As you may have read in Should I Try Aussie Rules Footy (or witnessed) previously, I wasn’t very good at footy as a kid… I also wasn’t a superstar cricketer (luckily I was slightly better at basketball.. just). As a 13 year-old this made me fairly anti footy and cricket, in fact I still think cricket is a stupid sport to this day! So after watching one too many Kung Fu movies, and being impressed by some fancy dance moves (more on that later) I decided to try my hand (and feet) at Tae Kwondo.
Tae Kwondo is a Korean Martial Art which translates roughly to ‘Foot, Fist, Art’. It was developed in the 1940’s and is still the national sport of Korea (North and South). It is an Olympic Sport, and the discipline has a strong focus on kicks at head height, along with jumping and spinning kicks. This is how (inadvertently) I found out about it. At a family X-Mas BBQ we were all gathered around to see Tony dance The Nutbush, as he famously got very jolly, and could still kick high above his head. (Albeit whilst wobbling around knocking things over!) I asked him how he could kick so high in the air, to which he responded it was his training in Tae Kwondo..
Don’t get me wrong, I feel like its potentially not the advertising campaign the sport is looking for.. ‘Try Tae Kwondo, impress guests with your flexibility and dancing skills’ but hey… it got me interested. I ventured down to my local Dojang (gym) which was located in the local school hall, and was immediately accepted as a member of the club. Thus began a 12 year journey on the road to the ever illusive Black Belt (which I am still getting around to getting!)
Every instructor at each Dojang runs their club in a slightly different way. Some do only ‘traditional’ styles of training while others incorporate other aspects such as Aikido, Hapkido or competition sparring. They all train under Grand Masters, and usually have associations with other clubs. Partly to grow the clubs, but also for grading. Once you get to a certain grade or ‘Dan’ you need to be advanced by someone of a higher grade. In my club our belt structure worked as follows:
- White Belt – Beginner
- Yellow Belt – Slightly less beginner
- Blue Belt – You finally start to beat other people at things
- Red Belt – You quickly realise that on your Blue Belt, the Black Belts were going easy on you
- Cho Dan Bo – Probationary Black Belt (Pictured)
- 1st Dan Black Belt
On each coloured belt you started with 1 white stripe. You would then grade for your 2nd and 3rd, once you had 3 stripes you could grade for the next belt. Essentially you would need to be graded 10 times to achieve your Cho Dan Bo, then after 6 months you could grade to get your 1st Dan. Once you achieve a Black Belt though this is just the beginning of your journey. In fact within the Art it is regarded as having ‘mastered the basics.’
The Sport – My Story
When I first started, the club I trained at offered predominantly traditional Tae Kwondo. This included self defense using both basic punching and kicking techniques, along with more advanced kicking as you progressed higher. We also practiced forms, which are specialised movements in a certain order (like the demonstrations you see at shows). My Master had previously been a Black Belt in Karate so brought a few slightly different elements to our club.
As time went on the Club started to incorporate some basic Aikido and Hapkido training. These are very similar martial arts which use a combination of different locks and submissions, Aikido being more passive than Hapkido which is more aggressive. We also started running a competition sparring night once a week. This is where my interest really took off. Essentially it is higher intensity, full contact training. You wear protective padding and your goal is to score points by striking your opponent.
I started competing at Blue Belt level and continued on as a Red Belt. Competing at local and State competitions (with varying levels of success!) I was also lucky enough to travel overseas and train in Korea. Training in Korea is a whole other world, the students begin training from the time they can walk, and failure was punished! When sparring there, it was not uncommon for me to be beaten by a 13 year old who was half my size.. Their flexibility and speed were astounding. Yet they are so humble, and having a ‘Westerner’ come into their Dojang was obviously quite a novelty for them. They gave me my own uniform in their club colours, it was an experience I’ll never forget.
Because I have the attention span of a small child, and went travelling a few times, my journey to Black Belt has taken a little longer than it would for most. I most recently stopped training about 3 years ago because I took up MMA. That is another story (and article) all together. I will return to TKD in the future and obtain my Black Belt, as it really is a journey and I love the sport. Tae Kwondo has taught me patience and humility, given me confidence in myself at a time I felt I was useless at all sports, and given me amazing opportunities. From fitness and friendship to training overseas, in a Dojang where nobody spoke any real English. I think any Martial Art learnt from a young age helps develop a brilliant foundation as a human. Discipline, responsibility and respect.. and above all, kindness and acceptance of others.
⊕ Tae Kwondo is a fun way to learn new skills and meet people while keeping fit
⊗ While it would be somewhat effective in practical use, it is limited by using predominantly kicks. (Mainly an issue in MMA)
⊕ It is cost effective (in my experience)
⊗ As each club is run independently, you can be restricted by the direction the club takes or the curriculum they teach (potentially)
⊕ It promotes a healthy mind and body, and is accepting of all genders, ages and ability levels