Leaving Calgary…

I have never had a problem leaving Calgary.  That probably sounds worse than it is… I have grown to really enjoy coming to Calgary, and wish some of my visits were longer.  I am simply saying that I cannot recall ever having any issues with traffic, at the airport, or anything.  On most days that would sound like an endorsement of Air Canada and the CATSA security screeners.  Today it is a little different.

Flood There was no mention of flooding as we landed yesterday, and frankly the first I heard of it was on the radio driving into town.  I assumed they were talking about minor flooding in outlying rural areas.  I even gave a cursory thought of heading down to Prince’s Island Park for a walk.  That would have been ill-advised at best it would seem, as the entire area is experiencing the worst flooding in a century.

It was easy to miss it… I got to the hotel yesterday and it was dry.  I walked to the office and then went out for lunch without a problem.  I even got to and from my event last night without concern.  However the entire office was abuzz with talk of the flooding, of areas washed away, of trailers lost, and of people stranded.  When I arrived at my event I found a room of 18 people instead of the 50 who were registered.  Most of them simply couldn’t get into town.

Fortunately I had made dinner reservations at a restaurant near my hotel, and I knew I would be alright.  My colleague and I got to Saltlik and it was a lot busier than I had ever seen it… people were stranded and couldn’t get to wherever it was they had to go.  There were even rumours that the downtown core would be evacuated, like so many of the suburban areas already had been.  I was not concerned for myself – sitting in a dry restaurant and a dry bottle of wine and across the stream street from my dry hotel and a 20th floor room.

As we finished the last of the bottle of wine and contemplated the idea of coffee a piercing alarm sounded.  Once I determined where it was coming from I immediately tuned it out and heard the sounds of other alarms from nearby establishments.  The staff came and hurriedly told us that it was not a drill, and the Police were ordering them to evacuate.  While the immediate area was safe it was clear from the mood that many of the staff would have a hard time getting home, and they had to leave early to try to get there.

In speaking with the hotel clerk she told me that there was no clear answer, but I should leave myself plenty of extra time to get to the airport… I asked her to adjust my wake-up call based on that.  Sirens pierced the air all night long as emergency workers dealt with the storm.

The Calgary Flood of 2013 is the worst the area has experienced in a century.  it is a testament to the training of the emergency workers that to date no deaths have been reported, but the damage is devastating.  Leaving the city this morning I saw Police blockades preventing inbound traffic; as I got onto the highway I saw the normally calm river appearing like white water rapids, much higher, much closer than I’d ever seen them.  While I am glad I had no issues getting to the airport, my thoughts and prayers will remain here today… and with the people of this great city.  Stay safe friends.

Calgary Taekwondo Academy

Black belt, 2nd dan
Black belt, 2nd dan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found myself in Calgary this week with a free evening, so in the afternoon I typed a few keywords into my favorite search engine to see what I could find.

Dojang Calgary Taekwondo

I got several hits, but the most promising of these (apart from the proximity to my hotel, I liked what I saw on their website) was the Calgary Taekwondo Academy.  I was glad that their website had their class schedule, and that they had an Open class listed from 6:30 to 7:30, which meant I could be back at my hotel and showered in time for our dinner reservations.  I called but got the voicemail, and decided to take a chance.  I packed up my uniform and got a taxi.

The dojang is in an unassuming strip mall across from a soccer pitch.  It was different from most that I had visited in that the waiting/observation room was walled off from the actual gym area.  Instead of a locker room there were changing booths reminiscent of a clothing store.  The children’s class was still going on (behind a closed door, visible through a window) so I knew I was on time.  I changed into my dobok and waited patiently for the class to be dismissed.

When the door finally opened I met Senior Instructor Kim.  As I always do I bowed, introduced myself, and told her my story.  ‘I have the honour of training under GrandMaster Hyung Chul Kim in Mississauga, Ontario.  I am visiting Calgary for three days and would be honoured if you would allow me to join your class.’

The Instructor was very friendly, and told me that of course I could.  There was one more thing I had to tell her.  In martial arts it is extremely important to be up front and transparent, especially when your belt misrepresents your rank.  I explained to her that I earned my Second Dan Black Belt the previous Saturday, and that the actual belt had not been ready in time.  She thanked me for my honesty, and asked me what poomsaes I had learned for my last test.

The warm up drills are different and the same in every dojang, and because this was an Open class (all levels welcome) they were light to moderate in intensity.  We jogged around the gym for ten minutes, incorporating some kicks then lined up for ten minutes of stretching.

We then ran several minutes of back-and-forth drills, assuming stances, throwing punches and blocks as we walked (in our stance) from one side of the floor to the other.  Finally we lined up for Poomsaes.

While each style of Taekwondo will have a variety of different poomsaes, within the Kukkiwon (World Taekwondo Federation) Kwans there are several patterns that all students will know (depending on their level).  As we would do in an Open Class at OMAC, the Master started the group off with Tae Guk 1, then Tae Guk 2, 3, and 4.  As we completed each pattern she would excuse the lower belts to practice their own patterns.

Once all of the junior belts were gone, we proceeded to Koryo – a pattern which our system learns to test for the Second Junior Black Belt (Black with a red stripe), and then has to perform again for the First Dan.  While I was solid on the Tae Guks I was surprised that I took a misstep during Koryo, which was once my favorite poomsae.  The Instructor noticed this of course, and helped me with it.  She then asked me to work alone for a few minutes while she helped the junior students.

I noted to Theresa the night before that it had been a long time since I had gone more than a day without running through all of the Second Dan poomsaes that I needed for my test, so after I ran through Koryo again I did just that – I was working on Ship Su when the Instructor came back and asked me about it.

There are literally hundreds of poomsaes in Taekwondo, and not all schools learn the same ones – even within the same system.  I showed her what I was doing, and apologized that my side kicks were not very solid.  She understood my reasons, and asked if I would like to work on kicking drills.  I was delighted, and the rest of the class was spent doing just that.

I got a great workout, but more than that I am happy that I discovered a dojang that shares and teaches the same principles as OMAC, and in a city that I visit several times per year.  I spoke with the Instructor after class and asked if it would be alright for me to come back when I am in town, and she was pleased to welcome me back.  The next time I am in Calgary I know where I will be spending my free evenings!