"I love it, I want to sign up, " I told our teacher, David. "Okay, go down to Master Chei's studio tommorow to pick up your gi and be here with it on for class on Wednesday."
The year was 1993 and I had just attended my first Tae Kwon Do class in the rec center at Arizona State University. It had been a while since I participated in TKD. My dad owned a school when I was young and taught a more hardcore version than the tyical Gay Kwon Do that is taught in most strip malls across America. I started from a very young age and became accustomed to that style.
Since then, it had been hard to find but low and behold I had finally come across what I was looking for. This class was no joke and David, the teacher, let you know up front that there were no pussies allowed and that it was going to be balls to the wall from day one. His words were reinforced by the bruises and welts on many of the students.
One in particular stood out. Bart didn't look the slightest bit intimidating. He was small and kind of nerdy looking. But he limped into class the first day, taped up his injuries and proceeded to kick the shit out of everyone in his path. There were several others who seemed just as tough. These were the kind of guys I wanted to train with.
I took the bus to Master Chei's the next day to get my gi. When I got there I forgot to take off my shoes so he was immediately pissed. Next I forgot to bow and the master was none too pleased. I told him my name and that I was there for my gi. "Dobok," he insisted.
"Great, three strikes, dummy. He's definitely gonna kick your teeth out now you nitwit"
Luckily he let it slide and went to get my gi, er, I mean, dobok. He opened up the refridgerator. I thought he was gonna offer me a beer. It was nearing happy hour, after all and the bar on the corner had a great Monday Night Football party. Maybe he was getting a jump start.
When I looked in the fridge it was stacked to the brim with nothing but gi's. Like most things in life, I found this to be incredibly amusing and started to laugh like a kid in church. I knew I shouldn't have but couldn't help it.
"I'm really dead this time," I thought. The look on Master Chei's face told me that he didn't like me. It's a look I get from most people I meet but this was a little different. With one glance I knew that he intended to exact swift revenge on my punk ass.
Luckily he let me leave alive but notified David of my behavior. I was made aware of this on Wednesday when I walked into class without removing my sneakers; yes I really am as dumb as I look. "Fifty pushups now!" David barked.
"Master Chei said you were very disrespectful."
"Way to make a first impression, douchebag. This class should be great," I thought.
For the next few weeks David punked me into the ground whenever he could. But for some reason we grew closer because of it. I think I finally earned his respect and he definitely had all of mine.
Around this time was when I was having a great awakening in my strength and conditioning studies. A lot of what I was learning and doing with my training was making a difference in my TKD performance. Eventually I got pretty good and even earned my way back into Master Chei's good graces.
We took a beating in that class but loved every second of it. David allowed us to go at it at the end of every class; full contact, no holds barred.
At the time, I still didn't have a full understanding of proper energy system training, recovery methods, how to properly structure workouts or how to avoid overtraining. Man, do I wish I knew then what I know now. That was one of my favorite classes I have ever taken and if I just knew how to train the right energy systems and build functional strength and power like I do now, I could have been so much better. I would have been able to recover faster. I would have been able to deliver much more powerful and explosive strikes and kicks. And on the days when we practiced "street fighting techniques" I would have been able to use my strength to overpower many of my classmates and opponents.
I might even have been able to get out of bed the day after sparring with Bart.
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