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Sat, August 1, 2009
TaeKwonDo for Body, Mind and Spirit
Taekwondo literally means the way of kicking and punching.  Taekwondo is a Korean martial art, and is the national sport of South Korea.  “Tae” means to strike or break with the foot, “kwon” means to strike or break with the fist and “do” means the way.   Although Taekwondo originated in Korea, it has strong influences from Japanese karate because of the Japanese occupation.   

Taekwondo emphasizes the use of kicking as a better way of self defense because the leg has a longer extension than the arm, is stronger and, traditionally, it was thought that the hands were too valuable to risk injury.

Like most martial arts, but unlike many other forms of exercise and fitness training, Taekwondo combines the best of sport, exercise, meditation and philosophy.   For most martial artists, it becomes a way of life.   In fact, the philosophy or “the way” is unarguably the most important attribute that a martial artist can portray.  This philosophy encompasses more than an outsider could ever imagine.  

As in any life improving pursuit, Taekwondo begins with the desire, determination, and commitment to pursuing a goal of excellence in every part of one’s life, which, in the end, allows one to attain the success that ensues and affects not only the self, but anyone else you encounter.  The martial artist creed includes respect, honor, integrity, self-control, courtesy, loyalty, and perseverance. 

The other very important characteristic of Taekwondo, beyond the philosophy and physical fitness is that any one, no matter their age, mental, or physical abilities, can become a martial artist.

In the American Taekwondo Association, we have a special needs division that competes and performs all over the world, including North Korea.  Their performance of seemingly impossible actions inspires everyone.  Our motto is:  “Today not possible, tomorrow possible.”   

So how do you determine which martial art would be best for you? There are many great forms of martial arts out there, karate, jujitsu, judo, to name a few.  Some of the distinctions between Taekwondo and other martial arts are:
  • A person can choose to participate in Taekwondo as a form of fitness and mental/spiritual growth.  However, Taekwondo also can be pursued as a competitive sport.  Taekwondo is generally more organized as a competitive sport.  As an interesting fact, other than Judo, Taekwondo is the only martial art that is in the Olympics.
  • Judo, although recognized as an Olympic sport is more like wrestling and very hard on the body.  It includes throwing, choke holds, and grappling done on the ground. Taekwondo teaches these techniques and more. Most people by age 50 are not able to keep up with the physical demands that Judo places on one’s body.  In contrast, there are more options to continue long-term with Taekwondo, even with modifications, than Judo, jujitsu or karate.
  • Taekwondo is also a practical form of self defense. Most Taekwondo schools teach a variety of self defense moves beyond just kicking and punching.  Most schools include grappling, joint locks, chokes and throws at a Black Belt level.  In contrast, Karate, for instance, tends to limit the focus to just forms and sparring.
  • Taekwondo training also includes training with weapons.  Weapons competitions can be modified to be less strenuous, which allows those that are not as athletic or interested in “hard core” training, to participate.
  • My personal journey with Taekwondo started over 20 years ago when my oldest son was 7.  My sone was a shy and non-athletic boy so I enrolled him in Taekwondo.  I thought that the martial arts would help build his self confidence.  It definitely did that  and much, much more.  My son, now a 5th degree black belt and school owner, has affected more lives in a positive way, than most of us have that are twice his age, including saving my life from an abusive alcoholic.  It took a young boy of 13, who had been practicing Taekwondo for only 6 years to help me see that I no longer needed live in fear.  

Personally, I have always been a very good athlete - from high school gymnastics to teaching aerobics for over 20 years, but I was not healthy.  But my outsides didn’t match what was going on internally...  I lived in fear and self deprecation every day of my life for more years than I would like to admit.   My self esteem and spirit had almost been destroyed.  Fortunately, it was the spirit in my son, fostered and strengthened through his martial arts training, that showed me “the way.”

I started my martial arts training five years ago at 46 years young.  Today I am healthier, happier, and more physically, mentally, and spiritually fit than I have ever been in my life.  I am placing in national and world tournaments, and meeting wonderful, new, positive people.  And I can’t wait to get to class! Learning a new form, perfecting an old one, or helping newer students with their techniques, and building confidence are all reasons why I love to go to class.  

The satisfaction and pride that I feel when I break through a board continually reminds me that whatever challenges I may be experiencing in my life, I can and will get through it.   No aerobics class, gym workout or run has ever given me all of that. 

Taekwondo has helped me achieve great physical health, but more importantly, has given me back my sense of self worth.  It has affected every aspect of my life from becoming a more productive employee to being a better mother and friend.   It has also helped me realize that no matter how old one is, there are always more goals to achieve and gifts to receive.  

I am grateful to my son for showing me “the way,” but even more grateful that I can now help inspire others to achieve the more meaningful, healthier and balanced lives that we are all meant to live.  The quote that my son uses for his school motto is, “changing lives, one black belt at a time.”

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