Minneapolis Academy Christmas Party
On Saturday, December 10th, the Hwa Rang Do Minneapolis Academy once again held its annual Holiday Party, which featured a student demonstration, family potluck, Secret Sulsa gift exchange, and late-night karaoke party. Starting in the late afternoon, as soon as the doors opened the school quickly filled with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. The students were abound with nervous excitement as they prepared to show their families what they’ve been learning at Hwa Rang Do before overloading on sugar and partying the night away.
The event kicked off with the school demonstration, hosted by the school’s leader, Master Dylan Sirny. The youth and teen groups, led by Lead Youth Instructor Daniel LaFave, showcased the popular crisscross challenge, separating into two lines, and alternating as they ran at full speed diagonally across the mat in opposite directions, careful not to run into the person crossing before them from the other side. After running, they also showed their strength with power punches, their acrobatics with rolls and cartwheels, and their force with running jump kicks. As the proud parents clapped and beamed seeing their children each have their own opportunity to shine in the show’s introduction, the students were just getting warmed up.
The little tiger group of preschool through 1st grade students came up next to perform with Instructor William Kingsley. After an introductory peek at their daily warm-up routine, the youngest performers of the evening not only showed their kiaping ability while alternating strong punches, but they demonstrated their listening skills as well. Instructor Kingsley challenged them with fast paced stance changes, quickly leading them through the listening stance, horse stance, ready stance, and the like. At such a young age, they pride themselves on all that they have learned, including the ability to understand the Korean counting and bowing commands. The audience silently rooted for them, as they followed along in unison, careful to pay close attention to their instructors commands.
Once the tigers had finished up, the junior students had the floor, taking us through a variety of skill sets. First up, a group of intermediate and advanced students showed the crowd the Tae Soo Do (TSD) Jang Bong (Long Staff) Form that is introduced and studied in the TSD intermediate levels. You could see that the viewers, especially those sitting in the front row, closest to the performers and their weapons, were impressed with the students’ level of control as they performed side-by-side as a group, undoubtedly knowing the level of precision necessary to avoid any accidental strikes to those around them. The same could be said for the next group of performers, the Hwa Rang Do (HRD) color sashes who performed their Ssangjyelbong (Nunchucks) Form. With many twists, turns, and even summersaults, the group demonstrated their skill and control with the weapons while simultaneously keeping in-step with each other.
Next we saw self-defense techniques from all levels of training, shown in a domino style where one group gets up to perform while the others take a knee, allowing the audience to know exactly where to direct their eyes. As one group completes their demonstration, they then take a knee while the next pair in line takes their turn to perform. This section of the show started with the TSD beginner juniors, who showed us some basic block-and-counters that can be used against a punch or a kick. Next were the TSD intermediate juniors, who defended themselves from punch/kick combinations, and countered with various strikes and kicks of their own. The advanced juniors rounded out the TSD portion, showing higher level techniques that included takedowns and joint locks in order to defend themselves from an attacker. Finally, the HRD color sash juniors and teens showcased their defensive tactics, showcasing even more advanced material as they blocked, threw, and locked up their partners.
While Hwa Rang Do/Tae Soo Do students have much to remember by way of standardized curriculum, those who are heavily involved in their martial art studies often like to make up their own sequences as well. A handful of members in Master Sirny’s Teuk Gong Team (TGT) gave their own unique twist to the combinations they’ve learned, and demonstrated what “tricking” can look like with a little creativity and imagination. This often meant turning and kicking in multiple directions within a few seconds, varying their height from high and low kicks, adding acrobatics, and spin & jump kicking their way across the mat. One student, 14 year-old Oskari Lehto, even caught the audience by surprise as he got to the end of the mat. Just as they began clapping for his performance, he redirected his motion back the way he came with yet another upbeat and impressive kicking sequence.
Quickly transitioning into grappling, Oskari returned to the mat with 13 year-old Orion Sirny, to demonstrate a grappling match between the two HRD green sash students. With plenty of experience in training and matching with each other, the two had multiple moves and submissions to attempt. Utilizing their knowledge of arm bars, shoulder locks, triangles, chokes, leg locks, etc., they took turns advancing and defending their positions. And with extremely competitive yet good-natured spirits, they are always an exciting pair to watch.
To finish out the show, some of the Hwa Rang Do Instructors, Nick Frugé, Daniel LaFave, Aaron Godin, William Kingsley, and Eliot Estrine demonstrated their skills with their respective color sash techniques. After featuring one-on-one defenses, Red Sash Instructor Nick Frugé, finished out the performance with his kick-defense techniques against multiple attackers.
Finally, the students gathered their strength for the board breaking challenges, lining up to break a board with whichever technique they chose. A few of the advanced kickers impressed the crowd with 540 degree jump spin kicks, even breaking boards out of Master Sirny’s hands while he stood on a chair and held the board high. The event wrapped up with a brick breaking challenge by Instructor Aaron Godin.
It was an exciting performance by the Minneapolis students, who immediately took to the potluck dinner afterwards, with cookies and cupcakes dancing in their eyes. The families who participated brought a wonderful variety of foods, drinks, and desserts to go around. It was with great appreciation that everyone dined together, proud of their students and excited for the festivities. Once everyone had had their fill, those who had signed up to be a Secret Sulsa gathered to exchange their gifts. A new take on the traditional Secret Santa game, “Super” Secret Sulsa (Sulsa being a Korean word roughly translating to “ninja”), is a game where everyone gets the completed “likes and interests” profile of another player, but with only a number on the paper in place of a name. Their task is find a gift for this person based only on the information given in the profile, and see if they can figure out who it is prior to the gift exchange. With dozens of people participating overall in the various age groups, it can be quite a challenge. More than anything, it’s a chance for students to get to know their fellow classmates and spread some holiday cheer! The anticipation and curiosity was finally sated when the students got to exchange the gifts and find out who had which Sulsa.
The time then came for karaoke and late-night partying, with many brave souls giving their best rendition of classic songs in front of the crowd, and enjoying the party together long into the evening. What a wonderful time it was to gather and celebrate the community and accomplishments of yet another great year and further the Hwarang Spirit which binds us all as one big family at the Hwa Rang Do Minneapolis Academy and to all the Hwarang Warriors across the globe in the present, past, and future.
We would also like to take this opportunity to wish our Founder Supreme Grandmaster Dr. Joo Bang Lee, Grandmaster Taejoon Lee, and Master David Kijek as well as all the Instructors and students throughout the world a very Merry Christmas and much happiness, health, and joy in the New Year. We look forward to seeing all of you next year in Luxembourg!
A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!
Hwarang Forever and God bless,