Palli Palli! – week 2/3/4

Ever had aching muscles for 21 consecutive days? Ever heard of an 18-year-old having a hard time climbing the stairway of a subway station? I have to admit; I was close to using the stairlift for the disabled after saturday’s training. I can tell it’s hard to focus on the next training, if the very same muscles are resisting to do their job. The last thing I want to do, though, is complain. The past 4 four weeks are definitely belong in the top 10 best-weeks-of-my-life. But just for me to get this off my chest, let me tell you what exactly makes taekwondo Poomsae training hard.

The sport requires sheer perfectionism; to win the game you have to practise a seemingly simple technique as a forward punch over and over again, until it’s completely flawless. And it just never is. Obviously, four weeks ago I came here with loads of flaws, easy to be spotted by the Korean eagle eyes. The biggest of all being the ‘okke-issue’ (okke = shoulders in Korean. I have to relax my shoulders when performing arm techniques. My master dreadfully explains it every day, the very same way: “Europe, power good… Soput, lelax, no good.” (Koreans don’t have different letters for ‘p’ and ‘f’*, so soput equals soft. And I guess you can imagine what lelax has to be.) In other words, the cliché is true: us Europeans are a bunch of tensed power bulls compared to the zen-feng-shui Korean smooth angels.

But here’s the twitch: trying to relax is rather hard when someone is shouting palli palli! at you all the time! Which means everything in the scope of ‘harder’, ‘better’, ‘faster’, ‘stronger’ (as Daft Punk once famously put it). No training passes by without a reasonable amount of palli palli’s, followed by something I don’t understand, but judging by the sounds, it means something like “My grandma does this better than you guys.”

In short, yes, I’m going through an awful lot of pain (Lord, the stretching…) and hard work, but, yes, I enjoy every Korean minute of it… in a way (a non-masochistic one). 

* I discovered a back-up plan if I might get injured and have to drop my taekwondo ambitions: becoming the world champ deciphering Korean accent English. When my master invited me and Kaas to dinner the other day, he told us it concerned a ‘poop-aye’. He repeated it a couple of times and Kaas was about to burst out laughing, which would have been quite rude, when I understood what my master was talking about. It was a buffet.


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