Nicola decided to try a new active hobby a while ago and has stuck with it as she enjoyed it so much, so is blogging about this as inspiration for everyone taking part in the #trysomethingactive challenge. 

Here’s her first blog post, which documents how she got on during the first week of the challenge while training for the second grading…

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I have never tried a martial art before, although I had always secretly harboured the ambition to be a black belt in something. At school, loads of kids used to go to Judo and Karate, and I used to have a hankering for an activity that meant I’d wear a special outfit. Speed forward many years; I met my partner, who is a black belt in a martial art I had never heard of: Hapkido, and my interest was once again piqued.

Funnily enough, it was only a chance encounter in the bank that led us to Tang Soo Do, as one of the instructors works in our local branch and talks passionately about the art.

The classes are of the In Sung Kwan (ISK) Cornish Tang Soo Do association, which is part of the larger Moo Duk Kwan, ‘kwan’ meaning ‘school’. Moo Duk Kwan, which translates as “School of Martial Virtue”, is the trademarked name of the martial art school founded by Grandmaster Hwang Kee in Korea in 1945. The association we belong to, In Sung Kwan (translates as “School for Personal Development”) is based in Redruth (Cornwall), however the classes are taught around Cornwall.

So, one sunny June evening we pottered over to Penryn College to get stuck in. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, and my partner advised me to wear a big t-shirt and some gym trousers. This was fine, as the important thing is to be able to move easily and not get too hot.

Tang Soo Do is very focused on physical fitness, so the warm-ups involve plenty of press-ups, burpees, star jumps and physical games. This is great, as not only are you learning skills, but you’re getting really fit and well conditioned. The classes are made up of people of all shapes and sizes, ability and grade. My partner said that the mark of a good martial arts class was to have a nice big class, lots of people at different levels and a good couple of black belts. In Tang Soo Do they are actually a rather smart navy.

I was told that the idea of the black belt came about because practitioners in Korea would start with a white belt, which they would train in. The belt should never be washed, as it’s believed it holds all your skills and power. The longer and harder you train, the dirtier and darker your belt gets. Eventually, when you have trained long and hard for years, the belt becomes black.

The first few sessions left me reeling slightly, as there seemed to be so much information to take in. However, I soon invested in a Dobok, the white ‘pyjamas’ that martial artists wear. I graded for my first belt (yellow) in September, and am aiming to grade for my next belt (orange) in December.

I’ve kept the classes up because, firstly, the members are really great; respectful, helpful and patient. Also, learning to kick is more skilled and interesting than it sounds. There are loads of different ways to kick, and you can cause all kinds of harm with various kicks; the same goes for punches.

For example, a roundhouse kick, Dull Ryo Cha Kee, goes around the body to flick a kick out, as opposed to the front kick, Ap Cha Kee, that drives into the body. I love learning these skills and feeling more knowledgeable after each class.

The Tang Soo Do September Grading (I’m Still a White Belt in this pic). Looking terrifying in my sparring gear.

The Tang Soo Do September Grading (I’m Still a White Belt in this pic). Looking terrifying in my sparring gear.

This week in class we’ve been preparing for the next grading. I’ve been learning my third and fourth self-defence moves, plus the third and fourth one-step sparring (showing off form in fighting with only a few moves) and a new pattern, which is a set sequence of moves designed to show off your Tang Soo Do form. We also drilled some line-work, which is where the instructor calls Korean phrases, for example ‘Ha Dan Mahk Ki’, and we then perform that move – a mid-section low block – in a line up and down the room. It’s a real challenge, as you have to translate the Korean and then quickly strike the pose, as it were. There’s also different stances you turn into when you get to the end of the room to turn and face up the hall again. All of this with the loud spirit cry, the Ki-Hap.

So far, for the first and second gradings I have learned a variety of different kicks, blocks and punches, two patterns and a lot more Korean than I had realised! We’ve learned to count to ten, the commands for things like ‘bow’ and ‘meditation’, and the names of our patterns and every single punch, kick and block. This week we also learned the name of the four one-step sparring moves, in order to be able to shout them out as we perform them in the grading. I feel more confident going into the grading after this week’s class.

Fancy joining in the challenge? All you need to do is share photos of your new active hobby experience with #trysomethingactive on social media for your chance to win some Bounce balls! It’s not too late to get involved!

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