Keep it Clean… it will last longer!

Last night at Taekwondo two women (a student and a parent) asked me the same question: ‘Is that a new dobok?’ The dobok is of course the uniform we wear, and until you are a Senior Instructor in our system it is white with our logo on the back. Additionally I have two flag patches on mine – the left arm bears the Israeli flag, the right arm the Canadian flag.

Mitch Fighting PositionI have two ‘active’ doboks… and when I say active, I mean currently in use. I have two others – the one that was issued to me as a White Belt beginner, and the one I bought to replace that one – but they never get worn. It is Interesting to note (because of the questions) that the last time I bought a new one I was preparing to test for my First Dan Black Belt… in 2010.

Although there was a time when this was not true, I currently wear both doboks evenly. I usually teach almost every night, and I really do sweat a lot (you try doing any physical activity for three hours at my weight). Because of this, I tend to do laundry every second night, and make sure that my doboks are both cleaned. Of course, this does expose me to the risk should my washing machine (or drier) catches fire that I lose them both… but that is a reasonably low risk that I am willing to take.

Once the doboks are clean I hang them up properly on a wooden clothes hanger, and they go into the closet. In the morning before I go to work I pick one out (at random on Laundry Day +1) and hang it in my car where it stays until it is time for Taekwondo.

…and then when I put it on, I go to work, and I sweat. I do jumping jacks, I jog, I do sit-ups and push-ups. I lead the stretching (or I follow along), I punch, kick, spar, and do my poomsaes (patterns). Some evenings I do weapons, and if you don’t think those are strenuous, try this: have someone pull a handgun on you, don’t get shot, disarm and incapacitate them. Then do it 100 more times, and then teach a group of Black Belts how to do it. Trust me, it’s a lot of work J

At the end of the evening I am sweatier and my dobok is dirtier than anyone else in the club. It is not so because I try harder and am more active than they are, that is just not true. Yes, I am usually there longer than anyone except the Master… but the reason my dobok is dirtier is because I am fatter than everyone else, and because of that when I am active I sweat more. I literally have to peel my dobok off some days. Despite the fact that when I get home it is going into the wash, I do not throw it in a ball in my bag; I hang it back up on the hanger and then when I get to my car I hang it as I would a tuxedo.

I do not consider the dobok to be sacred or especially irreplaceable; I consider my belt to be so, which is why it never goes into checked luggage, and never gets washed. The belt was awarded to me by my GrandMaster in a very sacred ceremony. My dobok? I paid for it and it was handed to me.

However the dobok does not have to be sacred for us to treat it with respect. The respect shows that I care for it properly. It also means that five years after I bought it, my dobok is still in nearly pristine shape. It does not get thrown on the floor, it does not get eaten in. I do not wear it to and from the dojang. I treat it the same way I treat my good suits (although I do NOT dry-clean it, and never have). But if you treat it right, it will last a very long time.

Now, with that being said, I am really looking forward to needing a new dobok soon… I have worn the largest size possible since I started, and hopefully with my weight loss progress that will soon no longer be the case!


6 responses to “Keep it Clean… it will last longer!”

  1. Hi Mitch,

    Agree totally with cleanliness concept (but I always took great care to ensure it imparted no scent or that I matched it to the environment when on a mission).

    I of course had belt-based systems – 5th dan Ninjutsu & 4th dan Aiki-Jutsu (though awarded by the various Grandmasters “off the books” without tournament participation since I was trained from summer after 1st grade with the full intent of being combat lethal – or less-than-lethal – but never to score by coming close lest I accidentally revert); however, I only wore white (actually a bit off-white) if warranted by the environment (McMurdo, Siberia,…). I did have black (wrongly assumed by many for Ninjas), but that’s wrong since pure black stands out. Most for night were a mottled dark gray (but I also had over a dozen that were terrain-specific).

    I notice you seem to be wearing sneakers or something similar – I understand that or bare feet are normal. I typically wore Tabi boots of various colors, heat retention, water resistance, jungle endurance, etc. as keeping the big toe separate proved advantageous in various ways.

    Working with various Tier One Combat Teams (including, Known to you I’m sure, Mossad {I think – but they wouldn’t admit – Kidon}, Sayeret Mak’tal, and Shayetet 13), I of course, have an “honorary” belt in Krav Maga (common in SF there & many places because, IMO, it may be fastest way to go from beginner to lethal – and it is good – but ultimately caps too early unless honored to be taught Kapap/Lotar where I “traded” for a few moves – LOL!).

    I must admit being curious, as you’re former IDF, how it is that you’re belt is in Taekwondo since in the 30+ years I was a covert Agency Combat Op working around the world & concerned with such things (easier if you can predict styles & anticipate moves), I never saw that style formally taught in IDF. Did you pick it up young & manage to opt-out of their official styles or end up teaching them unique aspects of yours (as I did)?

    Also curious, but do you go much into hosinsool? I ask only because had I had a Saseong briefly involved with me, I suspect that might have been the only focus provided.

    But I must admit, that I “stole” a three-section-staff from your style as none of mine had anything that excellent (& easy to carry) for covering 360 at that particular distance – but I never found many situations where that distance or situation evolved. You have as large a selection of weapon options as I do (possibly more as I don’t like some that sync with ninjas) and I’d be interested to hear which you favor and why (and perhaps under what conditions).

    If you were to go into combat, what martial-art weapons would you carry (recognizing limits when combined with military weapons, ammo, & common gear for a 3-day recon, soft penetration, rescue, & then 2-3 platoon fortified compound site takedown without help or air support)?

    God, if only COPD hadn’t taken my endurance – you’d think I would have been smarter than to get hooked on Camel non-filters (but obviously I wasn’t). .

    Geez, I can yak on when I get going. Feel free to split this into a separate topic or ten or take it all off-line.

    Later, bro.


    1. Hey Kosh,

      As Taekwondo is considered a sport in addition to a martial art, someone decided to capitalize, and they make Taekwondo sneakers. I have three pair, none of which have EVER been worn outside of the dojang. I am trying to place an order for some martial arts gear, and have included a pair of Kung Fu slippers… we’ll see how I like them.

      I know nothing of any organization known as Mossad, and can only assume that the people you worked with in Sayeret Matkal and Shayetet were Army and Navy.

      The IDF teaches a lot of things, and in my time there I became quite proficient at KM. Before the army I had achieved a Brown Belt (a hundred years ago) in JKA Shotokan, although what I remember of that can be demonstrated in my ability to spell it. I took up Taekwondo in 2009 when Theresa and I were advised we should enroll our son in a martial art. I decided to do it with him. He hated it, I obviously didn’t. And while I have a number of pins on my uniform related to KM, I have no belt… and I certainly did not opt out of anything in the army, and I LOVE teaching our Black Belts KM every once in a while, mostly with regard to handgun- and knife-defense.

      I have never really played with the three-section staff; my weapon of choice (for the past 22 years) is nunchaku. I don’t feel the need to carry a weapon anywhere anymore, but if I did, in Canada it would be a 12″ stick with a piece of rope tied in a loop at the end. Why? simple… nunchaku are illegal in Canada. Doh!

      WHEN I went into combat with a martial arts weapon it was always nunchaku… I assume you mean in addition to an assault rifle and a knife.

      Kosh any time you want to talk off-line, let me know – I’d be glad to chat 🙂


  2. Ha ha. You gave me a good chuckle describing your routines around your dobok. From what I’ve read from your blog, it’s pretty much the way you treat everything that matters. And everything matters, or you wouldn’t have it. Very organized, very deliberate, very anal-retentive, and just like me.

    David Pike

    1. Actually David, the people who know me closest will disagree with that… I do not treat everything as well as I should, and I have a lot of junk (although since I moved out of the house I am trying to eliminate a lot). My life is an interesting combination of very deliberate and very haphazard… I would make for an interesting case study 🙂

  3. That is the best reason for replacing it.

    1. While I like new as much as the next John, my doboks are in nearly new condition despite years of wear. That is what you get when you buy the best. I don’t want to spend another $200 to replace them! 🙂

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