Published: September 27, 2007
SELBY --- By day, he dons a black robe. In the evenings, he wears a black belt. Scott Myren can put you away in or out of the courtroom. Myren, who lives near Mound City in Campbell County, is a judge for South Dakota's 5th Judicial Circuit.
He's also a tae kwon do teacher. Myren and his wife Virginia both earned their black belts about two years ago. Their oldest daughter Tessa is 12 years old and a brown belt.
She'll soon test for her black belt. Their 6-year-old daughter Isabelle is a white belt preparing to test for the first time.
Myren, however, shares his love for the martial art with more than just his family. Twice a week, he teaches tae kwon do classes in Selby.
People have different reasons for learning tae kwon do, Myren said. Some want to learn self-defense, some want to earn a certain color of belt, some want exercise, some are just looking for something to do. "But the primary goal is to have fun," Myren said. Classes are usually at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday nights at the Selby Opera House. City officials allow the class to use the opera house free of charge, and Myren doesn't charge for the classes.
He has 18 or so students, although some attend classes more regularly than others. Students can kick in, so to speak, a dollar per class if they want. That money is used to buy equipment. In it for the fun: Fourteen-year-old Christina Irigoyen of Selby heard about Myren's tae known do classes from one of his other students and started taking them last month. She thought the classes would be fun.
Turns out, she was right. Well, except for one thing. "I do not like pushups," Irigoyen said. Pushups are a part of each class. So are situps. So is stretching. Students also spar, practice kicks and punches, work on tae kwon do forms and learn self defense techniques.
Sometimes, Myren said, students even get to break boards. It's great, he said, to see students "accomplish things they never thought they could do." Irigoyen is on her way. She's a new student, but said she plans to stick with classes. "Even though it causes me pain, I will," she said. Families encouraged: Caroline Stulken of Selby started taking classes last year with her daughter, Christine, 11, and her son, Tyler, 5.
For now, she's relegated to the sidelines with a bad back. But, she said, she's eager to return to classes once she heals. "It's a really great program for a town like this," Stulken said of Myren's tae kwon do classes. "He's a good teacher, and he's great with the kids."
Myren said he encourages families to take his classes. He said anybody who is interested is welcome, even kids who are too young for most tae kwon do classes or people with limitations. One of Myren's students is deaf. One has a learning disability. And, he said, one of his fellow Pierre students is blind but has earned a black belt.
Brought along: The Myren women started taking tae kwon do classes in Pierre about six years ago. It was supposed to be a way to let Virginia and Tessa spend time together. But they were having so much fun, they started encouraging Dad to come along.
"I was really skeptical at first," Myren said. "I thought, 'If someone hits me, I am really apt to get angry and mad." But it didn't take long for him to change his mind.
"Every class I went to, I learned something new, something I didn't know I could do. . . . Once you start going, you're hooked, and you want to do it more often." Stulken agrees: "It's very addictive, and it's very fun," she said.
Plenty to learn: There's plenty to be learned from tae kwon do, Myren said: physical conditioning, discipline, respect, self-defense, even a bit of the Korean language.
Students need to learn some basic commands and how to count in the language of the land from which the martial art comes. Myren started teaching classes in Selby about a year ago. He said that a persistent student can make it from beginner to black belt in four and a half or five years.
He tries to arrange testing --- an opportunity for his students to earn more higher belts --- every three months or so. In the end, Myren said, all tae kwon do students are competing against themselves. "Everyone is learning something different," he said. "While one person is learning their right from their left, another person is learning how to deliver a really beautiful round kick."