Esther Lee '13 feels betrayed. She joined the Brown University Tae Kwon Do Club to learn more about her Korean heritage, to get into shape, and to gain the ability to defend herself. But no one could defend Lee from the terrible truth of Brown's only Tae Kwon Do organization: They were actually teaching Karate.
Tae Kwon Do and Karate are both forms of martial arts, but Tae Kwon Do is Korean, while Karate is Japanese. How were the two confounded? Like many members of the Brown University Tae Kwon Do Club, Lee is at a loss.
"I feel so violated. It's like our trust was a concrete block, and they Karate chopped it in half.or did they Tae Kwon Do chop it in half? I just don't know what to believe."
To make matters worse, Lee has nowhere to turn in this time of crisis. According to Lee, her traditional Korean family was "greatly dishonored" by her actions.
"My parents came to this county to provide me with a better life. They always made me aware of my Korean heritage. Now they will not even look at me. They say that I practice "the dance of the enemy."
Non-Korean members of the Tae Kwon Do Club are outraged as well. Sarah Clermont '11 claims that even though she has committed a significant amount of time, now that she knows she didn't actually learn Tae Kwon Do, she no longer feels confident in her ability to defend herself.
"What am I going to do now if a mugger attacks me?" she asks, "Use Karate?"
Why would anyone perpetrate such a dishonest scheme? We turned to Ryan Nelson '11, the club's president and founder, for answers.
"I don't understand" Nelson said, "How could I be teaching them Karate? All the techniques were straight out of that movie, 'The Tae Kwon Do Kid.' The Tae Kwon Do Kid. hold on, does that sound right to you?"
Club members initially felt uneasy with Nelson's insistence on referring to the class as a "dojo" and were apprehensive about techniques such as the "karate kick." Adam Choi '10 related to the Noser the exact moment when he realized that he was not learning Tae Kwon Do from Nelson's lessons.
"I was already getting suspicious when he taught us to 'wax on,' but when he taught us to 'wax off,' the jig was up."
But what had motivated Nelson, a non-Korean with no apparent knowledge of martial arts, to found the Brown Tae Kwon Do Club in the first place? According to some it was an interest in Asian culture. Others say it stemmed from his love of video games such as "Mortal Kombat." According to Nelson himself, "To be perfectly honest, I pretty much founded this group to meet Asian chicks."
With such varied accounts, we may never know the real motives behind the deception, but one thing is for sure: secretly teaching students a form of martial arts they didn't sign up for-that's a Tae Kwon Don't.