"Just try to relax . . . " Little Takes on the Black Belts

"Just try to relax," he said. "You're too tense."

No, I was not trying out the MAC's instructional massage class. I was hip-deep in a small recreation room full of agility and calmness.

And, no, I did not embark on this journey as part of some kind of journalistic ego-trip. I am just another curious, and apparently tense, Harvard student.

It all began months earlier, in an unfamiliar building.

I had been asked by a family friend from Houston to take a prospective student on a brief tour of the campus. Eventually, the high school senior asked me if I could take him to the rec center on campus to check out the workout facilities.

Naturally, I was a little hesitant for two reasons: for one, the MAC doesn't look too hot from the inside, and two, I rarely need to go there anyway. But I relented.

After giving the tour, I realized that I didn't know a single program that the MAC had to offer. Mildly embarrassed by the fact that I was a junior that really couldn't care less, I picked up a schedule of activities there. I looked down the list: Water Aerobics? No. Massage? Interesting, but no. Hapkido? Hmm. I like Steven Seagal movies. That could be cool.

I had been pretty skeptical of club sports in the past, and the Hapkido Club was no different. Would it fit the club stereotype of poor instruction, no funding and a come-when-you-want schedule?