Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Many Meanings of Tang Soo (and a little truth in humor)

Master Eric Meredith and Son, 3rd Degree
Sam Dan Steven Meredith Issuing a  hearty
Tang Soo!
The words “Tang Soo” are used in our art as Hawaiians use the term Aloha. It is Hello, Goodbye, and has a number of other meanings that can be best described through a representative dialog. The phrase is customarily expressed with a broad smile, a firm exertion, and two tight fists for emphasis. I’m not going to suggest that what follows is a verbatim transcript, but it’s pretty close.

My Master: “Thank you for coming to the test and offering to help out.”
Me: “Tang Soo!”
[Translation: You’re welcome, though to be honest I’m not sure I had any choice. You asked me to help the month before I'm scheduled to test - that pretty much eliminated my ‘option.’]

Master: “Would you please join me at the head table and grade the students as they execute the instructions.”
Me: “Tang Soo!”
[Translation: Are you kidding? The head table? Wow, I never.. I mean... really? Sure. OK. Wow!]

Master: “I may need you to help with the test from time to time.”
[Translation: If we have an odd number of students, you’ll be partnered with someone and expected to know whatever they should be tested on; any age group, any belt rank. Make them look good. Don’t screw up as everybody will be watching you. Oh, and if you make a mistake I’m pretty much obligated to publicly rip you - this helps to 'set the bar’ for future Black Belts.]
Me: “Tang Soo.”
[Translation: I can’t wait. (Author's note: The Internet really needs a sarcasm font.)]

Master: “Help him out.”
[Translation: While you may have been closely watching any of the seven students I assigned to you at the start, I now expect that you were looking at whomever caught my gaze and you witnessed whatever incorrect nuance that reminded me of a conversation I had two weeks ago - with someone you never met. Please immediately demonstrate the subtlety that I am now imagining. Do it with absolute confidence.

Oh, and if you make a mistake I’m pretty much obligated to publicly rip you - you know, the ‘bar’ yada, yada, yada.]
Me: “Tang Soo.”
[Translation: I hate my life.]

Master: “Please hold the boards for the Breaking Requirements.”
[Translation: I need you to sacrifice your body to hold wood boards for our momentarily blind students who will exhibit adrenaline-enhanced seizures and cannot find the center of a one foot square piece of pine, but can repeatedly hit your fingertips with superb precision. Three times.]
Me: “Tang Soo”
[Translation: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Please, have mercy. I’ve exhausted my annual Occupational Therapy allocation and can no longer manage fine motor skills; like using an ATM, waving good-bye, or making those little snakes with Play-Doh. Make the Red Belts hold the boards. They deserve the pain for all their stupid comments like; “Breaking boards is easy”, “I could do this with my eyes closed”, and “How come your fingers are all squiggly?”]

Master: “Thank you for helping.”
Me: “Tang Soo.”
[Translation: Must. Find. Advil.]

Lest you think that holding for board breaking is no big deal, please review this example:

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