In Russia, Tae Kwon Does You

Posted: October 27, 2011 in Uncategorized

Yesterday night, I went to my first Tae Kwon Do practice in Russia. I went with a girl whose aunt works at the university. I don’t know her aunt, but the aunt knows the people in the technology transfer department. I was both excited, but terrified to go. I met up with the girl at a bus stop and then we walked to the gym together. I didn’t know what to except. For example, I didn’t know where we were training. I also didn’t know what style of Tae Kwon Do we would be doing. At Lafayette I trained WTF, or World Tae Kwon Do Federation, style Tae Kwon Do, which comes from South Korea. There is also ITF, International Tae Kwon Do Federation style, which comes from North Korea. I did not know which style we would be doing.

Training with Master Eom at Lafayette. Photo credit to Chuck Zovko.

We went to a large gymnasium that was set up just for Tae Kwon Do. Apparently, it is the headquarters of the Ulyanovsk Tae Kwon Do Federation. I was worried because the girl told me that the coach is strict. We got to practice only a few minutes late. Warm-ups had only just begun. The coach told me to join in right away. After not doing Tae Kwon Do, or anything remotely physical besides walking, for two months, the warm-ups were the near death of me. I felt like puking. After the warm-ups were over, I had passed my wall and felt great. There is nothing that makes me happier than kicking targets, well except for fighting. I enjoy doing kicking drills, and it was very similar to the way in which we trained at Lafayette.

The gym we train in. The photo is taken from a tournament photo on the Ulyanovsk Tae Kwon Do Federation website.

It is an interesting group of people to train with. The woman is a third degree black belt and clearly knows her stuff. Amongst the students, I was ancient at 22 years old. I think the oldest of them was probably 17. The youngest were about 10. Many of them are professional sportsmen. They had great techniques and unbelievable speed. I did my best to keep up with them, which wasn’t too hard when we were kicking the targets. I may be slow, but I hit hard. As usual, I was one of the hardest hitters there. The coach even complimented me a few times.

For the last 20 or so minutes of class, half of us sat down in two groups. Then, a handful of students fought each other. It was some of the best fighting I have ever seen. I thought some of the A division ECTC sparring was intense, but these teenagers were really fighting hard and quite skillfully. I have some apprehensions about sparring in Russia. However, I don’t think I will ever have to fight the semi-professional kids.

After the class was done, I had a conversation with the trainer. She asked me how long I had been doing Tae Kwon Do. I told her that I trained for four years at Lafayette and that our school had a team that competed in tournaments. She seemed happy to know that I mostly trained WTF-Olympic sparring as our focus as opposed to traditional Tae Kwon Do with a focus on poomsae, or forms. I also told her that I have been doing Tang Soo Do for fourteen years, but no one in Russia seems to have heard of it.

That time that Arthur and I won gold medals in sparring at the Garden State Cup last year. No big deal.

The trainer seemed very happy that I wanted to train with her. She told me that I could keep coming to her class, but that I should probably go to another classes that happens on other days of the week where there are fewer people and I can get more attention and coaching from her. We had an interesting conversation mostly in Russian, but the trainer knows a little English. She also seemed a little interested to learn some English with me.

Training Tae Kwon Do in Russia is wonderful in so many ways. Firstly, it ensures that I will stay somewhat healthy. Secondly, it means I can get my aggression out. Over the years, my temper has gotten better. I think some of my peace and anger management comes from me being able to regularly get my aggression out in a safe and controlled way. Finally, I get to work on Tae Kwon Do and Russian at the same time. Some of the commands, like the names of the techniques, are given in Korean, but the majority of the instructions are said in Russian. I’ll quickly get to learn and practice Russian in a whole new and exciting classroom.

Although I am stiff and sore today, and I know I’ll be worse tomorrow, I’m excited to go to practice again tomorrow night. Nothing says a work out well done like pain and sweat. I’m excited to have been welcomed by the coach and the kids training at the gym.

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Comments
  1. GT says:

    Intense, man. You’ve got some balls to do tae kwon do in Russia, I’d never do that. How many marshrutkas did it take to get to the bus stop?

    • grunewas says:

      I took a tramvai to one bus stop and met up with the girl. We then got on a mashrutka and rode for like 15 min. to a market. We walked through the market and a couple of more blocks to the gym. Theoretically it’s one 15/20 min. marshrutka ride for me, but the girl wants to meet up with me the first few times to make sure that I don’t get lost. This is probably a good thing because the gym is somewhat near the jail.

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