Like other states across the U.S., Texas is slowly re-opening in a phased approach. I work in healthcare, and after listening to the harsh experiences of my frontline caregiver colleagues, I’m in no hurry to go rushing back into all my great state has to offer because, despite some claims, this situation is still delicate and dangerous. As an introvert and a self-proclaimed misanthrope, I haven’t been missing much anyway.
That being said, I am very excited that my dojang is officially open!
This week my school opened with limitations in place: we have to register online for classes to limit the number of people in the gym, are subject to temperature checks, we’re required to wear grip socks or taekwondo shoes (Adidas makes nice ones) rather than go barefoot, and there are other precautions. They’ve also taped off areas of the floor to help the students maintain social distancing. Classes are a few minutes shorter to give the staff time to clean.
Since we can’t hold pads and shields for each other, they’ve installed three slim hanging bags for students to punch and kick. If anything good has come from having to close for two months, I think these bags are a fantastic addition. We have one very heavy hanging bag in another location that’s not really conducive to in-the-moment class training. These bags are smack in the middle of our main training floor (near the wall, not in the actual middle of the floor), and I’ve already had the opportunity to kick the crap out of them.
Kicking the crap out of stuff feels really really good and is a tougher and more tiring workout than kicking the air, which we’ve been doing from our homes during virtual classes. Boy did I miss hitting stuff. I miss hitting people too, but we’re not ready for that yet.
On Tuesday I put on a uniform and my belt for the first time in two months. It felt both a little odd and immediately like home. Being a black belt is a part of who I am, but sometimes you just have to dress the part to really feel it. I was pleased to see a fairly large (for our limited number) class of black belts all suited up and ready to work.
Tuesday and Thursday we mainly stayed in our own little taped-off areas, which felt a bit limiting but was actually a nice challenge for our spatial awareness once we were doing forms and had to keep an eye out for getting too close to one another. I loved kicking the bags with my Adidas shoes, but hate doing forms in them, especially ones that require a lot of balance like Keumgang. Oh well, I’ll keep wearing my shoes if that means we can keep our school open.
The air conditioning was out, so between being somewhat out of shape compared to where I was in the first part of this year, I was pretty exhausted by the end of class on Tuesday. I was drenched with sweat and felt like I was roasting. As we were shuffling back to our spots to do Koryo (Two) for the third time, a little part of my brain whined about how tired I felt…and then the black belt part said in a louder voice, “This is what you’ve been waiting to get back to for months. Dig. In.”
And dig in I did. I slid and crouched and kicked and struck and did the hell out of that form. I loved it. There was no place I wanted to be other than in my dobok, belt wrapped snug around my waist, doing something I love with people I care about.
It’s good to be back in black.
Stay tuned for my upcoming book – “Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts” published by She Writes Press. Coming to a bookseller near you April 20, 2021!
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