Tae Kwon Do (태권도)

Most people in the U.S. have heard of tae kwon do, Korea’s most famous martial art. But did you know that it’s the national sport of South Korea?

Tae kwon do (which means “the art of kicking, blocking, and punching) was developed in Korea more than 20 centuries ago. And while self-defense and combat is a part of the sport, tae kwon do also stresses personal character as part of the sport. Kicking techniques are the emphasis in tae kwon do, which is what separates it from karate or kung fu.

A tae kwon do student wears a dobok (도복) with a belt (dti, 띠) tied around the waist. A tae kwon do school is called a do-jang (도장) and the master  (senior instructor or head of do-jang) is called sa-beom-nim (사범님).

In 2000, tae kwon do became one of just two Asian martial arts to be recognized as an Olympic sport.

And right now, it’s big in our house. Our son started tae kwon do  this week and is really enthralled with it. While there are many tae kwon do dojangs in our town, we wanted one with a Korean instructor and that brought the number down to three. While it’s still our first week, we’re very pleased with the one we chose. Instructions are given in both Korean and English, the master is very good with kids, and there is a good mix of students, ethnically speaking. We’re hoping this will be a connection to our Korean American community that has been lacking. I’ll keep you posted.


Kites (연)

With the coming new year (seolnal), I’ve been thinking of the traditional activities of the day in Korea. And kites come to mind. Traditionally this is an activity that men and boys participated in on the new year.

Sometimes these activities even became kite fights. This fighter kite is unique in shape. Called a bang-pae yeon, or a shield kite, it’s a rectangle with a hole in the middle.

This site has a video and instructions for making a bang-pae yeon. www.activitytv.com/314-korean-kite

This is an activity we haven’t tackled yet. Living in an area of the U.S. that gets snow and some pretty cold temps in January and February, Seolnal isn’t the best time for us to try this activity. But I hope we can try it this spring when we have lots of wind. I’d love to hear comments from any readers who have made a kite. What are your tips or tricks for this project?

Jae ki Cha ki (재기차기), aka Korean Hacky Sack

A couple of months ago, during our Chuseok celebration, I tried to introduce several Korean games to our family. One of them was 재기차기 (jae ki cha ki), which is sometimes called the Korean version of hacky sack. But these sacks have a unique look. And they are super easy to make.

I found instructions to make them at this blog. http://theitineranthomeschooler.wordpress.com/2007/09/24/craft-of-the-week-hacky-sacks/

As you’ll see, they only require four or five items, all of which I had on hand. I did do a couple of things differently from what’s listed on the blog. We used felt (because it’s what we had), and I placed the rice in a snack-size zip-close baggie (just in case).

One other thing I did was attach our son’s 재기차기 to a wooden stick using a string. This makes it easier for the younger kids to kick. Our son had a blast kicking it around.

윷놀이 (Yut Nori, a traditional game)

In the U.S. we have Monopoly. In Korea, they have yut nori, which is a traditional Korean board game. It is often played during traditional holidays, such as Seollal and maybe Chuseok.

Yut nori consists of a board, four yut sticks, and small tokens or markers. These days the board (말판, mal-pan) is a rectangle that has four straight lines along the edges and two diagonal lines inside the rectangle. The yut sticks, which are traditionally wooden, are used like dice. And the small tokens are called mal (말, literally a “horse”) and can literally be anything–buttons, coins, pebbles–as long as there are two different colors.

Yut is usually played in teams with each team getting four tokens in their respective color. Team members take turns throwing the sticks and the number you can move your tokens is determined by the number of flat sides that are facing up (with the exception of having all round sides facing up, which is a five).

The first team to get all four of its tokens around the board wins. There are a couple of shortcuts you can take, but beware because the other team can bump off your tokens too.

It’s a fun game that can accommodate any number of players, since there is no limit on the number of people on a team. And the games can be pretty high-spirited. We saw several teams playing at the Liberation Day festival we went to in August, and played with the teens who do a Korean class for our adoptive families.

You can usually find yut nori sets at your local Korean market and they are pretty affordable. Or, if you don’t have a market nearby, you can make a set by following the directions on the The Learning Channel Web site. Here’s the address: http://tlc.howstuffworks.com/family/indoor-crafts6.htm. Just a caution, I believe the directions on this site are for a simplified version of the game. However, Wikipedia seems to have good, detailed directions about how to play and score the game. You can find those directions here:

Our family highly recommends this game. Have fun!