24 June 2011

My Hapkido "Way"

Last night, 23 June 2011, I received my 2nd Dan Hapkido Certificate. Ironically, it was exactly one year ago that I officially “quit” formal training at a hapkidojang and wrote the post below on one of my other blogs.
23 June 2010
Myself and one of the instructors at my previous hapkidojang.
Earlier this evening I went to see the Head of the Hapkido gym where I have been training since I came to Korea the first time. I went to tell him that I am discontinuing my regular training at his school and that I will instead continue my training in Hapkido on occasion with instructors irregularly, most likely over weekends. After explaining it to him, getting my black belt from where it hung between the other black belts, bowing to him and the other members in the dojang, and giving my final salute, I left the gym; feeling overwhelmingly sad. I have “outgrown” that school and the only way for me to progress is to leave it.

It is not that I have learned everything that that school and the master can teach me—far from it! There is still much I can learn. It is just that the ratio between what I am learning (and the rate at which I’m learning it) to the time, effort, and money I'm investing is not worth it for me at the present moment. I guess the language barrier has become a big contributing factor towards my decision. There is only so much one can learn via the monkey-see-monkey-do method. I've long passed that level in my martial art career. I am truly sad about leaving. This dojang was my very first and longest lasting martial art “home” in Korea. To tell my instructor that I’m leaving home is similar to a young bird leaving its nest. It is frightening. But it is also necessary because only outside the nest can the bird really mature. I’m not cutting all ties with the dojang; I will still visit there every so often; but for now, the bird has left the nest.

The moment I stepped out of the dojang, knowing that I’ve chosen a new path for my Hapkido-journey, I felt immediately homesick. I walked to a restaurant to have dinner, but had lost my appetite. When my food arrived I let it stand—pretending to let it cool off—for probably a quarter of an hour before I started to eat. While the decision caused melancholy, I am not regretting it. Another Hapkido instructor (and also a close friend) explained to me that there comes a time in every Hapkido practitioner’s journey that he has to find his own Do – “Way.”

When I arrived home tonight and read my emails, I saw a notice from a bookshop informing me that a Hapkido book I ordered had arrived. I’ll go pick it up tomorrow.

And now a year later. My Hapkido journey did not end. Although I have been studying Hapkido mostly informally since last year, there has nevertheless been growth. I've been reading books, watching instructional videos, applying principles, practised and even taught some Hapkido at The Way dojang.
I've learned so much from Hapkido. Ironically, I've learned so much about ITF Taekwon-Do from my study of other martial arts, especially Hapkido. I remember clearly before I came to Korea in 2006 the frustration I felt because I could see the Wave / Circle principle in ITF Taekwon-Do, I could intuit it, but I had no functional cognitive entry point to truly understand it, nor its application. I knew that I had to study a martial art that focusses on this principle and was eager to start studying Hapkido once I came to Korea. And as providence would have it, not only did I find a nice dojang to train at, but one of the instructors was also a 4th Dan in ITF Taekwon-Do and we could discuss Hapkido using our common ITF Taekwon-Do language. I am convinced that both my Taekwon-Do and Hapkido training were enhanced by this. I also gained a great friend in the proses.

I've been eligible (time-wise) to test for 2nd Dan probably since early 2009, but only got to it earlier this year. Honestly, it wasn't really something I actively thought about until Master Bae (7th Dan) mentioned to me last year that I ought to do it. Because of my suspension of formal training last year I did not think about it again until a few months ago. 

I feel that now a new phase in my Hapkido journey has started once again. Part of it is to once more find the next part of my Do (“Way”). Will it involve the path I'm on at present? Will it involve seeking out new teachers and a new dojang? Will it involve more actively teaching Hapkido?

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