Day 5 of South Korea Trip 2016

This morning I woke up bright and early to instant noodles again. I didn’t have any coffee and made sure to stay nice and relaxed until the day’s event – power breaking.

Once again, I had to wait at Kukkiwon and watch my teammates compete in other events before it was time for power breaking.  Some of them competed in poomsae (patterns) while others competed in downward knife hand tile breaking. The latter event seems incredibly difficult, though I would like to try it some time in the future. You need to break as many flat tiles as you can (arranged on the floor) with the pinky finger side of your hand. It requires a lot of practice and good form.

The master that I train under and my club grandmaster competed in the knife hand tile breaking event and my grandmaster ended up coming away with bronze in the international division. Congrats to Grandmaster Wong!

One thing I’d like to note is that throughout this tournament, a lot of people worked very hard to make sure things ran smoothly. For example, the floor staff always efficiently removed the debris after a round of board / tile breaking to ensure the next event could start promptly. Bravo to the floor staff!

Finally I was called to report to the waiting area to compete in power breaking. This time, I left my phone with my club members for safe keeping so I don’t have any pictures of the waiting process.

What’s interesting about power breaking is that when you report to the waiting room, you need to write down your “challenge” for that round. That means you have to write down how many tiles you’re going to try and break. This is a bit tricky if you lack experience and don’t know how many tiles people usually try to break. During the Korean rounds, I studied the average challenge numbers and found it ranged from 12 to 15 tiles so for my challenge I went with a conservative 12. You don’t get penalized for the ones you fail to break so it can’t hurt to pick a higher number than you’re capable of breaking. The only caveat is that the height of the stack of tiles can affect the difficulty. I’ll explain that more in a later post.

They called around 6 of us onto the mat at a time and we were given 1 minute to arrange our tiles onto the breaking platforms. I actually cut one of my fingers while moving the tiles because I was so nervous I grabbed one of them too tightly. We were all provided a silicone pad to place on top the tiles so we wouldn’t cut our fists up later.

When my turn came and I was called up to bow and get ready, anxiety got the best of me once more and I wasn’t as loose as I would’ve liked to have been. That might have been partially affected by the fact that I had absolutely no experience with the material and so was a bit apprehensive. How much power could I apply without damaging my hand? I had no idea. So my turn came, I got into position with left foot back and right foot forward, gave another meagre shot, brought my left hand up, hopped up slightly and brought my left fist down on the tiles. I could tell right away that I didn’t apply enough force but at least I broke 9 tiles and that was enough to advance to the final round. Many competitors broke less.

We had some yummy instant noodles and eggs back at the house for lunch before watching some club members attempt board breaking via side kick or back kick. This event takes a high degree of skill and accuracy in your kicks.

I also walked around a bit outside. Free Red Bull was being handed out so I happily grabbed a can but I was still a bit tired from the stuffy stadium air so I went to the expo grounds to grab a “Dutch coffee” for 6000 won. I have no idea why it’s called Dutch coffee. It tasted like slightly strong coffee with ice cubes in it.

After all the events for the day wrapped up, we headed off for some amazing Korean fried chicken. I can’t stress enough how good Korean fried chicken is. It’s one of the things you MUST try when in South Korea. We ate at a Samtong fried chicken branch in Gangnam. The food was so good I found it hard to stop eating.

That’s all for Day 5! Day 6 will be quite the day as the finals take place for both power breaking and speed breaking. Stay tuned!


Day 4 of South Korea Trip 2016

The morning started off rough, with pre competition anxiety causing…turmoil in my digestive system. That’s par for the course with me. Perhaps noodles AND coffee was a mistake. We quickly ate breakfast and I had a quick trip to the washroom before we dashed off to the Kukkiwon building where I would wait for my first event – speed breaking.

Speed breaking is an event where one’s successes depends not on how many tiles are broken but on how FAST the tiles are broken. The bottoms of the tiles are fastened securely to a moving platform. It can’t be stressed enough how smoothly the platform moves on its track. If you hit the tiles with insufficient velocity, they might still break BUT the platform will also move a lot. That’s not good. The best competitors move the platform the least amount. The speed breaking apparatus is set up to alternate sides. Competitors are directed to either one side or the other.

Before competing, we needed to be ready in the stands, listening for the announcement calling us to go to the waiting room outside the building, where we reported in, got our names checked off on a list, and waited to be led to another place inside the building to wait for the event to start. The whole process entailed a lot of waiting, a lot of anxiety and a lot of people trying their hardest to RELAX and not burnout while “warming up” too much (a very real danger). I tried to enjoy some other events in the stands until finally the announcement came, calling us to get to the waiting room. I quickly got my dobok top and belt on and went off to report in while everyone wished me the best of luck.

When the time came for us to sit down at the side of the competition area and wait for our turn, I thankfully wasn’t first so I had a chance to observe others. I noticed that people had a variety of techniques and variations on how to break the tiles as quickly as possible. This being the preliminary round, most didn’t do so well, moving the platform holding the tiles right to the other side almost every time.

Finally my name was called, I got up, stood before the officials, bowed when prompted to and was then given the go-ahead by the referee with a stern, “Ready!” So I got into position before the tiles, right foot forward and left foot back, took one or two practice swings, let out a rather meek shout and swung my hand down as quickly as I could. Now the problem was that I was way too tense, which affected my speed so I didn’t do exceptionally well in this round. The good news is that I did well enough to advance to the final round – to be held two days later. You can’t see in the picture below but I moved the platform far too much and wasn’t really satisfied. I also hit it at the wrong angle. I noted the errors and vowed to correct them before the final round.

After all of us had finished our competitions for the day, we left Kukkiwon around noon time and prepared to go for lunch. We ate at Woorizib Mandoo in Gangnam area again and this restaurant served some delicious kimchi dumplings.

Once full, we headed off to one of the most vibrant shopping areas of Seoul – Myeongdong. If you don’t like crowds, you’re best off going to Myeongdong in the morning, grabbing breakfast somewhere, and doing some easy shopping before there are too many people. Anyway, we had a late start but we don’t mind the crowds as we’re from Hong Kong and we’re used to it.

We all split up and shopped around for a couple of hours. Some of us wanted to sit down and relax for a bit so we grabbed a coffee at Holly’s Coffee. At 5pm, we all met up again at Myeongdong Subway.

From Exit 3 of the subway station, you can start walking uphill towards the cable car that leads to iconic N Seoul Tower, so that’s just what we did next. It’s a long walk up inclined streets to get to the cable car building. Once, inside you should expect a fairly long line to buy tickets. If you go to the website and plan ahead, you can order tickets online. We didn’t plan ahead but we were still early enough that we only had to wait in line for about 10 minutes or so – not too bad. I can’t stress enough, that you shouldn’t go too late in the evening unless you don’t mind waiting in line for about an hour. As we were LEAVING the base station at around 7:00pm, we could see a long queue of people snaking outside the cable car building and onto the sidewalk.

It was a beautiful night so far but it was far from over as next, we still had to go to Garak Market, which is easily accessible via subway train. It’s a seafood market that features dozens upon dozens of vendors selling seafood. You pick what you want to eat and either take it home or you go to the dining area and eat it there. It should be noted that there is a service fee if you eat there, and the cost is actually not so cheap.

After filling ourselves full of seafood, we were all tuckered out by the time we finally got to our rental home and had a good sleep.

I’m sorry for the delayed posts. As I get more practice, I shall become faster at this. Hopefully, Day 5 will be out tomorrow.

Day 3 of South Korea Trip 2016

This morning was the beginning of The World Taekwondo Hanmadang 2016! First thing in the morning, we went straight away to Kukkiwon to catch the first events. Our club grand master and master were both competing in the poomsae (patterns) competition for their age group. Some people scoff at the idea of poomsae as not being very practical but I think the proper way to think of it in taekwondo is that these patterns are like a “living textbook.” If you practice them regularly, you will practice the full range of techniques with the complete range of motion. I would contend that practicing patterns is actually just as useful and important as sparring (fighting).

Aside from poomsae in the middle area, there was creative team poomsae – choreographed to match a musical score at the far left and at the far right there was jump snap-kick board breaking. The boards used for this type of breaking are relatively thin. In this challenge, it’s not about power so much as height and accuracy.

Outside the stadium, there’s a taekwondo market with various vendors selling merchandise so a few of us went out and took a look before going back to our rental house. I had some ice coffee and bought a nice blue polo shirt. The vendor that was selling the sporty polo shirts was also giving away some sort of refreshing health drink. I have no idea what it was but it tasted great and I sure appreciated it. In South Korea, sometimes a shopkeeper will give you something extra as a freebie and tell you, “Service!” in English.


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When we all gathered up at the house again and had freshened up, we went down to Gangnam subway station and took the train to Majang station. From the exit at Majang, we still had to walk about 10 minutes to get to the Majang Meat Market.


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We ended up purchasing some beef at this place. In markets like this, there are usually many different vendors showing their products at ground level. You pick what you want and they take you to their dining area in another area or on another floor. That’s what happened in this case. We were brought to a dining area on the second floor and proceeded to have a yummy Korean beef BBQ meal. The highlight of the meal was definitely the beef sashimi – yukhoe (육회 / raw beef).


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From our late lunch at Majang Meat Market, we had to rush back to the opening ceremony of the 2016 World Taekwondo Hanmadang, which would be already starting by the time we got back! Oh well. You need to make the most of a short trip to Seoul and pack in as much sightseeing and eating as possible.

The opening ceremony features some amazing displays of high flying , acrobatic taekwondo board breaking set to dramatic music. It’s incredibly dangerous and injuries occur quite often (usually from landing) with this discipline.


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Later on, we went to a grocery store in the neighborhood to get some groceries for dinner at our rental house. A delicious variety of dishes was prepared by a few great cooks and quickly consumed by all.

At the time of posting, I’m already at Day 6 of the trip! I’m very sorry about the posting delays. Last few days I’ve been busy and wiped out with little energy left to write at the end of the day. I hope to completely catch up on posts once the tournament wraps up! That’s all for now!

Day 2 of South Korea Trip 2016

We had a rather… eventful night last night so we had a late start to the morning. I had some bread and coffee, freshened up and then we all trod up the hill to the Kukkiwon building to register our club members for the Hanmadang. They asked for ID, confirmed club registration and then handed us an assortment of complimentary t-shirts, participation medals, ID cards for the tournament participants and lanyards to hold said cards.

Following that, a couple of my masters and I tried going to the administrator’s office to help me get my instructor’s certificate. I had attended The 23rd Foreign Instructors Training Course in 2011 but at the time, did not have my 4th dan (4th black belt level) so could not receive the instructor’s certificate despite completing the course. This time around, I just need to pay a 50 USD fee and they’ll give me my instructor card. Unfortunately the relevant administrator was away from his desk on a break and we couldn’t wait around for him so that will have to be done next week after the tournament probably.

Onto lunch at a nearby shop!!! I ordered some delicious bibimbap (비빔밥 / mixed rice) with a side of tofu.

In the afternoon, we all went to “Chinatown.” Chinatown in South Korea isn’t really the same as elsewhere. In most other cities around the world, it’s often a pretty old part of the city that was settled by Chinese merchants decades and decades ago. The Chinatown that is close to Seoul however, was mostly built fairly recently. Some of it was settled in the 1880s and there was a strong Chinese element for the next few decades until it gradually withered away due to apparent political pressures.

It’s located in Incheon – a neighboring city, so getting there for us entailed a lengthy trip on the local metro train.

The entrance to Chinatown is just across the street from Incheon Station. There’s also a train monument that you can take your picture in front of. I suppose it’s got some sort of special significance but I’m not sure what. Another thing I found pretty neat was the bicycle tire pump next to the public bicycle stand. I think that’s a really thoughtful feature.

Onwards into Chinatown, there were a lot of fancy new buildings dressed in traditional Chinese style edifices. Aside from all the Chinese restaurants and shops, you can find various kinds of street snacks as well as different types of ice cream. There was even a Turkish ice cream vendor playing tricks on customers before actually finally serving the ice cream.

Once you get to the other end of Chinatown, the surroundings kind of turn into Fairytale Village. This is a few streets where all the buildings are styled after various environments from fairytales. There was even a parking garage painted to look like Noah’s Ark. The thing that really stood out about Fairytale Village was the constant sight of people taking selfies all over the place. The whole area is tailor-made for selfies.

After a couple hours of walking around, taking photos and trying some snacks, we saw storm clouds rolling in and made a mad dash back to the metro station to make our long journey back to Gangnam. One curious thing I spotted in one of the stations was a storage unit full of gas masks. It’s nice to know the metro stations in Seoul are well prepared in the event of… some sort of potential unfortunate incident.

Once we got to Gangnam station, everyone was hungry for some chicken so I used Google to find a nearby restaurant called Hanbang Samgyetang 한방삼계탕, which serves samgyetang (삼계탕) – a kind of a ginseng soup with chicken and rice that’s really popular in summer. This restaurant features contemporary table and chairs dining as well as more traditional Korean dining where the table is lower to the floor and you need to sit on a cushion while you eat. I actually prefer eating that way sometimes but I suppose it’s not for everybody.


The food was absolutely delicious. If you want to try this place, the address is Gangnam-gu Yeoksam-dong 831-18.

One important thing to note about navigating around Korea using your smart phone is that Google Maps only half works in South Korea now. It will tell you where YOU are in the form of that little blue dot with a tiny arrow attached indicating what direction you’re pointed towards AND if you search for an address,  it’ll usually be able to locate it. What it can’t do in South Korea is detailed turn-by-turn directions. There are homegrown South Korean apps that can do that but they’re all in Korean.

After an eventful day, we all trudged on over to a little supermarket, picked up a few bags of groceries and by the time we got back to our house, we were hungry enough for a late night snack of French toast and fried squid. Tomorrow Hanmadang starts. Good night!