“I remember when I was in middle school. Whenever my dad would leave for work. He would leave for work before I went to school so I would be eating breakfast. He would get ready and put on his shoes, and then he would stop just before he left and say ‘Fighting.’ (The informant says the word in a low tone as pumps his fist in a forward motion.)”
The informant believes that his dad picked the gesture up in the army. The fist pump motion is paired with a reverberating and deep utterance of the word “fighting” in a Korean accent. (I was unaware what word he was saying at first because of the heavy accent until the informant explained.) The informant said it was a big moment when he finally got the resonance of it, a sort of rite of passage. His voice was finally low enough to make the sound like his father.
Nowadays, whenever he has a bad day, his mother will say it to him over the phone to cheer him up. I asked if he thought he would continue the tradition with his children, and he said that he was unsure. “I could imagine if I had this really spunky three year old and I was looking for something new for us to do.” He said that he would love if his parents, particularly his dad would do it with his kids, and maybe he would join in, but maybe it would just be a tradition for his dad and his children.
The word and gesture does not really mean anything, but the practice and performance of the ritual is what stuck with the informant. It is a tradition with his dad that is a little silly, but it became a regular part of his day. I think the custom is a good way to keep the connection between the informant and his family; the gesture has lost its original meaning, but now it holds more importance and remains in his memory.