I have taken up taekwondo again. This is a Korean martial art, very popular in Australia in the 1980s.
When I started, the halls used to be packed with young people. Times have changed, and it’s hard to compete with Facebook and online computer games. It’s ages since there has been a really compelling Kung Fu movie. So most clubs are struggling.
When I lived in Yass, there was a great club, though they made me start again from white belt. I worked my way up to one level short of a black belt. In those days I could do a flying side-kick high above head level, to break a board. The instructor left, numbers dwindled, and one of the students murdered two teenage girls and was locked away (in Goulburn!). They shut the club down.
I tried karate for 18 months; it wasn’t as good.
We moved back to Canberra, and I found a new taekwondo club. Then I snapped my anterior cruciate ligament and it took three years before I could train again — and flying side-kicks seem to be gone forever!
I went back to the same club, but their numbers were down to very few. They had lost interest in recruiting new people.
Mostly they were 2nd and 3rd Dan black-belts, highly capable. Just keeping up with these folk was a huge stretch — quite exhilarating! Sometimes quite bruising.
That was the pinnacle of my skill. The club folded; they would have found a way for me to get a black belt, but it seemed a bit hollow so I didn’t press it.
Eventually I found another club. Good instructor, though idiosyncratic. They made me start from white belt again, which was a bit strange as their standard wasn’t that good and some of their black belts were scared of sparring me. Even when I was going easy on them.
There was a new instructor, that I didn’t get on with, and the club brought in some very strange new policies. So I left.
After a break, I found a small club just around the corner from my house in Scullin. Owen and then Allison came to training too. This was a pleasant time, but the only other senior member was the instructor, so my skill level didn’t really improve. Eventually he had a baby too, numbers dwindled, and the club closed.
Soon after, we moved to Goulburn. I found a club there, and learnt some new stuff, but that club again had very low numbers. The instructor decided to have a break after many years, and the club closed.
Training in Canberra from Goulburn is very difficult. In 2009 I found some lunchtimes classes, again small numbers and nearly all black belts. That was good fun, but without the evening classes I wasn’t getting enough training on the formal patterns.
In early 2010 I had a bad flu then an injury, so I didn’t start again immediately. When I went back, I discovered that the club had split and the new class times would not work for me.
Then we went overseas, and I had a period between contracts so I wasn’t in Canberra anyway.
But the stars have aligned again. I’m back with the lunchtime set once a week, and I’m getting to one or two evening classes too. It’s inconvenient, but great for my fitness and mood.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get a black belt — but I’m enjoying the journey, and the destination has become less important.