Taekwondo : High kicks and tender knuckles
Taekwondo : High Kicks and Tender Knuckles
A Martial Art for all Generations
I must have been mad I really must, trying Taekwondo at my age.
I'd taken classes a couple of years ago but dropped out after 8 months proudly clutching yellow belt in hand.
I had really wanted to get back so I'd been practising a lot at home much to the amazement of the cat. I even went on to Youtube to watch the poomses.
For the uninitiated or the couch potatos out there among you, that's not some strange oriental flowers but Taekwondo movements or 'patterns' as they are called.
I went back to classes and then went out to work the next morning wracked in pain.
No! I exaggerate, it didn't feel that bad, just thought I'd try and inject some pathos into this sorry tale.
But I did enjoy getting back into the swing, apart from the excruciating press-ups, 20 of them on your knuckles on one of the hardest wooden floors around.
Although I don't suppose I have much frame of reference as I haven't spent much of my life jamming my knuckles into lumps of wood. The only other floor I've done it on was at the grading for new belts, a lovely soft wooden floor, it was luxury and my knuckles were positively purring at the experience. But that was earlier this year as I had to leave again when I went to work abroad. By then I was still at the yellow belt stage.
Incidentally I was told that the origin of the black belt was that beginners would start with a white belt but throughout their years of training they would not wash the belt. Therefore when you eventually reached the pinnacle of master status your belt would be black with the accumulated dirt of the years.
The name 'Taekwondo' itself is loosely translated from the Korean as "the way of the foot and fist.
Though as you may have noticed on TV it's almost exclusively about kicking at competition level.
This is apparently because it is the most powerful and most effective method of striking your opponent.
During classes though trainees employ much more varied martial art movements for self-defence and combat.
But there's me a mature man in my early forties running around a gym, stretching my muscles till my sinews screamed and practising high kicks. As for the latter, I'm still a bit poor at the old kicking, nowhere near Cuban standards but thank God for that. Angel Matos disgraced the sport at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 by kicking the referee in the face and deserved his lifetime ban.
And I thought I was the only disgrace in the uniform. But seriously, his attack on the referee Chakir Chelbat went against all the tenets and philsophy of Taekwondo. For not only is it a sport and a tool for self-defence but it also teaches many other important principles.
Aside from the obvious benefits of good health and fitness Taekwondo classes also try to inculcate a sense of respect for others and promote overall good citizenship. In fact in our course we had to learn five tents which were Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control and an Indomitable Spirit.
This went so far as to have included in our oath the statements "I shall be a champion of freedom and justice" and "I shall build a more peaceful world". Aside from these elevated affirmations I would highly recommend it as a sport for youngsters, boys and girls, as it promotes exercise and helps build self-confidence.
Moreover Taekwondo serves as a good vehicle for instilling healthy values and attitudes among the young, values of discipline, comradeship and humanity. But if you're older, like me, and reasonably fit then age is no bar to having a go. You don't have to be in perfect shape or 100% condition to try it out.
Obviously you may not be able to get those legs perpendicular to the floor like some of the more supple and agile participants.
However, even with certain limitations it can be a very satisfying and worthwhile past-time.
You can feel imbued with an overall sense of wellbeing and relaxation in mind and body as it encourages you to look after yourself both physically and mentally.
If I settle back in the UK permanently I would love to have another attempt at Taekwondo but I must lose a bit more weight. I'll get a hair-cut.
Even then I'm sure to get a black belt for sweat production and facial reddening. I could join the GB Olympic team in the middle-aged beer drinking bracket.
A couple of the young guys even asked me "Are you alright mate" during a particularly energetic session. I think they thought I was going to have a heart attack. But at the end of the day I felt much fitter and healthier having enjoyed the classes with lots of stretching, circuit training, punching and kicking. We also engage in regular sparring and I usually got paired off with one of the small kids. Har Har!! No match for me.
But I found it a great participation sport, interesting martial art and a healthy pursuit to follow, albeit largely unkind to the knucklebones.
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