hips, as well as a bruised rib.
But it was fun. I had so much fun and forgot all about those depressing thoughts that had been haunting me since the previous night. My adrenalin was pumping and I felt so good after that lesson, that after our 15-minute break I jumped straight into the next lesson of the day and it wasn’t even until halfway through it that I realized how bad my injuries from the fight was. I obviously couldn’t see my bruises yet but due to my bruised rib, I was struggling a bit with breathing and moving in certain ways.
I still managed to power through and then I went to change my clothes for the lunch break. At this point, I knew that the 4th and final lesson of the day would be off the table as it was self-defense and involved at a lot of grabbing, punching and throwing, but I still thought I could power through the 3rd lesson after lunch as it was about stamina and explosivity and with no contact. My sister was not agreeing though haha! She was immediately in mother mode and wanted me to stop for the day until we had a clearer idea of the injuries I had. I was determined to take one more lesson but when I grabbed my 도복 I noticed that the thread in my pants had broken and taking another lesson would 100% end up with my pants ripping and me flashing my behind to the entire team. I decided to take it as a sign from the universe, telling me that enough is enough. It could also be due to the fact that I have gained 9kgs since December but I would like to stick to the first explanation, hahahah!
In the end, I was out of the game for the last half of the weekend but I had a lot of fun watching all the classes from the side bench. On Sunday I met up with my Korean friend whom I had never met face to face before and when the camp officially ended my sister and I continued to Copenhagen where we stayed until Monday. While sitting at a Starbucks with my sister, all the pictures from the camp got posted online and when I saw this picture of me it suddenly hit me why that first episode had been so rough on me.
This picture was taken right as we were ending the fighting lesson on Saturday morning. A lesson that physically took a way bigger toll on me but take a look at my face. I was totally fine. And it hit me. On Friday I didn’t feel intimidated by his size, his strength nor his belt degree. I’m okay with the pain. I was feeling intimidated by him as a person. I felt he was attacking me and who I am, and not my body. I felt worthless and ridiculous.
And on Saturday it was the complete opposite. I got some somewhat bad injuries but my partner and I was smiling and laughing through the entire thing. We were cheering each other on and the instructor was as well.
I think everybody needs to remember this. You don’t have to act like a tough person or belittle people to stay ‘strong’. Smiling at people, cheering them on and telling them that they did a good job does not make you weak nor does it make your win any less of an accomplishment. You can be opponents and still be friends.