What Is Taekwon-Do?
Taekwon-Do is the Korean art of self-defense, created by General Choi Hong-hi, who founded Taekwon-Do on April 11, 1955. Its foundations are based on the ancient Korean martial art of T’aekkyŏn, as well as Japanese Karate. Although these ancient arts were used as references, the fundamental theories and principles of Taekwon-Do are entirely different from any other martial art in the world. Taekwon-Do is a version of unarmed combat designed for the purpose of self-defense. Therefore, it is also practiced as a form of mental training and physical sport. The techniques of Taekwon-Do are based on Newton’s laws, which teach us how to create maximum power. Military tactics of attack and defense have been incorporated, as well. At a spiritual level, Taekwon-Do comes from ethical, moral and traditional principles of the Orient, and of course from its creator, General Choi Hong-hi.
Translated literally, “Tae” stands for jumping, flying, or to kick or smash with the foot; “Kwon” denotes the fist, chiefly used to punch or destroy with the hand; and “Do” means “art” or “way.” Thus, taken collectively, “Taekwon-Do” indicates the mental training and techniques of unarmed combat for self-defense and health, involving the skilled application of punches, kicks, blocks, throws and dodges—with bare hands and feet—to the rapid destruction of the moving opponent or opponents.
Taekwon-Do “Is a way of life.”
Benefits of Practicing Taekwon-Do
1. You may practice individually or in groups. Special equipment or weights are not required.
2. Injuries and strains are rare. Since the body sets its own limits, the physical condition of the student automatically sets the pace.
3. The entire muscle system of the body is developed, from fingers to toes.
4. Lean, flexible tissue is produced by Taekwon-Do training. It does not produce large knotty muscle.
5. Body weight is normalized. Solid tissue is gained for those who are underweight; body fat is lost for the obese. Calories burned in one hour of Taekwon-Do training are one of the highest for any sport or activity: 600 calories per hour.
6. The abdomen becomes firm and strong. Emphasis on twisting the trunk and executing kicking movements also develops the side of the trunk and inner thigh muscles.
7. The practice improves the lower abdomen, hips, inner thighs, and cardiovascular conditions.
8. Taekwon-Do is scientifically designed. Every movement has a specific purpose.
9. Skillful instructors foster the student’s belief that success is possible for anyone, making it easy to teach and learn.
10. At a moral level, it helps to develop a concept of respect toward people and especially our seniors.
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What Parents Need to Know
Parents today face the daunting task of juggling work and entertainment with their children s activities. When a child comes home and asks to take Taekwon-Do lessons, parents have to fit them into an already busy schedule filled with little league, soccer, basketball, volleyball, hockey, drama class, music lessons, gymnastics, and dance lessons. And because parents generally develop their perception of Taekwon-Do from the action movies like Mortal Kombat and Blade, video games like Street Fighter, and television series such as Martial Law, they might be reluctant to enroll their child in such a violent activity.
More than any other extracurricular, however, Taekwon-Do focuses on the character development of a child in a positive and uplifting manner. Unfortunately, today’s television shows that show martial art fighting action do not illustrate the positive impact that Taekwon-Do can have in the life of a child. While training in Taekwon-Do teaches children to fight better—to hit, punch and kick well—there is much more to martial arts. The following are some FAQs in order to better help parents understand the benefits of training in Taekwon-Do.
There are at least three different categories of Taekwon-Do training, they are: traditional training, sport training, and eclectic training.
Traditional training includes learning the time-honored lessons, using the ancient order of learning each activity, and understanding and obeying the dojang hierarchy. In traditional training, the focus is on each individual improving and growing from within. Parents quickly will see in their child obvious improvements from traditional training such as increased confidence, self-control and respect.
In sport training, much of the same information is learned, but students are taught to spar earlier in class. There is less emphasis on forms, stances and self-defense practice and the win/lose mentality is emphasized. The focus in sport training is to become a better fighter.
In eclectic style training, diversity is inspired. Eclectic training uses a training curriculum based on one or several individual experiences, often mixing a variety of martial arts styles. The focus in eclectic training is on becoming a better fighter rather than a better person.
Is it wrong to consider the location when selecting a school for my child?
Certainly not! It is probably the most popular reason a parent will choose a school. A big advantage for choosing a location close to home is that it is the easiest for you and your child to attend. If your child needs a ride to class then the closer the better! The fewer the obstacles a parent has to get to class, the more often your child will attend, and the longer your child will remain.
Another way to choose a dojang is to get a recommendation from a friend. It is also very important for a parent to go to class with the child and observe one or two classes. If you are comfortable with what you see and hear, your child will probably be comfortable too. A parent should weigh the benefits of a close location versus a dojang at a greater distance but with a superior instructor. Each is important in making you child s experience in Taekwon-Do a positive one. Children often behave differently when being watched by their parents, so please know that even if they may seem easily frustrated when you are watching, after you leave, they will be comfortable.
Are all schools (dojangs) the same?
Absolutely not! There are many Taekwon-Do dojangs, and it is important to choose one that you and your child like and is easy to attend. In class, your child will be working hard to remember everything and to do things never before imagined. Children are exposed to far more than just self-defense in Taekwon-Do: children s minds become stronger through their instructor s rigorous exercises and proper techniques. Consequently, children become smarter by being placed in situations that require lightning quick responses and become stronger by increasing their strength through regular exercise. They also reduce injuries in all their physical activities by increasing their flexibility through a regular stretching program. Taekwon-Do also improves a child s knowledge of the world through an exposure to Korean culture. The longer you child attends, the more your child will know.
Are tournaments good for a child? Should I take my child to tournaments?
Simple, if your son or daughter wants to attend a tournament, then take your child! Tournaments offer many new and exciting experiences for a child. A child will see other children performing patterns, sparring, and breaking techniques. It can be a real learning experience, along with some pretty exciting moments while you child is waiting to compete. It’s like six months of lessons and learning in a single day!
Tournaments offer an opportunity for a child to observe many other children that are also in Taekwon-Do. Some children will be more advanced and others will be less advanced. Sometimes a long-term friendship can be made with someone your child will meet at a tournament. It can also be a real bonding experience for your child with other students from your child s own school.
Why select a traditional Taekwon-Do dojang?
In traditional Taekwon-Do, children compete only with themselves. Traditional Taekwon-Do stresses learning about inner peace, being calm, quiet and self-confident. Competitive dojangs cultivate the win/lose mentality of children s activities. If a parent wants their child to be competitive in Taekwon-Do, as well as football, baseball, soccer and other Western sports, Taekwon-Do tournaments are available to students in traditional dojangs and the competition dojangs. However, if a child is attending a dojang that requires participating in officiated tournaments, then it will no longer be a choice. There is always an unofficial competition in any traditional dojang between a student and himself or herself because the focus of traditional training is introspective and is on self-improvement.
How can I keep my child interested in lessons long enough for them to be of value?
It is important to know about the difficulty many children might experience when they begin martial arts training. If you have ever taken lessons yourself, you may not be aware of just how demanding Taekwon-Do can be for children and adults. Taekwon-Do requires high energy, concentration and commitment. After your child has been attending a few months, expect to notice improvements in self-control, self-discipline, and increased attention span and ability to concentrate, and an increase in focus and commitment. Many parents also notice improvements in their child s patience, understanding, self-confidence and respect for others.
Almost everyone, adults as well as children, feel frustration, anger and disappointment during the first several sessions in Taekwon-Do. Children may think there is something wrong with them and that they are the only one having difficulty. Students are not very open about what they feel in class and supportive parents can help their children by talking about what they are feeling in class. It is important for children to learn that almost everyone, including adults that begin Taekwon-Do, feel frustrated, overwhelmed and disappointed at first. Many people do not break a board on their first try.
Being a supportive parent and talking with your child about class experiences will be fun for you and will let your child know that you are interested. A supportive parent removes all obstacles in the child s path to getting to lessons. Obstacles include a long trip to class, leaving for lessons hungry and putting conditions on attending class. If you use lessons as leverage to motivate your child to do chores or unpleasant tasks, your child quickly will stop going to lessons. Never use Taekwon-Do as leverage or bargaining with your child about attending class. Remove obstacles from them arriving at class.
What do you do when your child wants to quit after only a few weeks of lessons?
If your child watches movies and television shows with exciting martial art action scenes, when they probably are very thrilled with the opportunity to learn Taekwon-Do. It sure looks easy in the movies, television and video games! The excitement of attending a real Taekwon-Do dojang diminishes quickly when faced with the demanding mental and physical exercises the instructor will have them do. If a child begins class with an unrealistic fascination with martial arts, after a few classes, the child may need to find a new reason for going to Taekwon-Do. Speak to the instructor on how to motivate your child in a more appropriate manner.
For those that train for many months, the successes and achievements during each class will replace the novelty and excitement of emulating the action heroes and video game characters. Over several months of attending the dojang regularly, your child will be able to accomplish many of the things that once seemed impossible to do at the beginning.
Are there differences in Taekwon-Do styles?
Yes! The newer styles of Taekwon-Do emphasize flexibility in the lower body over the upper body. This is because the emphasis in newer styles is competing in organized tournaments. Older, traditional styles of Taekwon-Do (International Taekwon-Do Federation, of which we are a part of), as well as other Korean martial arts, remain focused on traditional training. While lower body flexibility is important in these styles, a natural balance between the upper body and lower body flexibility is practiced. Jumping kicks are taught to reduce the need for high level kicking and flexibility.
The objective for every parent is to help his or her child have the most rewarding experience in Taekwon-Do possible. Understanding why you child wants to study Taekwon-Do is crucial to keeping your child in the program. Help make your child s experience in Taekwon-Do a positive one that will allow your child to succeed as never before!
By Len Losik, TAEKWONDO Times, November 2006