Tae Kwon Do

October 30, 2011
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My heart pounds out of my chest, my seared lungs barely using the shallow breaths I take in. Sweat pours down my forehead in sheets as I dodge each blow dealt by my opponent, trying to retaliate as quickly as my weak legs can. SMACK! My foot hits my opponent on the side of his head- hard! Temporarily stunning him, I follow up with a quick reverse punch to the chest, scoring another point. This is what a typical Tae Kwon Do sparring match is like.

Tae Kwon do is a two thousand year old Korean martial art that teaches self-defense, discipline, respect, and focus. It translates literally as, “the art of kicking and punching” and demands a very high level of physical fitness. What makes it different from other martial arts are its kicks- Tae Kwon Do is considered to have the strongest kicks of any martial art in the world. It is also the most widely practiced martial art, with over thirty million practitioners around the globe.

I love everything about Tae Kwon Do and the benefits it offers. One of my favorite aspects of the sport is the forms- patterns of movements, strikes, and kicks that were created to allow students to develop advanced fighting techniques. Each form has a special meaning- some represent certain elements of Korean culture, though most are named after people who have played pivotal roles in Korean history. For example: Chon-Gi (the very first form learned) is in the orient interpreted as the creation of the world or the beginning of human history, therefore it is the initial pattern played by the beginner. This pattern has two parts: one to represent Heaven and the other Earth. The form Dan-Gun, on the other hand, is named after the holy Dan-Gun, the legendary founder of Korea in 2333 B.C. One of my forms, Yul-Gok, has more motions than any other Tae Kwon Do color belt form and introduces isometrics, a technique that was created to build strength by pitting muscle against muscle. When performing an isometric motion, you perform the strike or block in slow-motion to a count of four (net in Korean); when four is reached, you snap out the final execution of that strike. The reason I enjoy practicing forms is because they introduce you to more Tae Kwon Do stances, strikes, and kicks, and the more power and focus you put into the form when practicing, the stronger and more powerful you will become as a fighter.

Another one of my favorite components of the sport is sparring: real-time fights that are the closest thing to an actual street fight. There are two types of sparring: no-contact (where you stop each blow about an inch from your opponent to score points) and (my personal favorite) full-contact, where protective gear is worn and strikes are delivered at full-speed with full-power. What makes sparring so enjoyable is that you’re fighting an actual person, rather than a target, so you’ll get a response from your opponent very quickly. However, sparring matches demand an extremely high level of physical fitness; you have to have a LOT of stamina, because you’re constantly moving around during a fight- staying in one place too long would spell certain doom. Plus, you have to string together multiple techniques in the correct fashion with full-power while remaining ready to immediately sidestep or avoid an attack from your opponent that could come at any second. On top of all this, the gear adds anywhere from five to ten additional pounds, so the extra weight makes it much harder to move as fast as you’d like to. By the time a round (which lasts about two minutes) is over, you are completely and utterly exhausted. However, if you know that your skills have improved at all from your last match, then the satisfaction of having accomplished something far outweighs the fatigue.

Knowledge is another important part of Tae Kwon Do. Since Tae Kwon Do is a Korean martial art, students are expected to learn the Korean terminology for the strikes, stances, and phrases of the sport. For example: “side kick” is “yup-chagi.” Students are also expected to memorize the definitions of their forms, and the history of Korea and Tae Kwon Do in the higher belt ranks. The reason why I love learning about the history of Tae Kwon Do is because it is ancient knowledge; some of it comes from nearly two thousand years ago. The fact that such old knowledge plays a role in Tae Kwon Do is something that is truly remarkable.

The benefits of Tae Kwon Do in everyday life are numerous. Not only do you become physically fit, you gain knowledge that can help you live a better life. The Tenets of Tae Kwon Do, for example, are: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Indomitable Spirit, and Victory. Living by these tenets can help you live a happy, healthy, honorable life and can help you reach your goals. Plus, Tae Kwon Do is all about self-defense, so you can live more confidently without worrying about being hurt by someone on the street. This is not to say that you should go looking for trouble, but if you are forced to fight then you will at least have an advantage and a better chance of getting out of the situation alive and unscathed.

I can barely speak as I mutter a ‘thank-you’ to my opponent as we shake hands after the fight. My uniform is soaked with sweat and I can hardly walk. I stumble away with the knowledge of what I can do to improve my ability and become an even better practitioner of Tae Kwon Do.





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neha said...
Feb. 4 at 6:49 am
You are such a stupid person.this essay is useless
 
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