21 February 2017

Jan & Feb 2017 South Africa Report

I would like to report a little on my journey over the last two months during my annual South Africa travels.

The first dojang I had the privilege of visiting was the Pinetown Stingers club, in KwaZulu Natal. Whenever I visit the Durban area, I also try to visit the Stingers dojang. With my previous visit I wasn't able to visit the dojang, but I did visit with Sabeomnim Sean Cremer at his house. This year, however, my travels coincided with their training, so I could attend one of their session. As always, it was lots of fun training with the KZN guys. My friend Damien, who was a student with me here in Korea and also tested for his black belt under me, was also able to come through from Durban to visit. I've always had a close connection with KZN Taekwon-Do and visiting them is like visiting family.

Of course also visited my Soo Shim Kwan family.

First was my visit with Horangi Dojang in Grobblersdal. This club is just going from strength to strength under the leadership of Instructor Gerhard Louw. I was impressed with how the higher ranking students have improved since I saw them last year -- their are defintely some future champions among them, and the eagerness of the lower belts shows me that Instructor Gerhard is doing a great job.

During the two nights that I taught at the Horangi Dojang, I tried to cover several principles. On the second evening, I was requested to demonstrate some patterns. Last year when I performed patterns there, I was a little sick, so was disappointed with my demonstration. This year, I performed several patterns and felt much more pleased with what I was able to present to them. Bsbnim Gerhard and I also did Gae Baek Tul together, and we also demonstrated some slightly more advanced self-defence techniques, to the glee of the students. For the much of the evening, we practised some self-defence techniques, but more simplified since the Horangi dojang's members are mostly children.

Near the end of my time in South Africa I went to Potchefstroom and visited the other Soo Shim Kwan dojang, the Potchefstroom Taekwon-Do Club (PTC). Under the guidance of Instructor Philip de Vos, there is a good standard amongst the students. The Potch club have always been small in numbers, but what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for in quality. Since PTC is an adults only club, I used the opportunity to explain some important principles. I expounded on the ITF pedagogy as a whole. The club has a few new members, so I wanted to give the students a broader understanding--a theoretical platform--to understand how ITF Taekwon-Do progressively guides a person with no prior fighting experience through a slow process of conditioning (physically and mentally), for a violent, combative encounter. I touched on ideas like the sparring phases, the Golden Move, and how ITF Taekwon-Do attempts to prevent the freeze reflex and trigger a fight response during an adrenalized encounter. The classes had a little bit of a lecture feel to them, which is not a bad thing occasionally since it is associated with a university.

Next year PTC will have its 20 year anniversary. I started the club in 1998. As part of the celebration, PTC will be the host for the National Championships in 2018. I really hope I'd be able to attend the event.

A highlight of this trip was, of course, the Hapkido Seminar that I presented in Pretoria. It was the first Korea Hapkido Federation seminar hosted in South Africa, to a primarily black belt audience.

This seven hours long hands-on workshop covered the most important aspects of Hapkido, from break falls and rolling, to joint locks, throws, pins, and even some unique kicks. The attendees were all tired, bruised and nearly broken, but their eagerness to learn kept them from quitting, and even after such an exhausting event they were still able to muster the smiles you can witness in the photo above. This seminar functioned as the first formal KHF event, with the intention of establishing an offical KHF branch in South Africa. I in particular want to thank Sbnim Sean Cremer and the other KZN members that travelled so far to attend the seminar.

Martial art wise, it was a particularly productive visit for me this year. On my way back from South Africa to Korea, I stopped over in Hong Kong, where I also got to train a little in Wing Chun, which was a wonderful experience that opened my eyes to new ideas and helped me to rethink my understanding of ITF Taekwon-Do as well.

I wish all the Soo Shim Kwan members, and all other readers of this blog, a wonderful 2017. My you experience progress in your martial art path, and also grow in the other areas of your life: vocationally, relationally, mentally and spiritually.