6-2 Welcome New Orange Belts!

The new orange belts!
On moving into Port Vila and starting work at Wan SmolBag, Gaea brought up our interest in starting a club at the Youth Center. After we returned to Vanuatu from home leave, the Youth Center allowed us to start teaching. The youth were interested in learning “karate like Jackie Chan.” Classes started out with no dedicated training. We were either cramped in a loading dock or on display at one of the stages. We never started on time because we had to round up the youth and find a spot to train. Many of the youth had other commitments so they came late or left early.  Training was haphazard at best.

We spent the first classes drilling on basic movements and doing strength training. It was detailed and hard work. We lost some of the students who didn’t want that kind of commitment. We gained more who saw the value of challenging yourself. As we showed consistently high attendance, we were able to secure training space and a regular time slot. A core group of students made coming to class a priority. We secured a second time slot during the week so that they could solidify their material. The students are even beginning to call it Tae Soo Do and saying “HwaRang!” when they bow.


Finally, we had a group of students who had learned enough material to test. I set a tip test to make sure they knew everything and could commit to showing up on time. Five students of the core group arrived on time and presented their material well. On Saturday morning, four of them showed up.  The only girl of the group took it on herself to lead warm-ups. One of the other students took it on himself to sweep the testing area. All four performed well. The hardest part for the students was the question of “What does ‘Loyalty to your country’ mean to you?” Most of these youth have less than an eighth grade education.  They do not live in a philosophical society. Despite this, they gave good answers. They focused on respecting and working with everyone in the community, values that ni-Vanuatu hold in high regard.

Philosophy time

The test was an accomplishment for the students and a culmination of their training, so far. It was also a culmination of our work in setting up classes and teaching the students. At the same time, it is a beginning.  Now, there are higher ranked students to be looked up to and learned from; the core group is learning etiquette and philosophy.  New students will be able to learn faster with more role models and more students are excited to join the class.  There are already students who will be ready to test next month.

The Wan SmolBag Youth Center is a fantastic fit for Hwa Rang Do. They, too, are dedicated to empowering lives and serving humanity. In a country full of at-risk youth, they serve the most at-risk. They take the kids that society has given up on and give them a place to go. They empower these youth by giving them skills and building their confidence.

After two years of training in isolation, we are creating a martial arts community piece-by-piece.  Our four new orange belts and the rest of the squad of youth inspire us to train harder, to find new ways of explaining, and be the best teachers we can be.  More important than how to kick or punch, is teaching the youth their own worth.  Through training, they are gaining confidence to be leaders.  Through example, they are learning the value of service.  The youth at Wan SmolBag will grow up to be leaders; we believe they will be the kind of leaders that inspire.


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