chapter 1

20 Oct

Kuk Sool Won, Part 1

The year is 1998, and I am a young, supple 8 year old. I believe I weighed roughly 90 to 100 pounds, which made me decently husky. I was tall enough so that I wasn’t the fat kid everybody made fun of when he couldn’t catch up with the kids who took his pokemon cards (actually happened), but I wasn’t athletic. I had, if you will, a doughy physique.
As a kid, I distinctly remember never really being picked on. I had a fair amount of friends my own age, and one kid who was 2 years older than I was. All of this will have meaning eventually.

I recall a very fateful September day, a day that would forever change my life’s meaning. I had come home, and my parents informed me I was going to be taking real, bonafide kung fu lessons. I was ecstatic. I would learn how to do all the cool stuff I had seen in the movies, like jumping kicks, and fighting with sticks and swords! I eagerly dressed myself in sweat pants and a T-shirt, and my dad drove me for what seemed like eternity.

We finally arrived at the school. I was initially unimpressed; I expected one of those ancient looking houses you see in kung fu movies, and what I received was a dull gray building nestled between a golf shop, and a baskin robins. I continued inside, and instantly felt a feeling of wonderment. The front room was boring; it housed a table littered with old issues of Inside Kung Fu Magazine, a glass display case with weapons, videos, and books, and a 900 year old lady, of what I presumed to be chinese origin. She asked me if I wanted to try the class, and I eagerly replied ,”Yes”. She led me through a small doorway, into the main area of the school.

Once inside, I was filled with happiness and wonder. My dad tried to follow us, but she informed him that non-students weren’t allowed in! Ah, the pride. I looked around; there was one wall filled with weapons (one was noticably a giant pink fan, which I assumed was for the women practicioners), one wall entirely covered with mirrors, one regular wall, and where the final wall should’ve been was nothing but windows that looked into the parking lot. How peculiar, I thought. I realized that the reason I hadn’t noticed them before was due to the fact that they were tinted. I later learned that this was so people didn’t steal our secrets.

The head instructor walks up and greets me with a smile. We shake hands, and I instantly notice he is missing half of his index finger. He notices that I notice, and clears his throat.

“I lost in an electrical accident. It’s no big deal.”

I simply nod, but on the inside I’m ecstatic. My teacher is missing half his finger, and plays it off like nothing? What a bad ass.

He leads me over to a group of people. There’s one tall guy and his girlfriend, both asian, the girlfriend’s sister, who is grossly overweight, and another kid who is already wearing a black belt. The instructor says he will return shortly, and trots off. I look at the black belt, puzzled. Why is he in the first timer group if he’s a black belt?! He must have noticed my staring and says, “Yea, I was a blackbelt in Tae Kwon Do. It got boring though, so I wanted to be a blackbelt in something else.” I nod with mixed feelings. If he’s a black belt, shouldn’t he be bad ass? Why is he even here?

The instructor returns, and shows us when, where, and how to bow. We practice it a few times, and he informs us of school etiquette. He singles out black belt boy, and mentions that here he is just like all of the other beginners. I quietly laugh to myself.
He then tells us a little bit about our art form. It is called “Kuk Sool Won”, a korean art. He tells us about the various weapons, self defense uses, and how the grand master taught it to the korean army! Despite my age, I knew if it was taught to people in the army, it was the real deal.

Next, he shows us the foundation of KSW: the stance. One foot in the front, one in the back. The front leg is bent at a 90 degree angle, and the back leg is bent in a lesser degree. Our arms our down about sternum high, both flat. If viewed from above, it looks like a U. He informs us that “You make a U to protect U!”. It makes sense. We finish the class by bowing as we were supposed to, and head home. My dad asks if I like it.

I yell “HELL YEA” in the car, we both laugh, go home, and eat ice cream.


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