Saturday, December 1, 2012

Isami belt

Unfortunately, I was never able to get my DOM belt embroidered, because it was too thick:

I ordered an ISAMI belt from the ISAMI shop in Seoul, and I went today to get it embroidered at an embroiderer near my house.

The ja-soo's 자수(embroiderer's) place is just a few minutes from my house by a traditional outdoor market where my wife shops for fresh fruit and vegetables.

                    One barbershop pole=barber shop, two barbershop poles=funny business

When I got to the embroidery shop, the adjoshi (older guy) looked at my belt and started complaining saying something about the belt being too stiff.  Old guys really like to get  grumpy here (it's their favorite national past time).  All you can do is pretty much ride it out and listen to whatever they have to say.  I just shrugged and after a few grunts he started doing my belt.

He did all the work free hand.  I don't know much about embroidery, but I thought it was pretty damn impressive.  It only took him about five minutes.  Afterwards he charged me a whopping 3,000 Won (about $2.50 USD).  Back home getting embroidery on something like a belt would have cost me an arm and a leg.  Korea, I salute you!

Downstairs from the embroiderer's place there is an open air fish market where you can pick fish out of a tank and have them prepared for you on the spot.

                    The Chinese characters on my belt say "East Heaven White Mountain"

The characters on my belt symbolize the name of my BJJ club ("East Heaven White Mountain") in Hanja (Chinese characters).  "East Heaven" represents Korea and "White Mountain" refers to Bekdu mountain in North Korea (the most sacred mountain in Korea).  In Hangul (Korean) it is 동천백산 (Dong Cheon Baek San).

The history of Hangul (the Korean writing system) is actually quite interesting.  Hangul was created by King Sejong the Great in 1443 during the Joseon Dynasty.  King Sejong wanted to create a writing system that the common people could learn and use.  He knew that having an educated, literate populace held the key to creating a powerful nation.  Only rich and aristocratic Korean people were educated at this time and when they learned to read and write it was in Hanja. 

King Sejong created a brilliant, yet simple phonetic writing system that commoners could learn in just a few hours.  The man was a genius.  The system is really intuitive.  In fact, it only took me about a day to get a hang of it.

The elite of the time didn't want to accept Hangul and saw it as a threat to their power and status; particularly the scholarly elite who believed literacy was a birthright reserved for the nobility.  Many nobles refused to learn Hangul.  The tenth king of the Joseon Dynasty, Yeon San-gun, actually banned Hangul documents in 1504 and put an end to the study and us of the writing system. 

Hangul didn't come into use again until after 1945; and that was in North Korea.  South Korea largely used a Sino-Korean writing system which required the knowledge of thousands of Chinese characters (Hanja) until the 1990's. 

Koreans are so proud of King Sejong and of Hangul, and it blew my mind when I learned that it wasn't utilized for so long.  Nowadays, most signs are in Hangul, but there are still many remnants of the past.

   A sign at my BJJ gym, it says "East Heaven White Mountain" from right to left in Hanja

                     A huge wall hanging at my gym, this is the Hanja character for "soft"

The stitching and craftsmanship of the belt seem to very nice. 

It is also way thinner than my DOM belt.

1 comment:

  1. After a recent trip to Japan, I learned that my belt was actually produced in China. The Isami store employee told me that all Made In Japan Isami belts are made to order jobs. Hope that clarifies some things if you are interested in buying an Isami belt.