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.
I 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!