ANC048: Triptychs on a White Belt by Yu-Han Chao
Forget about him. / White dobok, white dhee. Even Sabumnim was a white belt once. / Nobody expects anything from a white belt, but it’s the best place to begin, to learn to fight back. Get in the sparring ring. Kick. Surprise them.
In developing his foundational Theory of Power, Choi Hong Hi stressed the importance of reaction force and concentration of impact in the maintenance of a taekwondo student's equilibrium and the severity of their strikes to an opponent. Bringing as much mass to a blow as possible increases its effectiveness, but the swiftness in which it is delivered factors even more so. For this reason, one's speed and agility may outmatch a larger rival's potential.
The unnamed hero of Yu-Han Chao's Triptychs on a White Belt hopes for this quirk of physics to hold true as she practices taekwondo with the memory of an assailant looming heavily in her past. Though an ocean now separates them, slowly but surely she masters the techniques she fears may one day be needed. Chao presents this narrative in a trifurcated form, allowing her narrator to simultaneously drift through recollections of trauma, lessons in fighting skills, Korean mythology, and the everyday ennui of a modest taekwondo school. Blending the confessional with a healthy dose of black humor, Chao chronicles the process of a woman's strength growing ever more potent.