Taekwondo In China

by Chris Knight
(Jilin Province, China)

Hi from China

I teach and work at a university in NE China. My story starts about three years ago. A friend (fellow teacher) and I had gone to a barbecue. We ate our fill, had a couple of beers, and decided to grab a few bottles and watch a couple of movies at home.

We got back as far as the university entrance gate. I was in front. It was dark. Somebody shoved something in my face, and instinctively, I batted their hand away. Suddenly, I was on the ground with four men jumping on my head, kicking me in the ribs and the temples, and yelling at me in Chinese.

A couple walked by, looked at what was happening, and kept going. A student also saw what was going on, but was ordered not to do anything.

Who were these four men?... University Security Guards. What did they do? I found out later, that the object they shoved in my face was a thermometer. They were trying to take my temperature to see if I had H1N1 !! They didn't ask. They didn't say anything. They just shoved this ... thing ... into my face ... in the dark ... and I was expected to know what they were doing!

Two hours later, in my apartment with torn clothes and crusting blood all over my face and head, I'm yelling at the university Foreign Affairs officer about lawsuits, my embassy and everything, and I can feel my blood pressure topping out, as well as see little red spots floating in front of my eyes.

The next morning, I started seriously looking at trying to find some sort of martial arts training for defense.

This is China. More and more foreigners are getting attacked every year. Some actually die. I wasn't about to become that sort of statistic.

Unfortunately, since my Chinese language skills are practically non-existent, I didn't find much much in the way of training where the instructor spoke English. Nothing, as a matter of fact. So I gave up.

Fast forward to September, 2011. I'm getting lazier. Fatter. My height is 5' 6". My weight is 171 lbs. I've got a huge beer gut. My blood pressure is around 166/140. I'm bordering on becoming a diabetic. My wife tells me I have to do something to lose weight. I say, "Yes dear", and have another swig of my beer.

Later, I figure out that, yeah, my wife is right. I've got to do something. I'm killing myself. I think back to three years ago, when the guards kicked the living you-know-what out of me. Ever since that time, I've been going downhill. I vow to do something about it, so I start jogging. My uni has a 400m track. It was slow going at first. My first run was 200 metres. Halfway around the track. I started getting better. Going farther ... faster. But I didn't feel right. I didn't feel that I was improving. I needed more.

I found out that my university had a Taekwondo club. They met every weekend in the gym. The price was right, and since it was being done right at my uni, Some of the people would speak English and be able to help me out. It turns out that hardly anyone spoke English. Most of the students were, and still are, speech and hearing impaired students (It makes for a really quiet class!!), however, there are a couple with some basic English language skills. I figured that I could help them with their English, and they could try to explain things so that I could learn Taekwondo.

Well, as with all best laid plans, it didn't quite work out that way. The English consisted of, "do this", as this 22-year old young man dropped effortlessly into the splits, and, "You can do it", as he sat on his heels and then laid down flat on his back with his legs underneath him.

I'll be 50-years old in 8 months. My body doesn't do those things anymore!!

I'm very happy to say, however, that in December, I passed my yellow belt test. Thanks to Taekwondo, my blood pressure is down to a much more manageable 135/85 (which is very good for somebody approaching 50), and I have lost almost 20 lbs in weight.

I feel fantastic. I can walk up the seven flights of stairs to my apartment and not be totally out of breath, and I feel more and more confident about myself every day. I picked up a couple of kicking targets, and there isn't a day that goes by when my wife doesn't grab them and say, "Ok, time for you to practice your kicking". If I'm too busy, or haven't got the time, she tells me I'm too lazy (LOL).

I must thank you for your website, Deb. Because of the language barrier in my classes, I have to come here a lot to learn those things I don't pick up in class. Things like hip stretches/strengthening. Foot placement. Chambering, etc. I learn the physical stuff from my class, but I learn the theory from your website.

More, please.

When we were learning the first poomse for our yellow belt test, I had no idea what we were doing. I came here, downloaded the video and practiced it over and over again until I got it perfect. Without your site, I don't think I would have passed my belt test. Thank you very, very much.

Taekwondo is a wonderful way to get, and stay, in shape, as well as build confidence, stamina, and self-determination. Thank you Deb, for a wonderful site. Keep putting more information on it. Guys like me need it.

Chris Knight
Changchun, Jilin Province, China

Deb's Reply

Hey Chris - awesome story - thanks so much for sharing. Congratulations on your great progress down the path to a healthy mind and body.

Thanks also for your kind comments about the site - it's a hobby I spend time on it when I can - but my daughter Leah is showing interest in writing some articles - she's 13 now - watch this space.

Thanks again Chris

Deb :-)

Comments for Taekwondo In China

Average Rating starstarstarstarstar

Click here to add your own comments

Nov 10, 2012
The journey ... Onward and Upwards
by: Chris

This is a continuation of Taekwondo in China.

I was supposed to have my belt test in June, but it was canceled due to one of China's many holidays, so ... I had to wait. Over the summer, I went to Zhuhai, in Southern China. Zhuhai surrounds Macao, very near Hong Kong. I was so busy and it was so hot (+45 Celsius with humidity to match), that I did no Taekwondo, outside of a few "classes" I taught, as part of the summer work I was doing (I taught some basic blocks and kicks as part of a 90 minute class). Needless to say, when I got back up north, I had a lot of stretching exercises to do!

Well, last week, I finally did my belt test. I was told that if I did well enough, I would get my green belt with the blue tag, so, of course, I put my best foot forward, so to speak.

I got my results this week. My poomse ... perfect. My front kicks and side kicks were also very good. When it came time, however, to perform 5 consecutive roundhouse kicks ... not so good. I tweaked a thigh muscle on the first kick, and the rest of my roundhouses just got progressively worse. By the time I finished the 5th kick, I was in lots of pain, and looked like a pregnant elephant doing the fire dance. However, as they say ... No pain, no gain. I did manage to get my green belt, though, so all that pain was worth it in the end (Yes, right after class, I went to the pharmacy and got some good liniment. I'll be ready for more torture tomorrow LOL)

LInda's reply
Well done Chris and congratulations! I was hoping to hear back from you. Sorry about your injury and you were right about the stretching. Keep up the good work!

Jun 11, 2012
It's no longer a saga ... now it's a journey
by: Chris Knight

Thank you David for your kind words of support. It's now June. We have a belt test coming up in two weeks (June 23rd and 24th). I will be testing for my green belt. Do I have the confidence? You bet I do.

Like I stated in the title. This is no longer a saga. This is now a journey. It has gotten to the point now where I practice Taekwondo every day (mostly by myself LOL), and my teaching job I do for fun. It is exam time, so there have been quite a few classes where I am the only student. That's a good thing for me, because I get the one-one-one and I can concentrate more fully on form and technique.

I do have a question for members here. How important is it to learn the Korean for all of the various Taekwondo movements; kicks, blocks, punches, patterns, etc.? Here, we don't learn them. We only learn the Chinese (Mandarin). For example, Taegeuk sam-jang becomes "tai qi (tai chi) san jiang".

I'll let everyone know, as soon as I find out, how I did on my belt test.

Linda's reply
So great to hear about your pending grading for Green already - time flies when you're having fun! You're very fortunate to have that one on one with your instructor to give your basics and forms the attention they require.

In regards to your question regarding Korean terminology, I think you will get an interesting array of answers that will be personal to each practitioner.

I have a couple views on that pertaining to you though. Because of your geography and your ability to already speak Mandarin, I would say learn the Korean terminology. If you ever have the opportunity to travel to Korea and train, you will be so grateful that you did take the time and care to learn some of their language in relation to your practice. Secondly, perhaps it will not be as difficult for you if you have already learned other languages. Just start off with your kicks. When I first began to learn, I would say the Korean word instead of my kiyup until it was stuck in my brain!

Personally, I do wish Taekwondo schools would use the Korean terminology as it gives a level of integrity and respect to the practice.

Apr 14, 2012
The Saga Continues
by: Chris Knight

We did our grading test for the yellow belt in December, right before the Chinese New Year started. In March, after the new term began, I received my certificate and belt. I was double graded!! I went from White to Yellow with Green tag!! I couldn't believe it. I thought there must have been a mistake. I mean, my Chinese is lousy. No matter how much I stretch, my muscles and ligaments still feel like wound-up springs, and yet ... Master Sun still thought that I had earned it for some reason. Not that I'm complaining, of course, but ... could it be true? I don't know. I still go, every Saturday and Sunday, like clockwork. I still stretch every morning (even when my 50-year old body says, "What are you DOING?" After practice, I am still sore, and I can barely walk home ...

But, I'm still lovin' it !!!

and what a great Saga to continue! I'm really enjoying your story and journey. It's like a good book, keep up the good work! I'm helping Deb with her site as we are training partners and like yourself, 50 is knocking on the door next year. Its a transforming practice & hope to continue as long as possible right there with you.

Feb 07, 2012
Baby Steps
by: David Fiscus


Congratulations on earning your yellow belt. I just earned my Black Belt in December, but before that the favorite belt for me was Yellow. I think that's because it was the first belt I earned, and started me down the road to my Black Belt. As an over 50 and overweight man, I shared the same struggles you will. So if you don't mind, I'll share some advice with you. First, never compare yourself with other students. When setting goals, make them based on your own abilities. Constantly work on your stretching, but don't over do it. Flexiblity will come gradually, but you don't want to get injured. I am please you've seen weight loss, and improved blood pressure. I expect that you will notice that this is a great stress reliever as well. Have fun in class, this will help you stay on the path. One of the success factors for me has been that I find taekwondo much more enjoyable than running circles on a track, or lifting weights. Maybe your wife will elect to join you when she sees the benefits you experience. I wish you all the best of luck.

David Fiscus
Cypress (Houston) Texas

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Your Taekwondo Stories.

helping you grow through martial arts