Over the summer, I spent some time with the eight-year-old son
of my first-grade teacher. Among other things that I learned from
his youth was an ability to break a pine board, or two, with my
It’s definitely not much, especially in the way of
introductions, but it’s a nice party trick, along the lines
of saying, “Yeah, I write for the Daily Bruin.”
This new destructive knowledge ““ Who needs a hatchet
anymore? ““ inspired me to pursue an education in the arts.
The martial arts.
I found many experts, each advocating their own magnificent
style of fighting: jujitsu, karate, judo. However, based on the
discipline of my pint-sized sensei, I chose taekwondo.
“Why taekwondo?” you ask. I’m sure there are
thousands of fictional justifications, but they’re just that
“Why a martial art?” There are more, actual reasons,
besides having to register my hands as deadly weapons.
The first stems from my physical build: I have no body fat.
Skinny as a rail. Forced to wear flippers in the shower. Any muscle
I develop will immediately be displayed. This joins with the second
reason: I wish to get more in shape.
But all these are trumped by the third reason: Martial arts are
just cool. I have no experience, but would seriously like to learn
how to roundhouse kick.
And so this saga begins, on a chilly Monday night in October
It was with faint apprehension and even fainter skill that I
approached the UCLA Taekwondo Club’s first workout/beginner
F.I.T. class meeting at 7 p.m. sharp.
The announcement I received on Bruin Walk also said something
about registering with the UCLA Recreation Department, an
orientation session on Sept. 27, and mentioned some sort of
“gold room.” I should have paid more attention, I
The first thing I noticed upon ascending the Wooden Center
stairs was that there were several people, a few in kimono-esque
robes (I am aware that Korean and Japanese are not the same),
warming up in a room designated the “blue room.” A few
neurons began to fire warning shots to my consciousness.
They hit home a little later.
After entering the gold room to find that my class was
apparently a master’s course in the art of disappearing, I
retraced my steps back to the door of the blue room.
The people had not left; in fact, there were more now.
One was a large, sweating man, built enough to be a future
gubernatorial candidate in the vein of Jesse Ventura or Arnold
Schwarzenegger. He was treating a punching bag very … unkindly.
He was uncomfortably close to the door.
Despite the intimidation, I steeled my resolve and walked very
gently around the man, who was apparently practicing Richard
Simmons’ Taekwondo Experience ““ he was working out to a
CD ““ to approach one of the robed men in the room, who had
“UCLA” and “BAKER” on his back.
After signing a waiver, which bluntly informed me that this was
taekwondo competition team tryouts, I was actually able to speak
with Sean Yee, the fifth-year senior and UCLA’s Taekwondo
Club founder, and the pseudo-sensei (again, I apologize for the use
of Japanese, but I’m hoping to assuage my ignorance).
Sean agreed that my lack of experience disqualified me for team
tryouts. Actually, I said that, and he agreed with me. But he said
that I could watch.
So I did.
It was a mixture of foreign and familiar. The group began with
calisthenic stretching, as Sean and Paul Leonor, his successor as
team captain, both lead and evaluated the 20-odd candidates. This
was followed by a series of kicks, which further reinforced my
desire to stay uninvolved.
The evening was punctuated with staccato yells of the hopefuls.
At times, it sounded like the auditions for the SWAT team in
“Blues Brothers 2″ (if you replace “Hut! Hut!
Hut!” with variations of “Ai! Ai! Ai!”), at
others, like an impending musical number.
Despite the slightly exclusive nature of the night, reserved to
those with more skill and talent than myself, I found some form of
involvement: I participated in an abbreviated version of the
8-clap. And did so successfully.
One week has elapsed since then. By the time you are reading
this, I will have completed my first actual class of taekwondo, on
Monday night. So, until next time, Ahnyounghee-gyeseyo.
E-mail Earnest at [email protected] if you enjoy
kicking people’s kidneys through their chests.