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Kicked in the Balls!

At 13 I abandoned taekwondo. With my father I had attended every Tuesday and Thursday for years, long enough to make red belt, but when he moved to W V, my interest waned. I withdrew into science fiction and myself. I sometimes wonder what I’d be like if I had stuck with it—certainly I’d be more flexible than now. I regret more losing contact with my instructor, BP, who had worked with my grandfather for many years and was a good man. He taught me how to kick through boards and stuff.

It was an e-mail from a former student of mine, S, that reminded me of those taekwondo days. I taught S rhetoric when I was young and idealistic; he was a loud, funny kid who had already written half a novel, had a vibrant social life and liked to tell stories about it, and spent a lot of time in my office. After that semester, he came back every few months—why he thought I was worth keeping tabs on, I don’t know, but I’m glad he did. After he graduated he moved to Baltimore to teach English, then this past summer he went to South Korea where he teaches writing and takes hapkido. Today he wrote,

I have learned enough [hapkido] to participate in an extremely basic street fighting exercise. Unfortunately, I am the only one in my class, so I had to practice with the instructors. Yellow belt vs. Hapkido masters. ...

When demonstrating a punch block/elbow to the throat technique, to show the instructor that I understood the technique, I accidentally elbowed the junior instructor in the throat. He didn’t like that, but he’s kind of used to it—just not from me. When demonstrating several street fighting techniques, my senior instructor was actually laughing gleefully as he executes groin kicks, throws, a sort of concentrated, eye gouge/back hand slap, etc. on the junior instructor.

The phrases he uttered all sort of sounded like this:

Ha ha!
No powah!
Ha ha!
Bone, see?
Here powah!
One fingah, no powah, broken. See?

I also accidentally kicked the junior instructor in the face today when I was (he was allowing me to) throwing him.

S’s accidental shots happen a lot when learning the kind of control of the body that martial arts require. One way that taekwondo teaches that control is a formal exercise, done with a partner like sparring, only without contact. Instead of improvising punches and kicks, you memorize movement, both yours and your partner’s; together, you dance. With chagrin I remember the worst of my accidental kicks came during one of these sessions: Dancing with my instructor, I was to kick high—he would block, and I would spin or punch or something like that. Instead, I kicked low; instead, he didn’t block. Suddenly, he was agonizing on the floor, his hands pressed between his legs, everyone was gathering to see what was wrong, and he was staring at me with a mixture of anger and understanding. “This is the price I pay for being me,” his look said, “but did you really have to do that?” I stood, embarassed; he limped off the floor, and I got a new partner for a while.



And I bet it hurt :-)

Bobby Valentine

S wants you three readers to know that, in addition to being brilliant, he’s also teh sexxy.

That is a story worth telling

I’m so impressed that you have a former student who keeps tabs on you. . . I think mine all went off the deep end (but that may serve me right for teaching about drugs).

Actually from that class, L, I am in touch with 2 of my students. The other is the PR director at NewPi, though, which is why I see her all the time. Most of my other students have disappeared into the ether.