At Zhejiang Normal University’s fresher’s fayre, I signed up to a lot of societies and clubs. I was determined to join a martial arts or sports club and when I saw a table with strong looking guys, dressed in white martial artsy robes and black belts, I was grabbed a pen and signed the form. I didn’t even know what martial art is was, but they were really friendly guys and said they’d teach me 跆拳道 for self-defence and fighting.
Despite it being the most expensive society at this university, for me the fees weren’t expensive at all, for a whole year of classes (3 hrs a week), a set of taekwondo clothes and a pair of special taekwondo shoes, it cost £36. I had my first class last Saturday and really enjoyed the new experience.
At first it was a bit muddled, with over 70 students crammed into the hall, we were split into two groups, I chose the group that didn’t have a mirror on the wall so I wouldn’t have to see my classmates staring at me [I’m the only foreigner doing taekwondo*]. We did some running games to warm up and some stretches, for the record, Chinese people aren’t all as stretchy as you may think, none of them could do the splits.
We then stood in lines and I was on the third row, I soon realised I’d have to somehow infiltrate the first row, because with the other class behind me, I couldn’t hear the teacher** clearly. We practiced the starting position and simple backwards and forwards movements, after the first water break I rushed to the front row (and confused the girl who’s place I’d taken, she didn’t complain though). The taekwondo instructor told us that each time we take a step during training, we must shout ‘HA’, not a haha laugh, more of a ‘don’t mess with me huh!’ sound, to express and remove the sadness and stress from our bodies and lives.
Taekwondo class isn’t simply about training to fight or self defence, from the first class I’ve also learnt that team work and cooperation are values that are highly stressed during class. We did a lot of work in pairs – like holding the padded ‘foot’ out so we could practice high kicks and sitting on each others feet when doing sit ups. At the end of class, we even gave each other massages – pats on the back, using feet to massage the calves and standing on each others’ quadriceps [except my partner was bigger than me, so didn’t want to stand on me, so I returned the favour].
I think throughout the term, we will learn new skills and as we change partners, I can meet more of my classmates and make new friendships. I’m not sure if there will be any chances to enter competitions [or if I’ll want to] but I’m very keen to continue learning this new sport.
*but strangely not the only girl, the class was 90% girls, with only a handful of boys
**should I call him teacher, or master, or fellow classmate? still unsure