Friday, April 6, 2012

Fighting!!! (no not that kind)

My faithful readers may recall my description of a Korean practice that I first found odd, but (in the way of cultural adaptation) I now find unique and endearing.

Some Practice Fighting in the Backyard

"Fighting" is a chant that apparently wormed its way into korean culture due to the popularity of boxing - aka fighting.  It crops up in different settings, the first of being a kind of pre-game and post-game huddle. It works like a football team, you form a circle, everybody puts their hand into the middle but instead of saying  "1, 2, 3  Go Team!!!" you chant "han, dool, set Fighting!" - though it sometimes sounds more like "Oy Tay!" to a western ear.  The other difference is that you might "huddle" before (and after) an aerobics class, a trip, or other group activity. It's a nice cultural bridge since most of us at least know to put your hand in the circle and shout as you raise it.
The other usage is during picture taking. After taking a more somber picture, the Koreans from the rotation" had been in the habit of taking a "Fighting" picture. Like with our "say cheese" ritual, the photographer counts to three and then the crowd shouts "Fighting".  The twist is that you hold out your clenched right fist for emphasis.

Parwan Youth Soccer Team

(who recently beat their hosts in a rematch)

While I don't want to take full credit, I beleive that my colleagues may have felt that the tradition was not in keeping with their rather serious demeanor, and it declined sharply. However, after I seized an opportunity to request a "Fighting!" picture with the Director, and successfully planted the idea during a few more photoshoots by brandishing a fist and/or shouting "Fighting!" the tradition has sprung back to life, embraced by the Police cadets, students and frequent guests, who have also been won over by the fact that if you do it in isolation, you feel like, and basically are, a goof.  However, if everybody buys into the idea, you get great smiles and an spontaneous injection of team spirit.

In fact, the Afghan security forces have their own charming and sobering tradition in the same line. As they are accepting a diploma or recognition they shake the hand of the commanding officer and turn their head to shout "Alive" - they then face the assembled crowd, raise the certificate above their head and belt out something patriotic. They have poetic license, but most settle on "My Life for Afghanistan". While I hope that few or none of these young men will have to lay down their lives, I can't help but be encouraged by thier willingness to do so.

Afghan Police Graduates - Ready to Fight

"Fighting!" season, here we come.

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