Monday, October 5, 2009

The Happenings Keep Happening!

A new approach, a renewed commitment
(edited, click on the pics for high quality, full size versions)

I had an interesting day at jiu-jisu today. When I walked in, the club manager approached me right away and took me by the arm. I figured she was going to hassle me about club fees since I hadn't paid for this month yet (I had the money in my bag). Instead the conversation went like this.
"There is competition in Japan.. you compete?"
"Yeah, sure."
"It is MMA."
"Oh... when and where is it?"
"November 1st, Tokyo"
This puts me an interesting position. I do want to fight while I'm here and what better place than Tokyo, considered by many to be the mecca of MMA? I'm also honoured that Jae Hoon and the rest of the guys would ask me to represent their club as a pro. There are two problems. Number one is that my current visa is a one entry visa only. If I leave Korea I can't come back. I can get an addendum to my visa to allow me to travel, but I'm not sure how long that would take. To fight in Korea I also need a special "entertainers visa"... my current E2 teaching visa doesn't cut it. A few North Americans have been busted on this in the last year and fined heavily. Korea is also in the middle of a crackdown on foreigners working illegally. I'm assuming there is a similar type of visa that would be needed to fight in Japan.
While these are problems, they are probably solvable. The second problem is the big one. I'm not ready. And that's embarrassing. I've been here for almost a month and a half and while I've picked up my training a bit, and my jiu jitsu is much better already, I am not ready to fight and don't think I could be in less than a month. I discussed my concerns about the visa issues and my preparedness with the guys at the gym and thanked them for the opportunity but declined. I told them that I do not want to represent their club unless I am at my best and can represent them the way they should represented.
There is a jiu jitsu tournament on the first weekend of December. I plan to keep upping my training to compete at this tournament. I also decided on the spot that I wouldn't let a lack of preparation keep me from an opportunity like this again. After this tournament I need to be able to fight at just about any time. I've heard lots of stories about fights being offered on very short notice in Japan. Even in the days of Pride many fighters never found out who their opponents were until two weeks before the event. I need to take better care of my body, do some more MMA specific training each weak and start hitting the weights and conditioning a little harder. Don't get me wrong, I'm in good shape, I'm about 5 lbs. leaner than when I left from Canada. It won't take a lot to get to where I need to be, but I need to start now.
P.S. As I'm writing this I'm watching Dream 11 live on cable TV. All of the UFC and K1 events are also free on cable here. So awesome.

Chuseok Weekend

Last week we had Thursday and Friday off for Chuseok, which is usually called Korean Thanksgiving even though that comparison isn't entirely accurate. Wednesday at school we had some Chuseok celebrations. We got to wear Hamboek, traditional Korean clothing, make songpeon, which I like to think of as a Korean pirogi. We got lots of good pics so here's a few.

There sure is nothing wrong with a four day weekend and we took full advantage of it. Thursday Lisa and I climbed Gatbowi Mountain. It's about 2.5 km up and very steep in for the last half. At the top is an amazing Buddhist sculpture that was carved around the year 620. There is a Buddhist village, lots of monks around and a large prayer area at the top of the mountain. We got some awesome video and pictures and were able to buy some beads from the monks. Probably the highlight (or maybe lowlight) of the trip was when we were buying the beads the monk got a text message on his cellphone. I am not kidding. It kinda ruined the effect for me. I think Korea is probably the most wired country in the entire world. ou gt service everywhere; at the top of the highest mountains, deep underground in the subway and anywhere in rural Korea. Grandmas and Grandpas rock their Ipods on the subway and every six year old has a cell phone and can text faster than you can talk.
Friday afternoon a bunch of us left for Incheon, the second biggest city in Korea. We had booked a deep sea fishing excursion and were pretty stoked. This was our plan. We would leave Daegu at 5:00 pm, and get to Incheon around 9:00. Since the fishing people were picking us up around 4:00 am we would not bother with a hotel, and instead carry our gear around downtown while we explored the nightlife. When the shuttle picked us up we would just get on the boat and start fishing, which would go all day until 6:00 pm the next day. What could go wrong right? Believe it or not, nothing did. We had an awesome time all night (the bus ride could be a separate post in itself) and made our connection with no problem. From there things got a little shaky.
Our driver took us to the wharf which in the middle of the night was one of the sketchiest places I've ever seen. The roads where rough, there was garbage blowing across the streets like tumbleweed and stray dogs were wandering all over the place. The place we stopped at looked like it was once a convenience store but was now half covered with a tarp instead of a roof. The lights that were actually working weren't throwing enough light to see anything, but just enough to make the shadows look extra scary. This is when our guide got out and disappeared. He probably only left for a few minutes, but in a place that looked like the set for a bad horror movie, it felt very, very long. We eventually got down to the boat landing where we had to wait about 20 minutes for a boat. While we were waiting I heard "thump, thump" and looked over to see two south Korean soldiers, fully armed and outfitted for taking care of whoever needed taking care of, crouching down after coming over the wharf fence. Two other soldiers quickly followed and the entire unit came out way. These guys had some serious firepower with them, but turned out to be very friendly. They did not want us to take a picture of the door that they were heading towards though... I guess this is the reality of living so close to the border of two countries that are essentially still at war.
Once we got on the boat we had to motor out of the harbour, a trip that took about an hour and a half. This trip was really representative of Korea for me. Amazing natural beauty scarred by major industrial development and waste. We moved through an entire fleet of rusted out tankers and barges and past shore based refineries that blocked the view of the nearby mountains. It looked like something out of 'Waterwold' or some other cheesy, post-apocalyptic movie.
When we busted out the fishing rods I was pretty jacked. They were heavy duty and were spooled with 30 lb test fishing line. We were going to catch some serious fish here. We thought. About five minutes into fishing I caught what looked a lot like a rock bass and was about the same size. I wished the little fella bon voyage and sent him back from whence he came. About 40 minutes later depression set in as I noticed that the Korean guy with us was keeping all of these fish and that's all we'd be catching. Check out the video above to see what I'm talking about. Overall the trip was great, it's just too bad we paid a bunch of money to catch a couple fish that I wouldn't keep at home.

P.S. Does anyone know who this blond girl is? Every time I mention getting some pics for my blog she jumps right in there. Photo stalker I guess.

Shinya Aoki is an absolute wizard! He just scored full mount with a guillotine, added a top side body triangle and transitioned into an armbar to beat Joachim Hansen with 2 seconds left in the fight to win the Dream light weight title. I think he was losing the fight until that point.

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