Fun at Four Years and More

July 20, 2016

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Many months ago, I received an email from a friend who sent me a picture of her delightful five-year-old daughter in her karate uniform. “She absolutely loves her classes,” said her mother. Since I have never been part of this world I no idea a child that young could be involved in this activity. This got me thinking: how about a blog about females of all ages in this sport?

Four-year-olds and their instructor at the Taekwondo School

I called a karate school in Greenwich Village and talked to the owner who told me he was in the process of moving his studio and was looking for a new location – not an easy task. Guess what? When I called him three weeks later he told me he was closing his studio and moving to Atlanta, Georgia.

More time went by. Then I decided to try again, so I dropped into a studio called Professional Taekwondo School, which is located at 553 Second Avenue (between 30th and 31st Streets). I spoke with the owner, Grand Master Kim, who currently holds an 8th Degree Black Belt, and who agreed to an interview. Before leaving, I was introduced to a four-year-old and her mother. “May I take a picture of your daughter in her uniform,” I asked. Her mother agreed at once.

A cute four-year-old who is taking a break

TAEKWONDO VS. KARATE: Taekwondo [also known as Tae (foot) Kwon (hand) Do (art)] is the art of self-defense that originated in Korea. It is one of the oldest forms of martial arts in the world, reaching back 2,000 years. It became an official sport at the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia in the year 2000. Karate originated in Japan and has its roots from hand fighting in China. The specific postures, stances and movements differ significantly between the two martial arts.

A class with helmets and chest guards at the Taekwondo School

THE TRADITIONAL UNIFORM: For Korean martial arts it is called a Dobok. “Do” means “way of life” and “bok” means robe or training clothes which are usually black or white. The belt or obi that holds the top together indicates rank. White is for beginners while the Black Belt is the ultimate and is attained by testing at various intervals (yellow, orange, green and so on). It usually takes four years of rigorous training (at least) to obtain a Black Belt. 

Grand Master Kim, who holds an 8th Degree Black Belt, and his students

FOR FEMALES OF ALL AGES: I had an opportunity to chat with a 31-year-old student who told me that ballet had been a big part of her life from the age of four to 29. Then she decided to make a change to Taekwondo. “I thought that, with my background, it would be fairly easy,” she said. “It wasn’t, I had a lot to learn.”

She also remarked that the Taekwondo studio has great camaraderie and that people often help each other. I noticed this myself when the classes were getting ready for sparring sessions. Helmets and chest guards that tie up the back are required and the students help each other with lacing-and-unlacing these protectors.

THE MIND SET OF TAEKWONDO This martial art is more than just body movements. A leader at the front of the class calls out commands that everyone follows. Does this discipline lead to a change in behavior I wondered? “Yes, it does,” a young lady who has a Black Belt told me. “I bring a seven-year-old here and he has changed completely. It builds concentration and focus – I’ve seen it happen.”

At the end of the evening I watched the board-splitting exercises and they were very impressive. A female in her late forties executed a forceful high kick that broke the board perfectly. And she didn’t even break a sweat doing it!

Shaun Nelson-Henrick

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