PORT ANGELES — Scarlett Fulton of Port Angeles and Ava Reymond of Sequim got the trip and the memories of a lifetime.
And along that trip, they gained the skills and the support to help lead them on their way to their taekwondo black belts.
White Crane Martial Arts students Fulton, 13 and Reymond, 14, were part of a delegation of American taekwondo students and leaders that spent 10 days in Korea.
Along the way, the girls shopped, tried authentic Korean food, visited Buddhist temples and most importantly, visited the taekwondo world headquarters and dressed up in suits and ties to meet with some of the highest ranking masters of the martial art.
White Crane was amongst prestigious company as masters from Chicago, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Seattle
Robert Nicholls Jr. was one of the instructors that went along on the trip. He said the Americans did training in a hapkido school and learned gumdo (A Korean Katana) techniques.
They learned some new techniques in Korea.
“There’s lots of precision. We learned some new techniques in Hapkido,” Fulton said.
“Reymond admitted that she had a panic attack at the Hapkido instruction because it is so serious in Korea. But what she learned was “making our moves less mechanical. Not robotic.”
Most of all, they learned a lot about Korea.
“It was a culture shock,” Fulton said.
Reymond said one of the neatest things they saw in Korea were the hidden neighborhoods and cities within cities that they kept finding.
“You’d go along an alley, and you would find a whole another community,” she said. “I could not get over the alleys.”
“The side alleys would be towns of their own. You’d have mom and pop shops on top of each other,” said instructor Robert Nicholls Jr.
As far as wearing suits and ties?
“That was my least favorite part,” Reymond said.
“I liked the suit,” Fulton said.
They also tried out some Korean karaoke. It turns out Nicholls had a surprise for his students.
“Grandmaster [Nicholls] has an amazing voice,” Reymond said.
While visiting the Buddhist temple, they had to do a squat after each prayer. They found out that this takes a lot of physical endurance as the priests do up to 108 squats during a ceremony.
“I was passed out,” Fulton said.
Fulton and Reymond have already earned high red belts. While in Korea, they had the honor of having their black belt certificates signed by several of the highest masters of the martial art. Nicholls said they are not quite ready to test for their black belts yet and have to wait a few weeks to get their certificates stamped said White Crane grandmaster Robert Nicholls.
Nicholls said that he also went to Korea, not the first time for him, to work on creating a position for a United States technical director for the world taekwondo organization, a position he would like to hold. Nicholls said taekwondo masters from Korea will be coming to Port Angeles, as well as other places such as Chicago and Washington, D.C., as part of their process.
Getting back to the girls, they said that in addition to learning a lot about taekwondo, they learned much about its birthplace.
“Maybe I won’t be able to go back for 10 or 20 years, but I’m definitely going back,” Reymond said.