On the evening of Monday the 7th of December an excited group of 20 students, instructors and parents boarded flight VN658 to Seoul, South Korea for a unique travel adventure!
The students were to take part in a specialized poomsae training course conducted by Grand Master Shin Chul Kang, former coach of the Iranian national team at his Namchang Dojang in Suwon.
Training with Master Yujin Kang, Head coach of Namchang Dojang.
For those who have a keen interest in taekwondo, being able to train in the homeland of Korean martial arts is a must, at least once in a lifetime!
And this trip did not disappoint! The experience not only imparted our students with the skills to further their understanding and practice of the art at an elite level but also an opportunity to bond closely as a team.
Over the duration of the four day training, the absolute basics were taught and re-taught in conjunction with the discipline, values and historical aspects of taekwondo, culminating in the pursuit of perfection of bettering the student's practice of poomsae.
I saw with my own eyes how my own child transformed from a student merely executing poomsae to one who, through careful and thorough guidance, worked to perfect every move with determination and meaning. It was truly heartwarming to see our kids improve so much during this training.
These experiences go hand in hand with training back home as it sets the foundation of understanding the philosophy or "do" of the combat art of the kick or smash with the foot "tae" and the punch and destroy with the hand "kwon".
As most of our students compete in sports taekwondo at inter-school, national and international level, overseas training helps to push up the standard to achieve greater competitive success.
Our coaches too, were able to gain valuable insights into various methods of training that could also be incorporated into training back home.
Suwon itself has a beautiful old town of tiny streets filled with quaint cafes and artisan shops within the ancient Hwaseong Fortress, a fortified wall running around the entire city. The walls are now a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. As part of their training, the students ran to the top of Gwanggyosan, a small mountain overlooking the old town to take in the breathtaking views.
Training aside, no trip to South Korea is complete without sampling some of the country's unique culinary offerings and other attractions. The group thoroughly enjoyed visits to beautiful Nami Island, Everland and Lotte World themeparks, Kimchi making, wearing of Korean national dress, Korean drum lessons, the enchanting Ansan Star Village as well as a visit to the world headquarters of taekwondo, Kukkiwon.
As a taekwondo enthusiast, Kukkiwon (국기원, World Taekwondo Headquarters) is high on the list of "must see" places. Literally translated as "National Gymnasium"and built in 1972, Kukkiwon sits on top of a hill in the upmarket Gangnam district and is considered the centre of taekwondo culture and excellence.
We were fortunate enough to take in a performance by the Korean National Taekwondo Demonstration Team which showcased the skills and precision of taekwondo alongside a theatrical storyline that left our students in awe, perhaps igniting their own dreams within the Singapore National Demonstration Team.
To round off the trip a massive shopping spree was organised where members could stock up on their favourite Korean goodies and souvenirs to share with family and friends back home.
From a parent's perspective, the trip was great. The team is highly disciplined and run by very responsible seniors. They arrange everything with regard to the kids so parents are able to fully take in what the tour has to offer, be it engaging in deep conversation over tea with Mrs Kang, sneaking off for a waffle ice-cream while the kids are training, exploring the Suwon old town on foot or a spot of shopping downtown. All was possible!
From a student's perspective, specialized training develops skills to give a competitive edge but more importantly, is the realisation that every individual success is attributable to the team at Acme. And yes, it's lots of fun too!
On the 9th day, the group boarded VN406 bound for Singapore and safely touched down at 19:25.
It was a highly educational and entertaining expedition that is forever etched in the memories of all those who attended.
Looking forward to joining the next trip!
Written by Liana Tjio & Jeff Long (Parent of Isabella Ashley Long)
Photo of the training with Grandmaster Shinchul Kang.