이영환, ‘파나마 태권도 깊이 뿌리 내릴 터’
수련층 확대하고 올림픽 메달 획득 목표

이 영환 특성화 이미지
이영환 현지 지도600
이영환 사범이 현지 경찰을 대상으로 태권도를 지도하고 있다.

남·북아메리카를 잇는 지협에 자리 잡은 인구 350만의 작은 나라 파나마. 이곳에서 한국인 이영환 사범이 3년 넘도록 홀로 태권도 보급에 힘쓰고 있다.

리라공고와 용인대 출신의 이 사범은 엘리트 겨루기 선수 출신 지도자다. 국내에서는 엘리트팀 육성, 도장 운영을 비롯해 태권도단체 등까지 활발하게 활동하다 3년 전 파나마 행을 결정했다.

“중남미 태권도 보급률이 다른 곳보다 낮습니다. 이렇게 아직까지 알려지지 않은 곳에 태권도를 전파하고 싶었고, 큰 보람을 느끼면서 생활하고 있습니다.”

이 사범이 해외 태권도 지도를 처음 접한 곳은 2007년 페루였다. 1년 동안 현지 지도를 마치고 귀국한 그의 가슴에는 계속 해외 태권도 전파에 대한 열정이 남아있었다. 그러던 중 국기원 파나마 해외 사범 파견 공고를 보고 망설임 없이 지원했다.

최종 합격 통지를 받은 그는 2014년 12월 현지에 태권도를 보급, 확대하겠다는 큰 뜻을 품고 파나마행 비행기에 올랐다.

이 영환 250
이영환 사범.

이 사범이 맡은 임무는 대통령 경호원 교육과 경찰 실전 무술 지도였다. 당시 파나마 경찰들에게는 가라테만 알려져 있었고 이미 오랫동안 교육 받아온 상태였다. 그들이 알지 못하는 태권도를 이해시키고 가르치는 일이 결코 쉽지 않았다.

하지만 이 사범은 경찰이 사용할 수 있는 호신술과 제압술 등 실전에 필요한 기술을 위주로 교육을 시작했다. 현지에서 찌르고 넘어트리는 기술을 중심으로 이뤄졌던 가라테와 달리 태권도의 발차기와 주먹 공격과 방어, 그리고 스텝을 가르쳤다. 가라테보다 한국의 태권도가 더 효율적이고 강한 무술이라는 인식을 심어줘야 한다는 생각으로 지도에 전념했다.

3년 남짓한 시간 동안 쉬지 않고 노력했다는 이 사범은 “아직까지는 내놓을만한 결과물이 없다”며 멋쩍게 웃었다. 파나마에 한국과 태권도는 거의 알려지지 않았다. 이 사범이 국경수비대와 경찰을 지도하고 있지만, 이들이 태권도를 배울 수 있는 기간은 6개월 정도다. 2만 여 명의 경찰이 태권도를 배우지만 6개월 주기로 교육생이 바뀌기 때문에 제대로 된 습득이 어렵다.

“파나마 내에서 태권도에 대한 인식 변화가 필요합니다. 국제대회 성과가 나타나면 국민들이 관심을 가질테고, 그러면 태권도가 부각되지 않을까 싶네요.”

이 사범은 현지 경찰 태권도 팀 창단을 희망하고 있다. 팀을 만들고 선수를 양성하는 것이 현지 태권도 보급과 발전의 해답이라는 확신이 들었기 때문이다. 선수 출신으로 한국 팀에서의 지도 경험이 풍부한 이 사범이다. 만들어지기만 하면 이끌 준비는 이미 돼 있다.

이 사범의 향후 목표는 세 가지다. 가장 먼저 파나마 현지의 태권도 수련 인구를 확대하는 것이고 그 다음은 선수를 육성해 올림픽 메달을 획득하는 것이다. 그렇게 조금씩 발전해 시간이 많이 지나 태권도가 파나마에 깊게 뿌리 내린 것을 지켜보는 게 그의 마지막 목표다.

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