Monday, December 1, 2008

Black Belt pt. 2

Tonight was my first official night at my training center as a real-deal blackbelt.  And it's funny to say ... perhaps it's just the look of the thing around my waist ... but it seems all different to me.  First of all, it's tight ... you have to loop it around your waist twice and it's super thick so it's quite snug.  perhaps it's just the symbolism of the whole thing that's got me thinking about it ... the training I've had to do, the moves I've had to learn and unlearn and then learn again the right way ... the times I wanted to take off and went regardless because it is a commitment ... the tired nights practicing and practicing over and over again the same patterns ... getting hurt and bruised, that part I actually felt was fun in some way :) ... the struggle of it all ... I think I've enjoyed the part about learning how far I can push my body and how I've learned to control my body and my emotions in the midst of it.  There has been so much value in it all.  I find that God speaks to me directly through the humbling process of getting kicked over and over again, something about the depths of this struggle of life we sometimes find ourselves in.  That there is great joy in the hard times and that when we are done with it and on a higher plain of thinking, it all makes sense and comes together like a puzzle.  

Friday, November 28, 2008

it only took about 15 months!

I finally got to put it on yo!  It only took about 15 months of training!  We had a final test ... it was madness ... in truth, I didn't do that great ... we had to perform so many different forms I got some of them mixed up but there was grace since I had been working at it so long.  Had to break some boards and do some fighting then ... booya!  Here you go!  

To answer your questions ... yes, I feel like a badass.  haha!  

Thursday, November 13, 2008

new things

I realize it's been quite a while since my last post ... who even knows if anyone checks this anymore?  haha!  My own fault I suppose!  

Life has been busy of late.  Let me begin by catching you up to speed on my life as it continues in Korea.  

On October 18th I took my black belt test in Seoul.  I had trained for over a year for this and was looking forward to it.  Clearly anxiety and nervousness was abounding but I trusted in my training for whatever was coming.  I must say it was quite the experience.  We headed to Seoul in our team van with some other students who were also taking their test.  To take the test we had to go to the Kukkiwon, the very center of the Taekwondo world.  They dictate all of the rules, patterns, and various issues that govern the martial art for the entire world.  That fact alone was unique in of itself.  Just being in this place you could feel there was a sense of pride and honor in the sport for the Koreans and for me to be going into this place to be tested for black belt was a honor as well.  I was the lone foreigner in the whole place.  Loads of kids and only a few adults around my age.  It was totally in Korean but luckily I had enough knowledge of the language and understanding of the commands that I could easily navigate through the night.  The instructors who were doing the test were quite attentive to me as I was the only white guy in the place so they wanted to make sure I did well and had what I needed.  We were tested on two different forms consisting of blocks, kicks, and punches.  It reminds me of a kind of dance but with fighting moves.  After this was easily accomplished we moved to the sparring part of it.  This bit I was a bit nervous as to who I would spar against and what to expect.  They paired me up with a young Korean probably 18 or 19 years old and about my size.  The judge told me if I kicked him in the head I would fail so to stay away from that.  Noted.  We were only wearing head gear so it was rather light and easy.  I only got a couple of kicks in before we were stopped and the test was over.  The preparation itself took much longer than the actual test but I was glad to have completed it.

The perspective on black belts has changed for me quite a bit.  I think in the west we believe most Korean, Japanese, and Chinese men have their black belts and thus some kind of toughness is attributed to this thought.  In Korea all the young men when they turn 18 or 19 must enroll in the military and it is here the majority of them gain their black belt status.  But within the military they only do very basic training.  Think this is what you need for the test, learn it and here's your belt.  I feel there is some misunderstanding on that level, most of what the west views as every Korean man having their black belt is only partly true.  They have it and they have military combat training but within the sport itself they are on the lower end of knowledge of the art.  

I know what you are thinking ... Master John, do you feel more dangerous now that you have your black belt?  I guess I do.  I've never had to use my training in a real-life situation and hope to never have to.  If I did, I could handle myself well enough to subdue the other but I've also learned that not exactly what martial arts is about.  It's more about controlling your body, your mind, and your emotions.  It's more about being hard on the outside and soft on the inside is the balance most martial artists are going for.  Truthfully ... would I love to use what I've learned one day ... maybe ... if there was some monster that needed to be destroyed in an epic battle of good and evil ... haha!  But as this is real-life ... I guess that won't happen except in my head or in Mersinger's mind.  

Since then work has been good.  I've started bringing my guitar into class and doing a kind of music class with my students.  It's fun and it makes teaching for me more enjoyable and also allows me to be more creative.  We do songs like Twinkle little Star, Farmer in the Dell, Bingo, etc.  The kids love it.  

The picture above is from a night of swing dancing with my friends.  I love the fact how this dance is enjoyed by all people in the world and it's fun watching the Korean enjoy themselves cutting it up on the dance floor.  

that's all for now!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Good luck trying to say that word ... ha!  It took me about a week to twist my tongue around that one.  

Just got back from a long weekend at the beach on the western coast of Korea called Anmyeondo.  A nice place to go and relax for a few days outside of the busy cities in Korea.  

This weekend was Korean Chusok ... which is there holiday to celebrate with family similar to our Thanksgiving in the West.  They also pay respects to family members who has passed away by cleaning up their grave sites and performing ceremonies in honor of their ancestors.  This is quite a busy weekend for traveling as most people leave the cities prompting a mass exodus to various places over this peninsula.  

A group of 6 of us took the journey to the beach.  All English teachers at various schools throughout the Daejeon area.  We took a bus to get to the coast and it occurred to me how easy it was to travel through alternate forms of transportation.  You must have patience and often will have to accommodate conditions but for relatively short periods of time.  It is so very easy to hop in the car and go but when you are without, you have to be creative and somewhat adventurous especially being in a foreign country.  

As my friend on the trip commented, it's all part of the fun.  We were a little unsure of our exact destination as only one of us had been there before.  Add the language factor in there and you have a fun time.  Collectively we could probably muster up a solid game of charades should the situation call for it but we got by good enough and to out little pension cabin for the long weekend.  

As you can see from the pics above it is a beautiful place.  So much of my life was spent on the beach and in the water growing up in Florida.  Which I took for granted for sure.  Being in a place such as this did make me feel right at home.  Not only that but the bloody heat and humidity was about the same as well!  

For the most part during the day we would sit on the beach and do some walking around the interesting outcroppings of rock formations from the beach.  There was a massive resort about a mile down the beach from our location which we decided to check out on our first full day there.  A rather luxurious resort, the only one of this size and magnitude on the island.  It has a nice spa and sauna with great views of the sunset and ocean.  Several of the spas had different theme tea leaf water but part of me doubts the validity of this.  Nonetheless I enjoyed taking dips in the luke warm water of Green Tea, Mint, Roobios, and Jasmine just to name a few.  A nice atmosphere for sure.  

Overall a great weekend to get out of the city and relax on the beach.  It took me back home if only momentarily to wade in the water and to walk on the sand.   

Saturday, August 30, 2008

is there more?

this is me in front of a big palace near Seoul.

what else can I blog about?  I have no idea ... I think I've run out of ideas of things to write on so I'll just type and see what come out ... deal?  Ok!

so the other night coming home from taekwondo I fell of my bike and got banged up a little.  My ego is more wounded than anything else.  there I am riding in front of the bus stop, not going fast or anything and my chain slips, I miss my footing and tumble on the ground letting out some kind of yelp while doing this.  mind you this is in the middle of the street.  while I'm gathering myself my bag has wrapped itself around my arms and I'm having quite a difficult time standing up.  also to note is my crash happened in the middle of the road and the light is green.  it's a rather less traveled road so I was only mildly worried but still worried for the odd chance an insane cab driver will come by.  so anyways, I laugh at myself and ride home.  I'm 27 and still falling off my bike, what the hell I say!

Work is work.  That's all I have to say about that.  I'm trying to find joy in what I do no matter how difficult it can be.  I love it when I can laugh at my kids, they are truly cute and funny but sometimes I'm just so focused on teaching them English I miss the fact that they are to be enjoyed as they have become a part of my life.

I just got my red belt in taekwondo and broke three boards the other night.  Each board is about an inch think so apparently I'm getting stronger and better.  I take my black belt test in October, it's really short, I only have to do 2 forms and some sparring.  Easy I think.  We'll see how it goes I guess.    

Friday, August 22, 2008

home sweet home

so I've made it back from a sweet vaca and am in the full swing of things back in Korea.  The trip home was perfect ... yes it could have been much longer but I found it was just the right amount of time to see everyone, almost everyone, and do what I needed to do to recharge my batteries.  

I did experience a little reverse culture shock arriving in Atlanta ... after a long flight no less ... it wasn't really the language that was overwhelming but more so the various shapes, sizes, and looks of people.  America is so, so diverse.  I loved it.  I loved seeing that.  Like it was a fresh view of my home, this is what it is ... it's messy and people are everywhere but it's beautiful in it's own way.  

Jetlag wasn't too bad traveling to the west.  A couple of hours of sleep lost at night but overall a rather smooth transition.  Coming back to Korea was a different story.  Probably a combo of things: jetlag, the culture, the new apartment.  All of it.  

It was nearly like I was never gone.  Like one year didn't even happen.  Much was the same except for new marriages and new babies.  It made me miss that comfortable pocket I lived in back in the US.  I love that pocket.  Here it feels like a constant, not abrasive but constant struggle and fight to adjust.  I've read in cross-cultural adjustment that the Asian culture is the most difficult to adjust to, it would take at least 5 years.  Going home it took all of 20 mins to fall into line again.  

So ... what did I learn from my first year in Korea?  I learned how to fight.  And I'm not talking about taekwondo ... which I test for back belt in October by the way ... I speak of simply being aggressive with people.  I usually a laid back person but here if you are laid back, from work to the grocery store ... you'll get pushed around a bit.  So you've got to learn to push back, get pissed, if only inwardly ... and speak your mind.  

I learned how important my family is.  How much I love them.  How much I love my friends.  And, oddly enough how much in all my traveling and globe trotting ... how much I do want to settle down and start my own thing with a girl and start a family.  I would like to think I'm becoming a better and stronger man by being here ... maybe I am maybe I'm not ... I guess time will judge.  But I do believe that "oppositions can either break or solidify a man."  Perhaps it's both for a time but in the end a more solid and strong man emerges.  


Thursday, July 17, 2008

aerial view

This is the view from my veranda looking in ... first the living room to the kitchen and then the bedroom near the front door.  Scroll down for better pics!
This is my living room area.  You can't see the magical orange leather couch that was donated by some friends of mine here in Daejeon.  

Looking to the right out of my veranda.  The massive buildings on the left are government buildings and a nice giant park which they are currently renovating.  
Here is my desk and book cases.  You can just picture me sitting there blogging away to you people can't you?
Here is a good shot from my veranda in my new apartment.  Amazing.  Although if you look directly at the bottom of the picture above you can see a rotting carcass of a construction project that halted due to unknown reasons.  Apparently this little square as been festering for some time.  But you must look beyond the nasty to the pretty city and mountain views past it.  
Here's to the left ... the big building is a mega-church where I go on Sundays.