Any of you who are friends with me on Facebook probably already know that one of the biggest parts of my life is Tae Kwon Do. It permeates my life as a researcher and professor, it informs the way I eat and exercise, it complicates the way I approach social situations, and it certainly flavors much of my writing. For those of you who have read If, you know that Mark Banos also has a life very much influenced by his involvement with martial arts and the mentorship of Master Bennie Hanna. This is just one example of how my own involvement with a personal hobby colored the development of our first novel.
I wanted to interject here, because I doubt Dad will mention this without being prompted, but my interest in Tae Kwon Do wouldn’t exist without him. For years before I was ever born or thought of, Dad had his own martial arts journey that spanned from east coast to west. In fact, due to the uncanny dumb luck that marks all Bennington boys, Dad had the opportunity to train under some of Tae Kwon Do’s most distinguished masters. Grandmasters like Jhoon Rhee, Sang Mok Bae, and Bong Soo Han all taught my Dad Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido at different points in his life. While these names may not mean anything to those outside of the martial arts community, you should know that these three are famous luminaries of the art–revered by generations of practitioners for their skill and for their contributions to the development and popularization of the art/sport. Because of these positive influences early in his life, my Dad took the time to try and engender an interest in martial arts in both of his sons. While it didn’t stick when I was seven, by the time I was a fat angsty teen, Tae Kwon Do became the only sport I could call my own. It forever changed my life, my way of thinking about the world, and my spirit. For that, and for my Dad’s persistence I’m eternally grateful.
So, if you want to see how martial arts influences our writing, go get a copy of If! Our upcoming sequel will also feature some of the philosophical and metaphysical underpinnings Dad and I learned through martial arts so keep an eye out for news of Sopie. For now, I wanted to share a project that I’ve been working on for the past few months.
Tae Kwon Do is similar to many weaponless martial arts in that it features a series of forms (choreographed patterns of blocks, strikes, and stances) to help students develop focus and muscle memory of basic techniques. These forms also each have their own symbolic meaning informed by ancient Korean, Japanese, and Chinese philosophy. My project was to write a poem for each form and superimpose my reading of the poem over a video of me performing the form. So far I’ve written poems for the first three and have a completed video for the first one. I’ll link the first video here today and update you with the next ones as I complete them.
They each follow the same naming pattern. The one for today is called “First: Meaning Heaven.” Maybe next week I’ll edit the video for “Second: Meaning Joyfulness” for your viewing pleasure.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy!