20 July, South Korea – ‘All Over The Place – Asia, part 2’
Woke up in what was basically student accommodation, but done to typically high Korean standards, and made my way downstairs to our cars, which were parked outside what looked like some sort of Olympic arena. It’s one of several buildings like this in what is known as “Taekwondo Town”, the international home of Taekwondo. With now familiar Asian enthusiasm the place was opened about 3 years ago and spreads over 9 valleys, housing a couple of arenas and theatres, virtual reality sparring zones, a museum, a sculpture garden, a training garden, a fountain display, a monorail and a couple of observatories. All so that people can visit from around the world to kick and punch things.
Our day began with a quick warm up in a huge matted gym, with a horde of taekwondo trainers sprinting up and down the room to booming K-Pop, before we were bussed to the theatre for an impressive display of what you can achieve when you get really, really good at Taekwondo. The stage was stuffed full of people basically behaving like superheroes, doing back flips and smashing multiple pieces of wood in half as they flew through the air. I couldn’t quite believe what I was witnessing, and the stage was littered with splinters and broken blocks of wood by the end.
It wasn’t long before Tee Cee and I were on the same stage, singing our Taekwondo themed song and trying our best to demonstrate a few moves we’d been taught that morning. Towards the end of our session it was time for me to punch a piece of wood in half, which seemed completely unachievable, but with the correct stance and by landing your knuckle in the right spot a beginner can learn how to break one sheet of wood in virtually no time at all (some of the experts can do up to ten. Quite how I really don’t know). I did it, and very pleased I felt with myself too. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do ever since the karate craze at my primary school all those years ago.
We ticked off the other locations throughout the day, and by the end of the afternoon were thanking our fantastic hosts for bending over backwards to accommodate us (I’m sure some of them could do it literally if we asked them to, there are some flexible dudes in that place). Then it was another service station dinner for us as we made our way to the coast for our next day’s filming – the Boryeong MUD FESTIVAL!