Learning Taekwondo at Koryo Do



February 8, 2017

I bowed as I walked into Koryo Do. Moving quickly over to the row of chairs, I sat down, and watched as the younger age group finished sparring for their last ten minutes of class.  The children had on helmets and gloves for protection. While contemplating the equipment, I reminded myself of the footwear. They were wearing black foam over the top of their feet with an elastic strap which stretched underneath their arches. Since starting class a few months ago, I had put those foot protectors at the top of my wish list.

The reason I am intrigued with the protective gear is I am an almost fifty-four year old woman with arthritis. Some days I use a cane to get around without worry. Yes; I am thinking your reaction may be to question why in the world I would be trying to learn martial arts at my age? Believe me; I ask myself the same question as I look at classmates who are young and in great physical shape. Let’s just say that I was led to Koryo Do and Master Jose Delgado by spirit.


I fought back that moment of fear that always starts to hit me right before class begins. What am I afraid of?  Am I afraid of getting hurt?  I contemplate that for a moment. Yes; I am afraid of getting hurt.  So I mentally try to rationalize with that fear. I ask myself, “Have you been hurt so far in the process?” Well, I do remember a few good bruises along the way such as the time I accidentally hit my toes into the hard plastic stand below the bag we were kicking; and the time when a classmate grabbed my neck too roughly – probably not too rough for a young person, but only for a woman of my age.  None of my aches or bruises have hurt for longer than a week, so was that fear really warranted? I decided that it was not and pushed it aside.

Speaking of fear, this has been a year of spiritually working on conquering my fears, and thus I was led to Koryodo and Master Delgado.  I may have started working out at the Koryo Do to start working to overcome fears, but I soon realized that Master Delgado and the Koryo Do was so much more than a place to help me conquer my fears – oh, it was so much more than that.  It was a family, and from this bond of family I began drawing strength, support, and encouragement.

The younger class has just finished, and it is time to move to the mat to start warming up. Taking my position, I begin to stretch before the class begins. It feels somewhat surreal to be stretching for a physically demanding class while wearing a knee brace when just hours earlier I was using a cane to walk around.  Interestingly enough, I have found that my arthritis hurts less the day after class than the day before class which was the opposite of what I had expected.

Class is now officially starting, and Master Delgado has asked a student to lead the warm up session.  This is new, and the student is hesitant.  Master Delgado repeats the request, and the student moves in front and quietly begins leading the warm up. Stretching feels good to me, but I have to modify for the deep knee bends due to my arthritis.  Fortunately, I have not been made to feel any less for the modifications needed.  We are all encouraged to work hard regardless of our physical weaknesses. My knees won’t be magically be healed at a possible moment of confrontation; my physical body is what it is, and I just need to learn to work with other strengths to help overcome my weaknesses.

After the warm up session is finished, Master Delgado asks each of us to critique the student who led the warm up. Basically, all of our critiques, combined with Master Delgado’s critique, gave praise to the student’s good work but also pointed to a lack in confidence characterized by hesitation and soft voice. Master Delgado said that eventually each of us would be leading the warm up session to give us practice in leadership skills. I doubt that I will do as well as the student when my turn comes. . .  Oh well, I won’t think about that now.

Transitioning from warming up to class activities, teams are chosen by Master Delgado for a balloon kicking game which we play often in order to learn how to work well as a team and to control our kicks.  Master a Delgado is always watching how we work together https://ginadoesmartialartskoryodo.blogspot.com/2017/02/february-8-2017-martial-arts-class-at.htmland mentally notes our strengths and weaknesses. A girl on each team noticeably took charge as leaders. One with the strength of direction and the other with the strength of encouragement.

The next activity works with punching and blocking while facing partners over a chair and stick blockade used in the balloon kicking game. I began as the odd one out who does chair push-ups but rotated to punching and blocking. Teams worked together to meet time and hit ratios which narrowed each round.

Following that exercise, lying on our backs now, we do sit-ups, leg lifts, and leg flutters. The amount of rotations climb higher and higher.  I have to eventually stop from exhaustion but then realize that I need not remain stopped and fall back into continuing the tasks.

Teams are changed, and Master Delgado now hints to a consequence for the non-winning team. Soon my team is awarded the consequence. At least I have a few team members to share it. . .

The consequence was definitely a new challenge which involves continuous rolling on the ground combined with jumps over team members. I learn that this is to teach us to learn to move on the ground as opposed to remaining stationary. If you remain too long in one spot on the ground against an adversary, your chances of great harm are higher.

We ended our lesson today with playing the ballon kicking game once again. After a discussion we were even more aware of our need to work together (the importance of knowing the names of our family members was emphasized) and to try to make our kicks more accurate. This time I happened to be on the winning team thanks to teammate Master Delgado. ; ) Right before our final bows, Master Delgado addressed a question which I had asked earlier in the class.  I was curious as to how to best defend against an attempted purse snatch. Master Delgado asked to borrow my purse and demonstrated the best technique to use. As most techniques we have learned in class, it is all about transferring energy to your advantage.  Mentally, I made note of this extra information which hopefully will never need to be used. . .

As we ended class with our final bows, I made my way to  sit down in the lobby. Our formal class may have been over, but informally Master Delgado is still teaching us.  He reiterates that our lessons are not just about learning how to defend ourselves but are a process of becoming the best we can within all areas of our lives. This is made clear as he continues to personally talk with each one of us after class and suggests ways we can use our strengths and work on our weaknesses in our daily lives.

Master Delgado goes beyond teaching skills.  He takes his lessons steps further. Always during class he is watching and accessing our abilities and thinking of ways to teach us which will strengthen weaknesses, even if it means he changes his lesson plans halfway through class.

I am an almost fifty-four year old lady with arthritis who after just a few months of instruction at Koryo Do under Master Jose Delgado is able to fearlessly kick, jump, push, and roll with a younger crowd tonight. If I was told a few months ago that I would be doing the things I was doing tonight, I would have laughed and said it was impossible. In a couple of weeks, I will be testing for my first belt.


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