Thursday, 30 December 2010

5 Reasons your child would benefit from starting Tae Kwon Do.

  1. Fitness

In today’s world, where technology is playing an increasing role in day-to-day life, parents are recognising the need for their children to also spend time doing activities that get them active and away from a screen. Current UK guidelines recommend that children get at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day, although the more active children are the better. Exercise for children should be of moderate intensity, which means that following exercise they should be slightly out of breath and a little sweaty, but not so out of breath that they cannot talk. Tae Kwon Do will not only improve your child’s fitness, but also their speed, strength, flexibility, co-ordination and stamina.

2. Life Skills

Through Tae Kwon Do your child can learn valuable, transferable life skills; such as patience, commitment and focus. These are developed as they begin to master new techniques and learn their grading patterns. Perseverance is rewarded through the belt grading system, which allows students to feel a sense of achievement. Belts are a tangible symbol of their progress. Children also learn how to get along with other children, to take their turn, to be a good-natured winner and a gracious loser and to respect others.

3. The individual/team element

A martial arts class can provide an exciting alternative to the more traditional sports that are taught in schools. Children that do not enjoy the competitive nature of team games may find that a martial art allows them to progress at their own pace, without feeling like they are letting the side down if they struggle with a particular aspect. At the same time, they are still part of a team in that the whole class may be working together on a particular drill or technique. The ethos of our classes is based on respect for the self and each other.

4. Confidence

The difference that martial arts can make to a child’s (or adult’s!) self-confidence is immense. We have seen numerous timid, apprehensive children develop confidence and a more resilient attitude over the course of their Tae Kwon Do training. Children who were reluctant to let go of their parent’s hand on their first lesson, or who would get tearful very easily, over time developed the confidence that enabled them to perform a pattern in front of the rest of the class or give commands in Korean to their fellow students. This confidence may then be applied to other areas of their life.

5. Safety awareness

A range of self defence techniques are taught as part of the grading syllabus in Tae Kwon Do. However, whilst children learn techniques that they could employ should they find themselves in a dangerous situation, self defence is much more than this alone. Children are encouraged to be more aware of their surroundings, to avoid taking unnecessary risks and to use violence only as a last resort.

If you think that Tae Kwon Do might be for your child, please check out our main website for details of our classes:

Monday, 20 December 2010

Courtesy (Ye Ui)

The final tenet of Tae Kwon Do that we are going to look at is Courtesy (Ye Ui)

This is often the first tenet that the beginning student learns. Hopefully this tenet is practised and understood prior to starting training and can be demonstrated through basic manners in every day life.

Inside the dojang
When we train it is important to have good manners. Courtesy can be demonstrated through the way we conduct ourselves while training; how we speak (no swearing!), how we behave towards others and how we respond to instructions.

Right from the moment they step through the door of the training hall students are expected to demonstrate a courteous and humble attitude towards everyone in the class. On entry to the training hall all pupils are required to bow to their Instructor and to the dojang. This is a mark of humility and respect. We bow when we start and finish each class, work with a new partner or respond to an instruction from our Instructor.

All students are expected to show courtesy not only to their Instructor and more senior grade students, but also to lower grade students as well. This means that when a more senior student works with a lower grade student, they demonstrate patience, helpfulness and encouragement. There is no place for ego in the dojang. All students were once white belts and this should not be forgotten.

“No one is too big to be courteous, but some are too little”

- Author unknown

To the Instructor, students are expected to respond with “Sir” or “Ma’am”. This is not an ego-boost for the Instructor, rather it demonstrates to the Instructor that the students have listened, understood and are ready to act. In addition it shows that the students are respectful of their Instructor’s knowledge and proficiency in Tae Kwon Do.

As well as showing courtesy towards other Tae Kwon Do practitioners it is also important to be respectful towards other martial arts and martial artists.

When asked if there is a superior combative art, Master Willie Lim, an 8th Dan black belt in Tae Kwon Do (as well as holding black belts and having many years’ experience in other martial arts) says,  Baked beans are baked beans, the question is what brand do you prefer? The exponent makes the style effective. No, I do not believe that any one system has a monopoly on effectiveness. The whole individual that understands his system well would be the best advert for his system.”

It is important to recognise the value and effectiveness in all martial arts, not just the one you train in. Therefore, Instructors and students should not show disrespect towards each other, as we have much to learn from each other.

Outside the dojang
In day-to-day life it is equally important to be courteous towards others. Demonstrate courtesy towards others in small ways, such as; holding doors open for others (not just women!), saying please and thank you, being helpful and showing your gratitude when others are helpful towards you, the list is endless…

This Persian proverb describes perfectly how we should treat others:

"Treat your superior as a father, your equal as a brother, and your inferior as a son."

Whilst this quotation highlights the benefits of being courteous:

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Indomitable Spirit (Baekjool Boolgool)

The fourth tenet of Tae Kwon Do that we will look at is Indomitable Spirit (Baekjool Boolgool).

An indomitable spirit is one that cannot be subdued or dominated, even when faced with seemingly impossible situations. Indomitable spirit is bravery and courageousness. Some people have this quality in abundance; others have to work a little bit harder to achieve it. Some people don’t realise they have it until the time comes when they need to step up and act; others might believe they have it, but be overcome with fear and unable to act when faced with certain challenges.

Inside the dojang
The best example that I can give to illustrate the idea of indomitable spirit is a true story. It happened this year, in fact, at an Open Championship in Bristol. There were only a few TKDSOE students competing at this event and none of us had competed there before. There was just one junior black belt TKDSOE student that competed that day and he entered the sparring category all on his own. The sparring didn’t start until late afternoon, so he was waiting around a long time for his event to come up. In that time he had been checking out his potential opponents and had come to realise that, as well as being a couple of years younger than the others competitors (he was 13 and they were 16), he was also considerably smaller than they were. In fact, one of his opponents turned out to be over 6’ tall! As you can imagine, he was very nervous about competing and I’m sure it crossed his mind that he could have pulled out of the competition. However, he didn’t pull out. His Instructor and his Dad gave him encouragement to compete and he did indeed end up fighting some tall, leggy opponents. He fought incredibly well and beat one of the tallest opponents with his quick hands and effective kicking. He came second in his category and received a big trophy prize. He really demonstrated his own Indomitable Spirit that day by not giving in to fear; he refused to be beaten before he stepped onto the mats to compete.

“It is not so much the size of the dog in the fight, as the size of the fight in the dog." Mark Twain

Outside the dojang
Outside of the training hall the same courage may be required. You could be walking along the street one day and see one or more attackers picking on someone vulnerable. You have a choice to make when you see this and may only have a split second in which to make this decision. I don’t think we ever really know how we will behave when confronted by a dangerous situation, as adrenalin can cause extreme reactions in our bodies, but I think we’d all like to believe that we wouldn’t just walk on by and pretend it has nothing to do with us.

It might not always be a “someone” that you might have to take on; it could be a challenge of a different kind, such as public speaking, sky diving, overcoming a fear of heights, learning to drive etc. Whatever your own personal challenges, with an Indomitable Spirit you can alter how you approach a challenge and maybe even overcome your fears!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Integrity (Ye Ui)

The next tenet of Tae Kwon Do we will look at is Integrity (Ye Ui).

Integrity is often defined as honesty. This is the sense of the word in its most simple form. Integrity can be demonstrated through telling the truth, being sincere and doing the right thing.

In Korean, the term also has the additional connotations of a sense of shame when your actions have not been entirely honest. Through behaving with integrity it is hoped that one might achieve a sense of self-respect.

Inside the dojang
Integrity can be shown in many ways when training. For example, if your Instructor requires you to perform, let’s say, 10 press ups and you only do half that number when their back is turned, you are not showing integrity if you then claim to have done the full amount. If you feel no sense of shame about your dishonesty this further adds to the lack of integrity. If students are dishonest when training it is ultimately they who lose out, as their skills and fitness will not develop and their fellow students and Instructors will come to realise that they are untrustworthy.

Make us to choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, and never be content with a half truth when the whole can be won."

~Col. C. E. Wheat

Outside the dojang
Again, this tenet (like those previously discussed) can be a tricky one to achieve in your normal day-to-day life. Integrity in business can be difficult; do you compromise your beliefs on what is ethical and right to make a greater profit, or do you do the “right thing” according to your innermost values? If there is someone you know who really irritates, do you feign politeness in their immediate company and then criticise them behind their back? If you are given the wrong change in a shop, do you own up straight away, or keep quiet and pocket the extra pennies (or pounds!)? There are many ways in which your integrity can be compromised.

Here is a story that illustrates the concept of integrity perfectly…

The Emperor's Seed,
  by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown
Once there was an emperor in the Far East who was growing old and knew it was coming time to choose his successor. Instead of choosing one of his assistants or one of his own children, he decided to do something different.
He called all the young people in the kingdom together one day. He said, "It has come time for me to step down and to choose the next emperor. I have decided to choose one of you." The kids were shocked! But the emperor continued. "I am going to give each one of you a seed today. One seed. It is a very special seed. I want you to go home, plant the seed, water it and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from this one seed. I will then judge the plants that you bring to me, and the one I choose will be the next emperor of the kingdom!"
There was one boy named Ling who was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly told his mother the whole story. She helped him get a pot and some planting soil, and he planted the seed and watered it carefully. Every day he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.
After about three weeks, some of the other youths began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Ling kept going home and checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by. Still nothing.
By now others were talking about their plants but Ling didn't have a plant, and he felt like a failure. Six months went by, still nothing in Ling's pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Ling didn't say anything to his friends, however. He just kept waiting for his seed to grow.
A year finally went by and all the youths of the kingdom brought their plants to the emperor for inspection. Ling told his mother that he wasn't going to take an empty pot. But she encouraged him to go, and to take his pot, and to be honest about what happened. Ling felt sick to his stomach, but he knew his mother was right. He took his empty pot to the palace.
When Ling arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by all the other youths. They were beautiful, in all shapes and sizes. Ling put his empty pot on the floor and many of the other kinds laughed at him. A few felt sorry for him and just said, "Hey nice try."
When the emperor arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted the young people. Ling just tried to hide in the back. "My, what great plants, trees and flowers you have grown," said the emperor. "Today, one of you will be appointed the next emperor!"
All of a sudden, the emperor spotted Ling at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered his guards to bring him to the front. Ling was terrified. "The emperor knows I'm a failure! Maybe he will have me killed!"
When Ling got to the front, the Emperor asked his name. "My name is Ling," he replied. All the kids were laughing and making fun of him. The emperor asked everyone to quiet down. He looked at Ling, and then announced to the crowd, "Behold your new emperor! His name is Ling!" Ling couldn't believe it. Ling couldn't even grow his seed. How could he be the new emperor?
Then the emperor said, "One year ago today, I gave everyone here a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today. But I gave you all boiled seeds which would not grow. All of you, except Ling, have brought me trees and plants and flowers. When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Ling was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new emperor!"

Friday, 26 November 2010

Perseverance (In Nae).

The second tenet of Tae Kwon Do that we will look at is Perseverance (In Nae).

Perseverance, like self control, is a relatively simple principle to understand; it means to continue, to keep going, to not give up. Yet perseverance is a difficult thing to accomplish.

Inside the dojang
New students to Tae Kwon Do, when they venture through the door of the training hall for the very first time, can feel a variety of emotions: some may be nervous, some embarrassed, some confident, others excited. Hopefully, as training gets underway and students’ skills and fitness develop, they will come to class with a positive attitude, a confidence that they are progressing and the desire to improve.
Yet it is almost inevitable that at some point a student will require greater willpower than usual to attend class; perhaps they have had a hard week at work or school, perhaps they are struggling to find the motivation to exercise or perhaps they are struggling with a certain technique or pattern. This is natural and understandable. However, a committed student will not let such obstacles affect their training in the long run. A committed student will have a goal and will not give up their intention of achieving this goal, whether it is to perfect that jump back kick, to better that new pattern or to achieve their black belt. Perseverance is what is required to continue training, even when the going gets tough.

“Fall seven times and stand up eight”- Japanese proverb

Beginning students show perseverance by coming back again after that first class. It is easy to look at more advanced students and instructors and think “I’ll never be able to do that!” Yet it is worth remembering that a black belt is just a white belt that never gave up. Perseverance demands a more positive frame of mind than an “I can’t” mentality.

Beginning is easy- continuing hard- Japanese proverb

Outside the dojang
The following short story sums up the idea of perseverance and not giving up, even when the outlook is bleak...

Shake It Off and Step Up
  by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown
A parable is told of a farmer who owned an old mule. The mule fell into the farmer's well. The farmer heard the mule 'braying' - or - whatever mules do when they fall into wells. After carefully assessing the situation, the farmer sympathised with the mule, but decided that neither the mule nor the well was worth the trouble of saving. Instead, he called his neighbours together and told them what had happened and enlisted them to help haul dirt to bury the old mule in the well and put him out of his misery.
Initially, the old mule was hysterical! But as the farmer and his neighbours continued shovelling and the dirt hit his back, a thought struck him. It suddenly dawned on him that every time a shovel load of dirt landed on his back: he should shake it off and step up! This he did, blow after blow.
"Shake it off and step up... shake it off and step up... shake it off and step up!" he repeated to encourage himself. No matter how painful the blows, or distressing the situation seemed the old mule fought "panic" and just kept right on shaking it off and stepping up!
You're right! It wasn't long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well! What seemed like it would bury him, actually blessed him. All because of the manner in which he handled his adversity.

Sometimes it is easy to feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel (or no way out of the well). If you are looking for inspiration take time to read about or get to know inspirational people. Their success stories might just inspire you to persevere.  Here are some people that have inspired us...

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Self Control (Guk Gi).

The first tenet which we will look at is Self Control (Guk Gi).

This is one of the easier terms to understand, so we will start with this one! It is also especially important both inside and outside the Dojang. Without self control a martial arts class, or in fact any real life situation, could easily get out of hand and have serious repercussions.

Inside the Dojang
From the very first moment a student steps through the door of the training hall we expect them to show some form of self control. The example we usually give to illustrate self control is that of two students sparring. If one student accidentally lands a kick or punch too hard (remember we spar with touch/ light contact), his or her opponent has two choices: they can either respond in an aggressive way themselves, possibly trying to hurt their partner in return, or they can show self control. They might indicate to their partner that they are not happy with the level of contact, but they would show self control through not reacting with anger. By keeping their emotions under control, a situation is avoided in which we might end up with students trying their best to injure one another. Our classes are run in a friendly manner. We do not tolerate angry or impulsive behaviour that could result in injury. We look after each other and that means using self control when needed.

Another example of when students are expected to exercise self control is when listening to or watching the instructors. A student that stands still and concentrates fully on what the instructor is saying will develop faster and pick up new techniques more quickly than a student who does not. If students are distracted, or spend their time fidgeting, they will miss important pieces of advice or information. This could potentially cause problems for their partners or other students in the class.

Outside the Dojang
When applying the 5 tenets of Tae Kwon Do outside the Dojang it is sometimes more difficult to remember how these principles can be of benefit to us and apply them to situations we find ourselves in. Here are just a few ways in which we might benefit from showing more self control…

Our younger students will appreciate that their classroom at school is similar to the training hall in terms of the behaviour expected, but how many will stop to think about the playground? Or how many teenagers will think twice about exercising self control when using social networking sites, such as Facebook, or instant messaging services? It is all too easy to say or do something in haste which we later regret, especially if that person has said something that you have found to be hurtful. Exercising self control might just save a nasty confrontation and a lot of hurt feelings. Have you ever heard the saying “Act in haste, repent at leisure”? No one is suggesting for one moment that you have to take abuse from someone else, or put up with aggression and nastiness, but there is a lot to be said for being the bigger person and diffusing a situation by using self control and refusing to act impulsively. There are ways and means of sorting out a situation that you are uncomfortable with, without losing your self control and potentially making things worse.

I wonder how many of our adult students will recall having been in a driving situation when they, or another driver, has lost their cool and their self control and acted impulsively? Whilst being very difficult to do at times, using self control in trying situations could prevent an accident or an angry confrontation.

We hope that you have gained a better understanding of the idea of self control through these examples. If you think of any others, whether they are inside or outside the training hall, please feel free to comment on this post and share your ideas with others. Who knows, it might just help someone out when they come to their next grading.

I am,
a king,
because I know how
to rule myself.
~Pietro Aretino, 10 May 1537

The 5 Tenets Of Tae Kwon Do

One of the first things about Tae Kwon Do that a beginning student learns is that there are 5 tenets. All Tae Kwon Do practitioners are asked to learn these tenets and are asked to name, and possibly explain them, from their earliest grading onwards. For some students the very word itself; tenet, is one that they may not have come across before. This is especially true of our younger students.

In order to help students grasp the concepts behind the 5 tenets, we will be explaining each tenet in turn in a series of blog entries over the next few weeks. Hopefully this will be of benefit to our new students and will encourage those who are already familiar with the tenets to look at them from a new angle.

The word tenet means an idea or a principle that is held by a group of people.

The five tenets of Tae Kwon Do are:
Self Control
Indomitable Spirit

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Guide to partner stretching

1) For best results carry out stretches after a workout or after a thorough warm up.

2) Hold the muscle under tension at the point of bind until relaxation. This usually takes approximately 30-40 seconds.

3) Once relaxed, take the stretch a little bit further whilst maintaining a controlled breathing pattern.

4) Continue to hold the stretch for a further 30-40 seconds or until your partner feels the muscle relax.

5) Once the muscle has relaxed ask your partner to take a deep breath in. As they breathe out start to push the stretch further.

6) Repeat the process of stretching the muscle and relaxing until maximum stretch has been achieved.

7) During the stretching talk to your partner to make sure they are comfortable.

8) Do not rush; take your time to achieve maximum benefit from your stretching.

9) The greatest advances in stretching are achieved when you are completely relaxed.

10) You should stretch after every workout or session that you participate in to help recovery of your muscles and reduce soreness.

11) Make sure you balance your stretching routine, if you stretch one muscle group (Agonist) be sure to stretch the opposite muscle group (Antagonist). For example, if you are stretching the Hamstrings, also stretch the Quadriceps.

12) For greater flexibility a stretching routine should be carried out every day.