Taekwondo is a South Korean Martial Art and is a style self defense that involves skilfully applying techniques that include punching, kicks, blocks, and actions with hands and feet to evade awkward situations. It is also the most practiced martial art around the world and an official sport at the Olympics.
The word “Taekwondo” is composed of three parts. “Tae” means “foot,”; “Kwon” means “fist,” and “Do” means the “way”. If we put these three parts together, we can see the important concepts behind “Tae Kwon Do – The Way of the Foot and Fist”.
Taekwondo is more than just a physical combat skill – it represents a way of thinking and a pattern of life that can be applied to everyday situations. It is a system of training both mind and body placing great emphasis on developing the student’s moral character. Training in Taekwondo is not limited at all by age, gender, ability or any other factors. Just the mindset to say “I can” and setting goals along the way is the start towards your journey to Black Belt.
The success of Taekwondo training depends largely on how the practitioners follow and implement the 5 tenets that are the fundamental elements of the art. These 5 tenets are:
- Courtesy – Respect and consideration of self and others. Politeness. Humility.
- Integrity – Sticking to a strict moral and ethical code. Honesty. Fairness.
- Perseverance – Attempt to try something regardless of numerous failures.
- Self Control – The ability to control the mind over the temptations, impulses, emotions or desires. Patience. Discipline
- Indomitable Spirit – Having the right attitude and maintaining inner strength regardless of winning or losing. Not allowing one’s principles to be broken, defeated, or conquered. Bravery. Courage
Benefits of Taekwondo
Mental Edge – Build self confidence and overcome mental hurdles. Students learn to respect each other, be disciplined, be fair, show tolerance, and to treat others with dignity.
Physical Edge – Improve general well being, strength, flexibility, agility, and coordination. It is also a great stress reducer.
Bully Proofing & Self Defence – Knowing how to defend yourself and protect the ones you love is priceless. Learn effective techniques including peaceful methods of resolution and prevention.
Social and Educational – promotes qualities of leadership, self control, discipline, positive attitude, to name a few. These skills can be applied to everyday life – in the classroom, at home, on the street, or in the office.
If you and your children would like to be involved in a sport that develops the mind and body, and potential to represent Ontario and Canada, then Taekwondo is a great step forward. Every level is a challenge that is sure to bring out the best in you.
So Many Martial Arts Schools and Styles – What Do I Look For?
The first question most people ask is, what style of Taekwondo? There are only two styles – WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) or ITF (International Taekwondo Federation)? WTF is the most practiced around the World, and an official Olympic event. ITF is less popular and many who are in ITF have made the switch to WTF due to the growing international exposure the sport has. Opportunities for competition glory on the large scale are greater with WTF Taekwondo. Once you have decided on style, then you need to find the right school that will fulfill your goals.
The fact is…It’s people that make a martial arts school great. Great taekwondo schools are led by great and passionate instructors who in turn attract great and passionate students.
So ask yourself…
‘Do I like these people?’ ‘Do they seem friendly?’ ‘And do the students and parents seem happy and relaxed?’
Watch a session and take in the atmosphere. (A good school should let you do this). Talk to parents watching and ask them how they feel about the school, the instruction, the progress. Get unbiased opinions.
Do you like the way the instructor teaches the students. Are they a positive role model? Do they seem to inspire their students? Do you think they are someone you and your family can train with week in, week out? If the answer to all of the above is ‘yes’ – that’s great!
What about the Dojang (training place)? Appearance is not everything. Try not to get distracted by the premises. A flashy Dojang does not always mean a good school. The people inside the Dojang are far more important to you than the 4 walls around them.
- Beware of the promise of a black belt in less than 3 years!! These places are known as “McDojo’s” and are “Belt Mills” where you progress through the ranks every month or two, or there are numerous coloured belts in between (i.e. Light blue, dark, blue, camouflage etc) and additional coloured tape / stripes that have to be earned at each belt level before promotion. There should be only 10 belts from White to Black.
For most people, on a normal training schedule, to reach any kind of decent standard in martial arts takes far longer than a couple of years.
The best schools take time to train their students slowly and meticulously – Quality over quantity. The road to black belt and beyond is a long and winding one with many bumps and troughs along the way. Your black belt really means something when you finally earn it through years of training – a total sense of achievement.
#1: Look for discrepancies between the art and the school. A complete Taekwondo curriculum adheres to Korean traditions and standards that include: philosophy, basics, forms, self-defense, sparring, breaking, stretching, leadership skills and fitness.
Remember, Taekwondo is an unarmed Martial Art. In Taekwondo there are no weapons such as staffs, nunchuck, etc. Many unqualified Taekwondo schools add weapons as a way to supplement an incomplete curriculum or lack of teaching experience. However, some schools will add weapons or introduce other styles of Martial Arts once Black Belt has been reached to expand the students Martial Arts knowledge or offer it as a total separate program, and usually an optional add-on to regular membership.
Traditional Taekwondo uses a white uniform called a Dobok. The white uniform symbolizes purity and perfection of character that Taekwondo students are expected to strive for. It is common for schools that do not understand the philosophy or history of Taekwondo to utilize lots colorful uniforms, stripes and patches.
Taekwondo teaches self-defense. Physical fitness is a pre-requisite for self-defense. Limited contact sparring is also an essential step to learning adequate self-defense skills.
- Beware of Taekwondo schools that do not practice sparring or avoid competitions altogether. Competition, not isolation, breeds excellence and brings out the full potential in all students.
#2: The Instructor. For WTF Taekwondo: The South Korean government recognizes the Kukkiwon in Seoul Korea as the World Taekwondo Federation Headquarters. The Kukkiwon issues international black belt certification, instructor certification, publishes the Kukkiwon textbook, sets the standards for techniques and forms and holds an international tournament each year called the Hanmadang. Many unqualified instructors do not even know what the Kukkiwon is. A WTF instructor who is not certified by the Kukkiwon may still be qualified, but they should at least be familiar with the Kukkiwon guidelines.
Does Instructor have any qualifications such as a coaching one as issued by the The National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP) as developed by Coaching Association of Canada (CAC)? If so, this is great credential as the instructor is serious about Taekwondo teaching and up to date with current teaching and coaching applications.
#3: The students. Always watch a class at the school you are considering before joining. If possible ask for trial classes. A good school has nothing to hide and will allow free classes as well as spectators. Are the students happy? Disciplined? Competent? Physically fit? Well groomed? Well spoken? Taekwondo is about discipline…a good Taekwondo school should have very well behaved students that speak politely, treating others with a level of respect sadly lacking in today’s society.
- Beware schools that look like day cares or run huge afterschool programs, as their priority is not teaching Taekwondo. If it looks and smells like a day care go elsewhere. Undisciplined children running about is a big warning sign.
- Beware the instructor who is clearly unfit / overweight and does not join in anything physical him / herself or even worse, cannot explain or break down techniques, applications or demonstrate themself.
#4: Study the costs. An expensive membership doesn’t necessarily mean a better school, nor shopping around based on lowest price will get you quality training. We are all familiar with the term “You get what you pay for”. The same applies with Taekwondo schools. If after researching the above points you are happy with the outcome, the membership cost will justify that.
Sometimes there are associated fees that you won’t find out about unless you ask: belt test, association membership, equipment, apparel. It’s not unusual for the school to ask for an annual contract (especially since most people quit within 6 months). Some schools will say that you can break the contract if you want, then when the time comes, they are uncooperative; and some schools have a “bait and switch” program in which they let you pay on a monthly basis for a certain amount of time, then require that you sign a long-term (2-4 year) contract in order to advance in rank. A good school should never have to resort to these tactics in order to gain student. A good school will also give you flexibility with membership payment options. Ask what is available and see works with you.
Do you want to train with your kids?
Taekwondo training is a fabulous journey and something you can do at any age. If you feel like giving taekwondo a go yourself have a look for a family focused Taekwondo school. Many taekwondo schools have sessions where kids and adults can train together. It certainly beats sitting watching!
It’s great to train alongside your child. They respect you for it. And you can motivate each other when it gets tough. And best of all…It strengthens family bonds.
Are you starting martial arts as an adult?
Is taekwondo your new challenge for the New Year? Maybe you’re looking to try something totally different. Something to boost your self-confidence or fitness level?
In reality it’s hard to walk into a Dojang full of students who seem to know what they’re doing and to be the old guy or girl at the back. The one who’s unfit, un-coordinated and un-flexible! You’re most likely to do well if there are others there in the same boat! Many taekwondo schools have students just like you starting as adults. Look around.
You’ll find one. And when you do, you’ll get an instant support network and some great new friends.
Good luck and enjoy the wonderful offerings WTF Olympic Taekwondo has to offer.
Master Viresh Mistry is a 4th Degree Master under Korean Kukkiwon and a dedicated practitioner of martial arts for over 25 years and continues to be an active athlete, training with Provincial and National players.
A former elite level athlete and past member of the Great Britain National Taekwondo Team and Junior Performance Coaching Team and has represented Great Britain in international competitions. He is a four time British National Gold medalist and has won several back-to-back Gold medals at Regional selection Championships in England. Master Mistry also holds a Black Belt in Kick-Boxing under the British Kickboxing Union (BKBU).
Continuously thriving to be at the pinnacle of the sport and to offer students the highest level of training possible, Master Mistry takes his learning and the development of the sport and students seriously. His classes are of the highest level anywhere in Mississauga area where you will be challenged, see results and at same time have fun in a family environment.
He is now one of many coaches in Ontario to be registered with the Coaches Association of Canada and one of only a handful throughout Canada to be certified through the National Coaching Certification Program for sport Taekwondo. This knowledge gained through workshops & seminars allows Master Mistry to pass on his knowledge to the newer generation of martial artists in a positive and motivational way and inspire all students to be the best they can be. Mississauga News has been following ACE Taekwondo students progress through local championships as the academy has a program that allows students to follow a path that will allow exposure at Local, Provincial, National and International level.