Don’t Mess With Me. I Can Throw People

What was I thinking? Why did I sign myself up for this? What do I even wear to Tae Kwon Do? Is it too late to back out?

Okay. So I had a bit of a freak out before heading off to my first ever Tae Kwon Do class. I registered to take it at the AC, as part of my mission to get fit and more involved in campus activities. When I signed up, I had felt confident and excited. When the time actually came to face the challenge, I  panicked that I’d embarrass myself.

And embarrass myself I did.

When I arrived at the AC, I couldn’t remember where the class was scheduled, so I asked the man at the front desk. In hindsight,  my embarrassment would have been avoided if I’d just brought the class info with me! “I’m not sure. Lemme check…hmm, there is a Tae Kwon Do class in the Dance Studio…”

Realizing that the class was starting in five minutes, I sprinted upstairs. Luckily, I was already wearing my well-planned outfit of black yoga pants, a U of T t-shirt, and a white zip-up hoodie, so I didn’t need to waste time going to the change room. I’d hoped that by wearing “the basics,” I could avoid standing out too much in class.

My well-planned outfit!
My well-planned outfit!

Imagine my stress when, breathless from the dash upstairs, I barged into a sea of Tae Kwon Do uniforms.This was clearly not a class of beginners! The group of experts was already clustered around a man who appeared to be  a very experienced and knowledgeable instructor, who was giving them, what I guessed, were his opening comments. Great, not only am I wearing a newbie stamp, I am also late. My plan to blend in had failed miserably.

As soon as I walked over to join the group, people started to disperse. I went over to the instructor and apologized for being late. “Try to make it here ten minutes to eight next week so you have enough time to get ready,” he said.

What, 8pm? I missed it? I thought the class was at 9?

Before heading home, I decided to re-check the class time with the man at the front desk. He told me that a Tae Kwon Do instructor had arrived minutes earlier for a class in the activity room downstairs. Slightly disappointed that I was not going to make it home in time for “Grey’s,” I ran downstairs. When I finally got to the class, I felt instant relief. There were t-shirts, shorts, track pants, hoodies…the only Tae Kwon Do uniforms in sight were on the instructors.

After the warm-up, the instructor, a very enthusiastic and patient U of T student, divided the class of about 50 into two groups: people who had taken the class last year, and first-timers. Over half the class drifted towards the beginner side. Again, relief! I was in the right place.

A bit of a drill sergeant, the instructor broke down “the basic punch” and had us practice against mats in groups. “Yes sir! Yes sir!” we replied obediently to each of his orders. My group bonded quickly, joking about how ridiculous we felt and how bruised our knuckles were going to be the next day (they ended up being fine).

After “the punch,” came “the throw.” Is he serious? I wondered, after the instructor demonstrated a painful-looking drop tackle on an intimidated volunteer. My group froze. It was awkward enough to meet new people and work out with them, let alone stick your butt into their hip, lift them off the ground and whip them around your body in a backbreaking catapult.

I’m not going to lie. I considered sneaking away early. But my group decided we’d all give it a try. I was surprised by how easily we were able lift each other onto our backs and twist each other to the mat. “The throw” was much easier to execute than it seemed!  After the class, I felt tough. “Hardcore” even.   Don’t mess with me! I thought on my walk home.

My next class is around the corner. Even though I survived the first one, I already have that pre-exam, “can I call in sick?” feeling. I’m sure that it’ll take a few weeks to get over the anxiety of trying something new, but I’m also looking forward to learning more skills. Ah! If we threw people in week one, I can only imagine what moves come next…

-Shannon