October 18, 2010: The first class

October 18, 2010: The first class

This was the first class I went to for Taekwondo.  Most dojangs (TKD schools) will allow you to try out a free class to see if you want to join their school and take TKD.  This was my freebie night.

I went in gym shorts and a loose fitting t shirt.  Socks and shoes are not allowed in the practice area, nor is jewelry or watches.  They have a nice sized locker room at this school where you can put your things during a class.

We went through what I now know is a standard warm up routine (and was actually a bit on the lighter side).  At the end of the warm up and stretching, I had sweat pouring down my face and my muscles had that incredibly weak feeling.  The master of the school was teaching this class that night.  He varied the warm up so that every part of the body was touched, but also so that no part would be over strained.  To be fair, after the first 15 minutes, I felt a lot more flexible.  In this session, there were Orange belts, yellow belts, white belts, and I.  The master of the school took the white belts and I over to the side just a bit to go over the basics with us, especially me.

I don’t have actual notes on this class in my book because the whole session was a blur after the fact.  I know that we went over the stances, some kicks, and at least one One-Step.

We most likely went over ready stance, which is where you have your feet at shoulder width apart and your fists in front of you, one fist length away from your body and one fist width apart from another.

We did front stance, your lead leg is about 3-4 steps in front of the back leg, knee bent so that you cannot see your foot over it, with your back foot firmly on the ground and its leg straight.  In the front stance your torso is turned facing the direction of your front leg so that your belly button is pointing straight at your “target”.

I do not remember if we went over sitting stance or rear stance that night.  We did go over some kicks, mainly the front kick from positions One and Two.  A position One front kick is assuming a fighting stance, almost like a shortened front stance, then lifting the lead leg up into what is called the chamber position.  Chambering for a move means that you are getting ready to make the move, it centers your balance and allows for a stronger follow through.  The front leg is lifted off of the ground, almost with your knee into your stomach, then kicked forward towards the target, striking with the ball of your foot.  The position One front kick seems to be good for a quick kick to someone who is almost directly in front of you.

The position Two front kick starts in the same sort of stance, but instead you bring your rear leg up into a chambered position, then extend and kick out with the ball of the foot.  This kick has a lot more power to it, but takes longer for your foot to travel to the target, thus allowing them to see what is coming easier.

I am sure we went over the straight punch, which begins with your fists at your hips, palms turned up towards the ceiling.  You then extend the punching hand, fist still turned up from your hip towards the solar plexus of your target.  Just before you would connect with your fist, tighten your arm muscles and twist the fist around with your arm so that is in normal punching position, with the palm facing the floor.

The twisting action is really important in Taekwondo.  Every move uses it to generate a lot of power without a lot of strain.  If you’re reading this and not sure about it, try this:  Make a fist and punch the palm of your other hand as you would normally.  Now, in the same distance of forearm movement, start your fist turned palm up to the ceiling and strike. Just before you hit your palm, tighten your forearm muscles and twist the fist back into normal position as you strike.  You should feel a lot more force on your palm.  To achieve the same force you would have to either cock your arm back farther or use a lot more speed to hit your palm.

Finally, I believe we went over the first white belt One Step.  A One Step is restrained, rehearsed partner sparring.  It allows a TKD practitioner to learn the moves they need for sparring in a controlled environment without actually making contact with their partner.  It is great for practicing and refining your movements.   We went over the high block, reverse punch (this is without taking a step and punching), bring feet in parallel then do a front kick, and finally take two steps backwards from your opponent.  This allows you to block an oncoming attacker’s front or downward strike with the block, punch him in the solar plexus, step back and kick him away from you, then step back away from him in case the two moves didn’t deter him from further fighting.

By the end of class I was soaked in perspiration, muscles were already feeling extremely weak, and feeling awesome.  It was a very fun class and I was pretty much hooked then and there.  I signed up that night for the school, got my dobok (Korean word for the uniform) and starter packet, then spoke with the instructor who was manning the front desk for about twenty minutes.

I was going to love taking Taekwondo.

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