My experience at the Foreigner Taekwondo Master Training Course in South Korea
On Sunday 7th July 2019 I flew out to South Korea to attend the 77th foreigner Taekwondo master course, which was to be held at the ‘World Taekwondo Academy’ (Taekwondowon) in Muju, which is located in the mountains in the middle of nowhere!
Upon landing at Incheon airport in South Korea I first had to make my way to the Taekwondo world headquarters ‘Kukkiwon’, which is situated in the Gangnam district of Seoul, the capital of South Korea. Gangnam is the largest most vibrant district in Seoul.
I first made sure I had a good look round the iconic ‘Kukkiwon’ building, taking everything in and briefly enjoying watching a class that was ongoing as I arrived.
From the Taekwondo headquarters approx. 100 people from around the globe boarded busses that drove us to the world Taekwondo academy in Muju some 3 hours away from the TKD headquarters.
The rest of the first day as we arrived (Monday 8th July) was mainly registering, meeting and greeting and being assigned the rooms we would be staying in over the coming week. We also had a walk up to an observatory in the mountains nearby.
All elements of training & lectures where compulsory attendance. You could not skip sessions or be late for class as this carried a risk of being removed from the course. Each morning throughout the week consisted of everyone gathering at 07:30am for morning exercise before breakfast. The first morning consisted of loosen and stretch, then 1000 punches, the next morning was the same except instead of punches we did 500 kicks, as we progresses through the weeks training the morning exercises reflected what we had learnt the day before.
In the beginning we had a group photo then a number of lectures based round culture & history as well as grading rules & regulations. The majority of the training throughout the week though was based round ‘Poomsae’ aka ‘patterns’ (In Karate these are known as Kata), which are a set routine of movements executed a particular way that is recognised and practiced worldwide.
The day we did colour belt patterns (Poomsae) we began at 08:50am after breakfast. One of the Grandmasters that trained us was particularly strict and not easily pleased, before he started the session he insisted the air-con was switched off and windows and doors open to allow natural air flow (which there wasn’t much of in the high 20 – 30 degree C heat).
We trained solidly every pattern, every technique, over and over again throughout the day. My legs, thighs and hips were burning. With 10 minute breaks given to us every 1.5 hours and a 50 minute lunch break the day was pack full of training and practise. As we approached the planned end to the training at 6:00pm the Grandmaster was not satisfied with our efforts. He suggested if we was serious about learning and doing well as a ‘Master’, we should continue to train after dinner! He selected 2 of the approx. 50 in our group to act as assistant instructors and after a short dinner we returned to the training area (Do Jang) and continued to train until 10:30pm. I definitely slept that night.
The next day we trained Black belt patterns (Poomsae). The Grandmasters we had for this were not so strict and very good at getting the lessons across. We still worked every pattern up to 5th Dan Blackbelt level and worked every technique, but this time it felt a little more calm with a few laughs during the sessions. The two days of constant stances, blocks, kicks and punches certainly worked my body and mind but I remained determined as I was one of only a few representing the UK on the course and I wanted to do my country and affiliation/club proud (British Taekwondo Association/Messingham Martial Arts).
The remainder of the course was based round demonstration skills, which apart from sparring is one of the most popular parts to this martial art, Sparring skills mainly footwork and self-defence, as well as lectures in Taekwondo history.
I found the course eye opening and educational as well as very enjoyable and rewarding. All the Grandmasters that taught us were experts in the style and even at ages such as 80, were very fit, supple and could kick more powerfully and proficiently than many young practitioners I’ve seen or trained. Very impressive.
The Korean culture and history particularly based around the growth of Taekwondo is very captivating and the people are very helpful and friendly. I enjoyed meeting them and making new friends with others on the course from around the world. An experience I shall never forget.
To finish off the course we completed a written test and a practical test in front of 3 9th Dan Grandmasters who were impartial to the training we received, which was nerve racking to say the least.
Thank you for reading
Master Stuart Usher